The Logistics of Glocalization and Communication

By JCuvilly

This second week has proven to be more aligned with my professional and research interests. We learned from a multinational corporation with employees working directly in corporate communication at our visit to UPS. Not to confuse my readers, Oglivy and Saatchi and Saatchi are both MNCs, however our interactions and experiences with these groups was from the perspective of the services they provide to clients. At UPS we heard from members of their communications team that coordinate and execute the communication plans on behalf of UPS. At last, I’m in the environment and situation where I’m used to working.

Corporate communication for MNCs like UPS is typically the function of the communication department, which employs people to work directly on behalf of the company. UPS’ world headquarters is located in Atlanta (your’s truly interned for a summer there during undergraduate), but also relies on their three regional headquarters in the Americas (HQ in Miami); Europe, Middle East, and Africa (HQ in Brussels); and Asia Pacific (HQ in Singapore) to run the company in each market. Each regional headquarters has its own leadership and corporate communications department that works on projects, message consistency, and alignment across geographic location and communications. In Brussels, the UPS corporate communication department includes four groups: advertising and brand management; customer communication; employee communication; and public relations. The employees cover four different languages up to the native tongue level. By now you know this is important, as I’ve discussed previously, because of Belgium’s unique cultural landscape.

Although I interned at UPS, I learned more about the company and specifically about their communication campaigns in Europe than I knew before. I was working in another department during my internship, but I was there when the UPS rebranding project actually occurred. While I recalled the care and detail that went into making sure all the old branded UPS boxes were being phased out, I wasn’t aware the “what can brown do for you” slogan was not used in Europe. According to our speakers, the meaning of brown didn’t register the same for Europeans as it does for Americans. Instead of using this slogan, UPS decided to use another slogan that would create a clearer message for consumers in its other markets. This goes back to the importance of understanding the cultural dimensions of international markets. What works for the U.S. may not work in Africa, Europe, or South America.

I also learned that UPS is relatively new to the international market, with 25% of its current revenue by geography occurring internationally and 75% of current revenue by geography occurring in the U.S. This difference indicates to UPS and its communications team that there are opportunities to connect with prospective consumers and gain growth globally. Carsten, who was one of the managers we met with and a long time UPS employee says technology has made globalization happen at a faster rate, connecting business to people and the world, much faster than anyone could imagine. He explained that in Europe, UPS is used primarily by business consumers, but the company is working to expand its marketshare by showing the everyday consumer the advantages of using UPS’ services. Carsten and Jim, both described Europe as a complex market because there are differences culturally between U.S. and European consumers. In Europe, there are more competitors offering similar services, so UPS aims to communicate their exceptional service as a differentiator.

In their corporate communications, UPS strives to act glocally. Glocalism is a term used to describe thinking local and acting global. UPS recognizes that taking a glocal approach in business and in their corporate communications, by allowing each region to act on the behalf of its office is a best business practice as long as the core message of service and the core objectives are communicated in alignment with the company’s expectations. Acting glocally may mean modifying a campaign from the world headquarters to fit more with local expectations or deciding against running an advertisement because it would not be understood in the other market.

Speaking of logistics, I’m starting to realize 2 weeks is a long time to be away from home. While I have enjoyed myself in Brussels, I’m powering down from this life. But don’t worry I’ll have plenty of chocolate with me to relive my experiences.

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