So, if you happened to read my most recent post, you are probably aware that this past weekend I returned from a 10-day business trip to the Philippines. While I was blown away by the extent of entrepreneurship in this country, there was one more thing that made a huge impression on me: the power of American brands, and the extent to which these (often gigantic) multinational companies tailored their offerings with great precision to appeal directly to their Philippine customers.
First, American brands are BIG in the Philippines. You can’t go far at all without seeing an advertisement for some American product (particularly Coca-Cola) or an actual bricks-and-mortar American restaurant or store. KFC, McDonald’s, Levi’s, Hollister, TGIF, Subway, Gap, Forever 21, Shakey’s (I haven’t been to one of these since my high school days in Middle Georgia), and many more are ready, willing, and able to take your money in the Philippines. There are of course plenty of Philippine brands (and brands from other nations) too, but the American brands definitely stand out and attract steady streams of loyal customers.
Second, I am certain that one of the reasons why these large American brands have gained such a powerful foothold in this nation of 7,107 islands is that their management teams go to great pains to precisely tailor their offerings to the 92 million people who live there. Take a close look at that current advertising photo for McDonald’s at the upper right of this post. See anything different from what you’re used to seeing at your local McDonald’s? Unless you live in Hawaii, chances are that your McDonald’s doesn’t offer rice (an essential staple for every Philippine meal — morning, noon, and night), nor is it likely to offer spaghetti or fried chicken. McDonald’s stores in the Philippines do. Why? Because Filipinos LOVE spaghetti and fried chicken. McDonald’s also provides free ;pca; delivery — 24/7. Elsewhere in Asia you’ll find such McDonald’s delicacies as Green Tea & Red Bean Ice Cream Sundae (Hong Kong), Samurai Pork Burger (Thailand), and Seaweed Seasoned Fries (Japan). Other U.S. companies operating successfully in the Philippines similarly tailor their offerings to the tastes of the local population.
So, the message to you entrepreneurs who hope to make an impression overseas is twofold. One, embrace your American-ness. Many people around the world like and want to enjoy American products and services. They want to wear our clothes, shop in our stores, and eat our food. Two, make sure that your products and services are precisely targeted to the wants, tastes, and needs of your prospective customers. Believe it or not, not everyone around the world thrives on fries. They may prefer rice. If you can do both of these things consistently and without fear, your success if virtually guaranteed.