Olivier Furrer, Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands)
The study and practice of marketing have broadened considerably, from an emphasis on
marketing as a functional management issue, to a wider focus on the strategic role of
marketing in overall corporate strategy (e.g., Kotler, 2000; Sudharshan, 1995). This
broadening of the marketing concept, to include strategic as well as operational decisions, has
resulted in an overlap between marketing and strategic management. Managers around the
globe are recognizing the increasing importance for the firm to develop marketing strategies
to compete effectively in worldwide markets. The emergence of a more open world economy,
the globalization of consumers’ tastes, and the development of a worldwide commercial web
all have increased the interdependency and interconnections of markets across the globe. In
such a global environment, firms should develop their marketing strategy around three key-
dimensions (Zou and Cavusgil, 2002): (1) standardization-adaptation, (2) configuration-
coordination, and (3) strategic integration. Following Sudharshan (1995), we define a firm’s
marketing strategy as the development of and decisions about a firm’s relationships with its
key stakeholders, its offerings, resource allocation, and timing.
The first, and perhaps the most important dimension of a multinational corporation1 (MNC)’s
worldwide marketing strategy is related to the standardization or adaptation of marketing
programs, such as product offering, promotional mix, price, and channel structure, across
different countries (Jain, 1989; Keegan, 2000; Laroche et al., 2001; Levitt, 1983; Ohmae,
1989; Samiee and Roth, 1992; Szymanski, Bharadwaj and Varadarajan, 1993; Yip, 2003; Zou
and Cavusgil, 1996). The second dimension of a worldwide marketing strategy focuses on
configuration and coordination of a firm’s value chain activities across countries (Craig and
Douglas, 2000; Hout, Porter and Rudden, 1982; Porter, 1986, 1990; Roth, Schweiger and
Morrison, 1991). Finally, the third dimension is the strategic integration dimension, which is
concerned with how a MNC’s competitive battles are planned and executed across country
1 Multinational corporations or MNCs are defined, following Dunning (1992) as firms that own and control
value-adding activities in more than one country.
markets (Birkinshaw, Morrison and Hulland, 1995; Yip, 1989, 2003; Zou and Cavusgil,
1996). In this chapter, we focus our attention on these three worldwide marketing strategy
dimensions and how they are combined by MNCs from different regions of the world to gain
a competitive advantage.
A dominant conceptualization for examining the configuration of these three dimensions
within worldwide marketing strategies is the integration-responsiveness framework (e.g.,
Bartlett, Ghoshal and Birkinshaw, 2004; Furrer, Sudharshan and Thomas, 2001; Ghoshal and
Bartlett, 1998; Harzing, 2000; Jarillo and Martinez, 1990; Johnson, 1995; Perlmutter, 1969;
Prahalad and Doz, 1987; Roth, 1992; Roth and Morrison, 1990; Taggart, 1997). This
framework suggests that two salient imperatives simultaneously confront a business
competing internationally. A MNC, to secure competitive advantages vis-à-vis the domestic
firm, must exploit market imperfections that are derived through multi-country capacities.
However, given that the MNC is operating in several countries, it must also be responsive to
the demands imposed by local governmental and market forces in each country. A worldwide
strategy is framed by the response to or management of these two imperatives: meeting local
demands and capitalizing on worldwide competitive advantages. The framework, therefore,
suggests that MNCs develop strategies across two dimensions: The first dimension,
integration, refers to the standardization, coordination, and integration of activities across
countries in an attempt to build efficient operations networks and take maximum advantage of
similarities across locations. The second dimension, responsiveness, refers to the attempt to
respond to specific needs within a variety of host countries.
Within this framework, Bartlett and Ghoshal (Bartlett, Ghoshal and Birkinshaw, 2004;
Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998) have identified four generic worldwide strategies: (1) an
international strategy2 which is a strategy in which strategic and operational decisions are
developed in the home and only subsequently transferred abroad to be adapted to the local
market; (2) a multinational (or multidomestic) strategy which is a strategy in which strategic
and operational decisions are decentralized to the strategic business unit in each country so as
to allow that unit to adapt products to the local market; (3) a global strategy which is a
strategy through which a firm offers standardized products across country markets with
2 It should be noted that the terms international, multinational, global, and transnational have been used very
differently and sometimes interchangeably by various authors (e.g., Levitt, 1983; Porter, 1986, 1990; Yip,
2003). In this chapter, following Ghoshal and Bartlett (1998), we give each term a specific and different
competitive strategy being dictated by the home office; and (4) a transnational strategy which
is a strategy through which a firm seeks to achieve both global efficiency and local
responsiveness by coordinating and integrating activities across countries.
