In today's globalised world, successful multinational businesses think global but act local. Business leaders explain why you should 'go glocal' and share their top tips.

British businesses are in demand abroad more than ever. Exports have hit a record high - a bright spot in the Brexit jam - with sales of UK goods and services hitting £60.2 billion in the year to March 2018. Two-fifths were sold to countries outside of the European Union, like India, China and Canada. How can UK plc make the most of this growing trend? The answer lies in glocalisation.

Quickfire Q&A  30-second read

Q: What does glocalisation mean?

A: A combination of the words globalisation and localisation, it means to 'think global, act local'. The concept originated in Japan during the 80s (dochakuka).

Q: Why should I care?

A: If you plan to sell your company's products/services abroad, a strong glocal strategy can mean the difference between winning over a new, paying audience and falling flat on your face.

Q: Which companies swear by it?

A: King Digital Entertainment, McDonald's, Boiler Room, Thread, Starbucks and more.

Q. How do I go about being 'glocal'?

A: Keep reading!

Workspace hosted a Business Insight Dinner at the newly refurbished Edinburgh House in Kennington to explore the concept of glocalisation. Our diverse panel hailed from London and Holland - with stints in Syria and San Francisco - to discuss their experiences of being glocal.

Eloise Newnham, corporate development director at Candy Crush-owner King Digital Entertainment, Terry Betts, head of business development at digital stylist Thread and Samira Hamid Sharifu in Special Projects at global music broadcaster Boiler Room, explain why glocalisation is so important to their businesses.

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Expert panel debating glocalisation at Workspace centre Edinburgh House, Kennington

Think global, act local, earn more in total

Being glocal boosts the bottom line, says former Goldman Sachs banker Eloise. Candy Crush took the world by storm when it launched in 2012 on mobile, attracting a global cult following and millions of dollars in gross bookings. Its "simple to play but hard to master" approach was initially a winning formula but it had its limits, particularly in Asia. To keep fans engaged in the fast-paced world of gaming, King now has to broaden its portfolio into new genres of games.

“King has gone from having a global broad appeal to driving more monetisation through increasingly localised strategies," explains Eloise. "As the mobile gaming market has matured and become more competitive, this has become an increasingly important part of King’s strategy.”

Asia's gaming market is very different to that in the West. Players prefer storylines, engaging characters and more depth to the content, and tend to spend more money, according to Eloise. King has been adding new elements into its existing titles – the latest Candy Crush title, Candy Crush Friends, has a much stronger focus on character development than previous games in the franchise. 

In addition, King is looking to work with partners across the world to create deeper content with strong characters and plots, as well as discover different pools of talent and new genres outside its sweet spots. New smartphone game Legend of Solgard was developed by Snowprint Studios in Stockholm and is popular in Japan and Korea, thanks to its depth of characters combined with a traditional puzzle element.

Going glocal has paid off for King; net revenues from international sales are climbing year-on-year, from 52% in 2015 to 55% in 2017.

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Legend of Solgard cast of characters

Build glocal into your company's DNA

Start-ups might start small but like to think big. A desire to change the world for the better is what drives many entrepreneurs.

If you plan on taking your business global, think glocal from Day One.
 

Digital stylist Thread wants to change the way men shop all around the world by helping them dress better. Borne out of seed accelerator Y Combinator in San Francisco and mentored by Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, Thread soon built up a 100,000-strong customer base in the Bay area. But it hit a wall.

Terry, former head of menswear at Selfridge's, says

“We needed to come back to London to grow, it's the world's hub for fashion tech. We brought some of those cultural learnings from San Francisco and its world-class engineers, and combined it with access to great stylists from London, Paris, Milan, Berlin...”

Today, Thread has a head of talent recruited from Facebook in Silicon Valley, designers from Squarespace and a head of styling poached from Burberry in London. Terry says, "We have a unique team that feels global and has that shared language. We tap into lots of different industries from across the world."

Keep it real

For businesses that are building out an international footprint for the first time, going glocal is an important way to lay down the foundations of trust with potential new customers. Get it right, and you can make a great first impression.

When Ballantine's Whisky first approached Boiler Room to collaborate on a live experiential music campaign in South Africa to promote its products, they wanted to do it in Cape Town. But Boiler Room insisted this would lack authenticity because South Africa's house music scene originates from its townships. A music industry expert, Samira has advised big names like Universal, AOL Music and MySpace as well as more underground ventures like Boiler Room and Okayplayer.

She says, "Ballantine's said it was too dangerous and people won't go to a township. Boiler Room was ready to pull the plug because our credibility was at stake. If we lose that, we lose our audience."

Eventually, Ballantine's agreed to put on the Stay True Journeys event in Langa, the oldest township just outside of Cape Town. Boiler Room enlisted the help of local DJ Fosta by giving him 100 spots on the guest list, and opened the event to the public.

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DJ Fosta hitting the decks at his Boiler Room debut

Samira says, "People that had never been to a township in their lives decided to come from Cape Town because they loved Boiler Room. It was a first to get people to travel to the townships and experience an amazing night. Ballantine's was so happy with the result, they gave us free rein."

Samira’s next challenge is setting up a tour in East Africa for American rapper Yasiin Bey (Mos Def).

Watch how she is taking a unique glocal approach to winning over local brands that are unfamiliar with working with international artists.

In a competitive business environment, going glocal can make all the difference.

Expert tips

1. Trust local talent. Terry says, "Being global means expanding into international markets, but make sure you are laser-focused on your local market. Build a team to deliver that."

2. Understand the local business culture. Samira says, "In Holland, if you have the right press contacts and send out a press release you get mentioned in papers and on TV. In London, it doesn't work like that. If you send out a press release the chances of getting any publicity are slim."

3. Beta test. Eloise says, "Testing on real humans in different markets is really important in tech. Have a diverse team, some people will pick up on cultural sensitivities that might not occur to others." For example, don't rely solely on a localisation service to translate your company's offering. Ask an actual person from that country if the translation makes sense, or risk being turned into an Instagram meme #translationfail

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Further reading

Going ‘Glocal’: How Smart Brands Adapt To Foreign Markets. Read HR expert Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith’s take on glocalisation in Forbes: tinyurl.com/Sylvia-Vorhauser-Smith-Forbes

Globalizing the local, localizing the global. How does art and culture create a country’s identity? Listen to Qatari royal Sheikha Al-Mayassa discuss how every country can share its unique identity with the world in this TEDx Talk: tinyurl.com/https-glocaltedtalk-com

Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local. When someone asks you where you’re from, do you sometimes not know how to answer? In this TEDGlobal Talk, writer Taiye Selasi speaks on behalf of “multi-local” people who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two: tinyurl.com/ask-where-I-m-a-local

How to enter a foreign market. Although investing in another market can be risky and require a lot of capital, the rewards can be huge: www.workspace.co.uk/community/homework/growth-and-strategy/how-to-enter-a-foreign-market 

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