Are You Glocal?: How to Balance Brand Consistency with Community Connection

Are you GLOCAL? In other words, is your brand consistently recognizable in all your markets while uniquely relevant to each market?

I first encountered the terms “glocal” and “glocalization “over a decade ago while working with Howard Schultz (then CEO of Starbucks) and his leadership team. I shared some of my learnings about Starbucks’ “glocalization” opportunity in my second book about the company.

My prior book was The Starbucks Experience.

In an interview for, Bill Sleeth, then Starbucks Vice President of Design for the Americas, described the glocalization of the Starbucks experience by noting:

What you don’t want is a customer walking into a store in downtown Seattle, walking into a store in the suburbs of Seattle, and then going into a store in San Jose, and seeing the same store.

Unfortunately, at the time of Bill’s comment, Starbucks had taken a somewhat cookie-cutter approach to store design that lacked local relevance. So, Bill and his team sent store designers out of the corporate office and into the field. Those designers immersed themselves in communities to ensure each location reflected locality. Kimberlee Sherman, then Program Manager for Starbucks Global Design and Construction Support Service, shared:

Designers need to understand the architecture of the store, the neighborhood, the customer base, and the competition.

While it’s not likely that you will try to scale your business on par with Starbucks globally, many important lessons can be gained from Starbucks’ approach to glocalization.

  • Community Immersion: Your team should immerse themselves in the communities you serve – even if those communities are just across town.

  • Celebrate Local Flair: Maintain consistency of brand presentation across locations while incorporating local art, traditions, and architecture into your business’s physical space and branding. Add community-related touches like local landmarks or sources of community pride (e.g., banners from the local high school)

  • Local Partnerships: In addition to “celebrating local flair,” form partnerships with schools, community organizations, and other local businesses to feature their products or events in your physical locations or online stores.

  • Evaluate and Adapt: Consistently assess how the local community receives your product offerings and store designs and be willing to make changes based on feedback.

  • Choose Talent from the Community: Select people who understand and respect the local culture in positions of influence.

  • Create Localized Experiences: Develop experiences or products catering to local tastes and interests.

  • Maintain Core Consistency: While customizing, ensure that the core values and quality that define your brand remain constant.

  • Monitor Economic Viability: Ensure that localization efforts are sustainable and do not negatively impact operational efficiency.

I will end this installment as I started it:

Are you glocal, and what more can you do to mix branded experience consistency with a dash of local relevance?

To learn more about creating a glocal customer experience, please get in touch with me at

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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