Figure 1: The Four Generic Worldwide Strategies
Need for Local Responsiveness
Need for Global Integration
Need for Local Responsiveness
Need for Global Integration
In this main body of this chapter, following Bartlett and Ghoshal (Bartlett, Ghoshal and
Birkinshaw, 2004; Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998), we will present how MNCs from Europe,
United States, and Japan, which are the three major trading blocs in international business
referred to as the triad by Ohmae (1985), have traditionally, due to their administrative and
cultural heritage, adopted different generic worldwide strategies: Typical American MNCs
adopted an international strategy, typical European MNCs followed a multinational strategy,
and typical Japanese MNCs adopted a global strategy. More recently, MNCs from all regions
started to change their strategy to adopt a more effective, but more complex, transnational
In the reminder of this chapter, we first describe and further develop the four worldwide
generic strategies. Then, we explore the consequences of adopting one of these strategies for
three critical marketing operational strategies: (1) marketing decision-making processes; (2)
innovation and new product development; and (3) service quality strategies. Because of their
diversity and their particularities these three marketing operational strategies provide a wide
range of experiences.
MARKETING STRATEGY DIMENSIONS
The three key-dimensions of an MNC’s worldwide marketing strategy, as previously
mentioned, are: (1) standardization-adaptation, (2) configuration-coordination, and (3)
strategic integration (Zou and Cavusgil, 2002).
Standardization/Adaptation refers to the use of basically the same (standardization) or
different (adaptation) product or service, advertising, distribution channels, and other
elements of the marketing mix across countries (e.g., Kotler, 2000; Levitt, 1983; Bharadwaj
and Varadarajan, 1993; Zou and Cavusgil, 2002). MNCs following a standardization strategy
believe that world markets are being homogenized by advances in communication and
transportation technology (Jain, 1989; Levitt, 1983). Increasingly, customers in distant part of
the world tend to exhibit similar preferences and demand the same products and services
(Jain, 1989; Ohmae, 1985). Therefore, a major source of competitive advantage in worldwide
markets is the ability to produce high-quality, low-price products (Levitt, 1983). To attain a
low-cost position, the optimum worldwide marketing strategy is to sell standardized products
and services using standardized marketing programs (Porter, 1986, 1990). For the MNCs
following this strategy, major benefits of standardization include economies of scale in
production and marketing (Levitt, 1983), consistency in dealing with customers across
countries (Laroche et al., 2001; Zou, Andrus and Norvell, 1997), and the ability to exploit
good idea on a worldwide scale (Buzzell, 1968; Ohmae, 1989; Quelch and Hoff, 1986).
Although the standardization approach has numerous advantages, its unconditional adoption
has some severe drawbacks (Boddewyn, Soehl and Picard, 1986; Douglas and Wind, 1987),
one of which is its cultural insensitivity (Usunier, 2000). Consumers in different countries
have widely varied cultural backgrounds, needs and wants, spending power, product
preferences and shopping patterns. Because these differences may be hard to change, some
MNCs prefer to adapt their marketing programs to closely fit consumer desires and
expectations in each country (Kotler, 2000).
Configuration is the way in which an MNC configures its upstream, downstream and internal
value-adding activities. A firm may choose to concentrate its activities in one country and to
export and market its products and services in a range of foreign countries. Alternatively, a
firm may decide to disperse its value-adding activities to several countries. In both cases, the
advantages of alternative locations for each activity will influence the architecture of value
chain activities which is finally selected (Bartlett, Ghoshal and Birkinshaw, 2004; Porter,
1985). There are two broad directions of configuration of value-adding activities:
concentration or dispersal. In some industries there are advantages to be obtained from
concentrating activities in a small number of countries and exporting to foreign markets. This
is true when locational factors are important and regional advantages may be gained
(Dunning, 1992, 1998; Porter, 1990). Competitive advantage may also arise from dispersing
activities in several countries. Dispersed activities involve foreign direct investment. It is best
to disperse activities when: (1) transportation, communication, or storage costs are high; (2)
factors like exchange rates and political risk are important; (3) national markets differ because
of culture; and (4) governments exert influence via tariffs, subsidies and nationalistic
purchasing (governments tend to favor location of whole value chain in their country)
(Dunning, 1992, 1998; Porter, 1990). In addition to adopting the optimum configuration,
competitive edge can be gained by efficient and effective coordination of diverse activities,
which could be located in a number of different countries. Coordination involves sharing
information, allocating responsibility, and aligning efforts (Porter, 1990). It is differing
linguistic, cultural, political, legal, technological and economic factors, coupled to geography
and distance, which pose the problems that require worldwide coordination.
