Adding a Local Flavour

Successful global brands are a paradox in themselves. Varying from country to country, they are both the same and different to the original brand and it is this paradox which makes them successful in new (geographic) markets. Something which giant coffee chain Starbucks is in the process of discovering.


Starbucks has been struggling in the Australian market for some time. Despite having a renowned reputation, the flagship brand failed to stand up against the developed chains of Gloria Jeans, McDonalds McCafé and independent coffee shops. But in the latest development for this global brand, it was announced today that the Australian branch of Starbucks has been bought by an Australian company, The Withers Group.

This company have a rather impressive record of bringing global brands to the Australian market with their greatest accomplishment defined by the huge expansion of 7/11 stores across the country. And this focus on bringing global brands to the Australian market suggests that there is some key secret that Starbucks missed when they tried to bring their own brand to the lips of all Australians.

They were quoted today in the Sydney Morning Herald saying ‘Our intention is to capitalise on the skills of the broader Withers group of companies in successfully bringing an international brand to Australia, and adapting it to suit the local market’. Contrast this with the Starbucks perspective which had no plans to tweak its offer to appeal to local tastes and the secret becomes clear.

You have to look at the local customers.

Why? Because despite a local desire to engage with this huge brand, consumers from different countries act in markedly different ways. Sticking with the example of coffee, the number of variables are vast. When do they drink coffee? Morning, afternoon or night. Where do they drink coffee? On-the-go, sitting down in a shop or at home. Why do they drink coffee? Social activity, to stay awake, force of habit or because everyone else is doing it.

And that is just the surface. What about how they pay for coffee? What connotations are associated with the idea of coffee? How should the shop be designed? And don’t even get me started on all the product specifications. Sizing. Materials. Taste. Packaging. The list goes on and on.

Thinking about all the variables that are involved in reaching a new market, it is no wonder that many global brands need the assistance of a local company to successfully hook local consumers. But the most important component is that these global brands go in with the attitude to understanding the local consumer rather than the general average across the world.

Coca-Cola varies their advertising, sizing, packaging and product for local tastebuds. Touring productions vary their lead stars to capture the attention of local audiences. And with this new local approach, Starbucks could successfully endear themselves to the local market and complete what they set out to accomplish when they reached Australian soil twelve years ago!