I am almost sure you have heard the term tropicalization before; according to academics in the field of marketing, it refers to the adaptation of an idea, communication campaign, product, or service according to the place where it will be implemented. The cultural, social, ideological and resource differences that vary from place to place are significant and most of the time they can mean the failure or success of a brand that is wishing to offer its products or services there.
It is as basic as the laws of nature, those species that evolve to adapt to their environment are the ones that survive and those that do not meet the requirements of adaptation eventually become extinct.
In the same way, brands that want not only to survive, but to thrive in international markets, need local strategic allies. Knowing a culture goes far beyond studying it for a couple of months, most of the time the best way to find out how to tropicalize your products, services, or communication campaigns, includes involving people who live there and know the local market in a native and current way.
Tropicalization is a double-edged sword, when executed correctly it can mean the success of the brand in the country, but if it is executed incorrectly, it can mean its most resounding failure with the probability of not being able to retry for several years.
McDonalds is one of the most used brands to explain tropicalization terms since most of the time they have hit the nail on the head, and have found the perfect formulas to have great success in each of the markets where they perform, for example, their menus vary according to each region: in Mexico the brand created a guacamole burger, for Japan a shrimp burger, for India a vegetarian and chicken burger, in Colombia they created a Colombian Lunch and in Brazil they changed the spelling of the brand to the local pronunciation “Méqui”.
However, in some cases they have also failed, in an advertising campaign on February 2, the day when Tamales are eaten in Mexico celebrating the Día de la Candelaria, McDonalds published a campaign with the copy “Tamales are already in the past: McBurrito a la Mexicana, also comes wrapped”. Culturally it was an offense for many Mexicans who expressed their annoyance through social media towards the brand, arguing this was an offense for one of the most beloved traditions in the country.
In PR Consulting Global, our team includes executives who know well the local contexts where we offer our services. This allows us to advise our clients in an integrated way, helping them to tropicalize their communication strategies and contents, always guiding them to implement in the most appropriate moments possible, taking into account the ideologies, culture and events that happen in real time.
By: Hiyiri Merino, Head of Operations – PR Consulting Global