Strategic Integration is concerned with how an MNC’s competitive battles are planned and
executed across country markets (Jayachandran, Gimeno and Varadarajan, 1999; Zou and
Cavusgil, 2002). A key to worldwide marketing strategy success is participation in all major
world markets to gain competitive leverage and effective integration of the firm’s competitive
campaigns across these markets (Birkinshaw, Morrison and Hulland, 1995; Yip, 1989, 2003;
Zou and Cavusgil, 1996, 2002). MNCs may manage their markets and operations in different
countries independently or interdependently. Some MNCs fight their competitors one country
at a time in separate contests, even though it may face another MNC in many of the same
countries (Yip, 2003). However, when markets and operations are perceived as
interdependent, an MNC could subsidize operations in some markets with resources generated
in others (Bartlett, Ghoshal and Birkinshaw, 2004; Birkinshaw, Morrison, and Hulland, 1995;
Hamel and Prahalad, 1985) and respond to competitive attacks in one market by
counterattacking in others (Jayachandran, Gimeno and Varadarajan, 1999; Yip, 1989, 2003).
It is therefore important to integrate the firm’s competitive moves across the major markets in
the world (Bartlett, Ghoshal and Birkinshaw, 2004; Birkinshaw, Morrison, and Hulland,
1995; Zou and Cavusgil, 2002). The same type of move may be made in different countries at
the same time or in some systematic sequence (Douglas and Craig, 1989), or a competitor
may be attacked in one country in order to drain its resources for another country, or a
competitive attack in one country could be countered in a different country (Jayachandran,
Gimeno and Varadarajan, 1999). Perhaps, the best example is the counterattack in a
competitor’s market as a parry to an attack on one’s own home market (Yip, 2004).
MNCs’ ADMINISTRATIVE AND CULTURAL HERITAGE
A firm’s worldwide strategy is shaped not only by its current external environment but also
by its past internal management biases. In particular, MNCs are influenced by the path by
which they developed and the values, norms, and practices of their management. Firms are, to
a significant extent, captives of their past (i.e., their administrative and cultural heritage)
(Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998). MNCs as any organizations are symbolic entities; they function
according to implicit models in the minds of their members, and these models are culturally
determined (Hofstede, 2001). There is strong evidence that culture plays an important and
enduring role in shaping the assumptions, beliefs, and values of individuals (Hofstede, 1980b,
1991, 2001; Hall, 1976, 1983; Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1998; Usunier, 2000) (cf.
Box 1: Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Perhaps the most celebrated effort to date to describe and categorize these differences in the orientations
and values of people in different countries is Hofstede’s (1980b, 1991, 2001; Bond et al., 1987) study
(Questionnaire data from 116,000 IBM employees in 72 countries across seven occupations.) that
described national cultural differences along five key dimensions: Power Distance (PDI), Individualism
(IDV), Masculinity (MAS), Uncertainty Avoidance (UAV), and Long-Term Orientation (LTO).
Power Distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept
and expect that power is distributed unequally. The basic problem involved is the degree of human
inequality that underlies the functioning of each particular society.
Individualism on the one side versus its opposite collectivism is the degree to which individuals are
supposed to look after themselves or remain integrated into groups, usually around the family.
Positioning itself between these poles is a very basic problem all societies face.
Masculinity versus its opposite, femininity, refers to the distribution of emotional roles between genders,
which is another fundamental problem for any society to which a range of solutions are found; it oppose
“tough” masculine to “tender” feminine societies.
Uncertainty Avoidance is the extent to which a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable
or comfortable in unstructured situations. Unstructured situations are novel, unknown, surprising,
different from usual. The basic problem involved is the degree to which a society tries to control the
Long-Term versus Short-Term Orientation refers to the extent to which a culture programs its members
to accept delayed gratification of their material, social, and emotional needs. Cultures with a long-term
orientation exhibit a pragmatic future-oriented perspective (fostering virtues like perseverance and thrift),
rather than a conventional historic or short-term point of view.
Country scores on each of the dimensions are provided
In the next paragraphs, we review the four worldwide generic strategies and their adoption by
international firms has been influenced by the administrative and cultural heritage.
FOUR GENERIC WORLDWIDE STRATEGIES
Bartlett and Ghoshal (Bartlett, Ghoshal and Birkinshaw, 2004; Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998)
have identified four generic worldwide strategies: (1) an international strategy; (2) a
multinational strategy; (3) a global strategy; and finally (4) a transnational strategy.
In the earliest stages of a firm’s internationalization, managers tend to think of the overseas
operations as some kind of distant outposts whose main role is to support the domestic parent
company in different ways such as contributing incremental sales of the domestic product, or
supplying raw materials or components to the domestic manufacturing operations. Bartlett
and Ghoshal (Bartlett, Ghoshal and Birkinshaw, 2004; Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998) have
labeled this generic strategy, international strategy. The international terminology derives
directly from Vernon (1966)’s international product cycle theory (cf. box 2), which states that
products are first developed for a firm’s domestic market, and only subsequently sold abroad.
This strategy is primarily based on transferring and adapting the parent company’s knowledge
or capabilities to foreign markets. The parent retains considerable influence and control over
the foreign subsidiaries, but less than with the global strategy (see below) and the foreign
subsidiaries can adapt to the needs and preferences of their local markets products and ideas
coming from the center, but have less independence and autonomy than with a multinational
strategy (Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998).
Box 2: Vernon’s International Product Cycle Theory
This theory suggests that the starting point for the internationalization process is typically an innovation
that a firm creates in its home country. In the first phase of exploiting the innovation, the firm will build
production facilities in its home market not only because this is where its main customer base is located,
but also because of the need to maintain close linkages between research and production in this phase of
the development cycle. In this early stage, some demand may also be created in other countries where
consumer needs and market development are similar to the home country. These requirements would
normally be met out of home production, thereby generating exports for the firm.
As the product matures and production processes become standardized, the firm enters a new stage. By
this time, demand in the foreign countries may have become quite sizable and export sales, from being a
marginal side benefit, are now an important part of the revenues from the new business. Furthermore,
competitors will probably begin to see the growing demand for the new product as a potential
opportunity to establish themselves in markets served by exports. To prevent or counteract such
competition and also to meet the foreign demand more effectively, the innovating firm typically sets up
production facilities in the importing countries, thereby making the transition from being an exporter to
becoming a true MNC.
Finally, in the third stage, the product becomes highly standardized and many competitors enter the
business. Competition now focuses on price and, therefore, on cost. This activates a resource-seeking
motive, and the firm moves production to low-wage developing countries, both to meet local demand that
has by now sprung up in these countries, and also to meet the demands of its customers in the developed
markets at a lower cost. (Source: Vernon, 1966)
Traditionally, a firm following an international strategy can choose between one of three basic
marketing adaptation options (Keegan, 2000): (1) product standardization-communication
adaptation, (2) product adaptation-communication standardization, or (3) product adaptation-
communication adaptation. The first option, product standardization-communication
adaptation, is often chosen when reasons for buying a product differ from country to country,
but the usage conditions and standards remain identical. In this case, the same product can be
marketed but with a change in the communications strategy. This strategy is quite cost-
effective, because communications adaptation is less expensive than tailoring a product to the
local market. The second option, product adaptation-communication standardization, is
appropriate when the physical event surrounding product usage varies but the sociocultural
event is the same as in the firm’s home country. Kotler (2000) mentions the example of Kraft
that blends different coffees for the British (who drink their coffee with milk), the French
(who drink their coffee black), and Latin Americans (who want a chicory taste). Finally, the
third option of dual adaptation of product and communication is generally favored for a
product when both usage conditions and sociocultural concerns vary among markets.
Many U.S. MNCs, such as Kraft, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, and General Electric, enjoyed
their fastest international expansion in the 1950s and 1960s (cf. Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998).
At that time, their main strength laid in the new technologies and management processes they
had developed as a consequence of being located in the world’s largest, richest, and most
technologically advanced market. After the war, their foreign expansion focused primarily on
leveraging this strength. The management approach in most these U.S. firms was built on a
willingness to delegate responsibility, while retaining overall control through sophisticated
management systems and specialist corporate staffs (Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998; Taggart,
1997). Foreign subsidiaries were often free to adapt products or marketing strategies to reflect
local differences, but their dependence on the parent company for new products, processes,
and ideas dictated a great deal of coordination and control by headquarters. The main
handicap such companies faced was that parent-company management often adopted a
parochial and even superior attitude toward international operations, perhaps because of the
assumption that new ideas and developments all came from the parent. Nonetheless, the
approach was highly successful in the postwar decades. While these companies built
considerable strengths out of their ability to create and leverage innovations and marketing
knowledge, many suffered from deficiencies of both efficiency and flexibility since they did
not develop either centralized and high-scale operations, or a very high degree of local
responsiveness. Even until recently, it is not infrequent for a U.S. firm to start its
internationalization process with an international strategy (cf. box 3)
Box 3: McDonald’s in India
The McDonald’s formula, hugely successful as it is, was always going to have to be adapted to a place
such as India where killing cows is sacrilege. But burger joints are not the only ones that need to be
careful, Western firms tempted by India’s growing middle class, have to be sensitive to the country’s
definite tastes. McDonald’s, which now has 56 restaurants in India, was launched there in 1996. It has
had to deal with a market that is 40% vegetarian, with the aversion to either beef or pork among meat-
eaters, with hostility to frozen meat and fish, and with the general Indian fondness for spice with
everything. To satisfy such tastes, McDonald’s has discovered that it needs to do more than provide the
right burgers. Customers buying vegetarian burgers want to be sure that these are cooked in a separate
area in the kitchen using separate utensils. Sauces like McMasala and McImli are on offer to satisfy the
Indian taste for spice. McDonald’s promises to introduce a spiced version of its fries soon.
Although its expansion has been faster in India than some other Asian countries such as Indonesia, it has
hardly been rapid. Yet, at least, the firm has avoided the disasters of some other big American names. In
the mid 90s’, violent protests in Bangalore in southern India over the quality of its food temporarily
closed KFC which sells fried chicken. In 1995, Kellogg made a splash pitching breakfast cereals as a
healthier alternative to the heavy Indian breakfast. Indians were unimpressed. Kellogg facing mounting
losses is now selling to a westernized niche market instead.
Most of U.S. companies have got three things wrong in India with their international strategy. They
overestimated the size and disposable income of the much-touted Indian middle class. They
underestimated the strength of local products in the markets they were entering and they overestimated
the value of their reputation. Indian consumers seem unimpressed by the glamour of the western brands,
food companies are scaling down their plans accordingly (Source: The Economist, 1997)
A multinational strategy is adopted when managers recognize and emphasize the differences
among national markets and operating environments. Forces for localization include culture-
driven differences in national tastes and preferences; government policies that demand high
levels of local content; technological developments such as flexible manufacturing that have
dramatically reduced the minimum efficient scale of production for some products; and the
greater role of maintenance, financing and other services as tools of competition as customers
become more demanding. The multinational strategic approach focuses primarily on national
differences to achieve most of its strategic objectives. Firms following a multinational
strategy adopt a more flexible approach to their international operations by modifying their
products and marketing strategies country by country in response to national differences in
customer preferences, industry characteristics, and government regulations.
Many European companies such as Unilever, ICI, Philips, and Nestlé have traditionally
followed this strategic model (c.f. Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998). In these companies, assets and
resources historically were widely dispersed, allowing overseas subsidiaries to carry out a
wide range of activities from development and production to sales and services. Their self-
sufficiency was typically accompanied by considerable local autonomy (Jarillo and Martinez,
1990; Taggart, 1997). But, while such independent national units were unusually flexible and
responsive to their local environments, they inevitably suffered problems of inefficiencies and
an inability to exploit the knowledge and competencies of other national units.
The emerging configuration of distributed assets and delegated responsibility fit well with the
ingrained management norms and practices in many European companies (Ghoshal and
Bartlett, 1998). Because of the important role of owners and bankers in corporate-level
decision-making, European companies, particularly those from the United Kingdom, the
Netherlands, and France, developed an internal culture that emphasized personal relationships
rather than formal structures, and financial controls more than coordination of technical or
operational detail. This management style, philosophy, and capability tended to reinforce
companies’ willingness to delegate more operating independence and strategic freedom to
their foreign subsidiaries. Highly autonomous national companies were often managed more
as a portfolio of offshore investments rather than as a single international business.
While a multinational strategy typically results in very responsive marketing approaches in
the different national markets, it also gives rise to an inefficient manufacturing infrastructure
within the company (Levitt, 1983). Local production plants are often built more to provide
local marketing advantages or to improve political relations than to maximize production
efficiency (Dunning, 1992). Similarly, the proliferation of products designed to meet local
needs also contributes to a general loss of efficiency in design, production, logistics,
distribution, and other marketing tasks. In an operating environment of improving
transportation and communication infrastructures and falling trade barriers, some MNCs
adopted a very different strategic approach in their international operations. These firms,
many of them of Japanese origin, think in terms of creating products for a world market and
marketing them on global scale, often at the corporate center. They try to gain a competitive
advantage through building global efficiencies through economies of scale and economies of
scope (Chandler, 1990).
Scale efficiency is used as a competitive tool primarily because it has the potential to yield
reduction in production costs by spreading the fixed costs over a higher volume of output.
Further cost reduction from scale arises from the learning curve effect (Lieberman, 1984;
Pattison and Teplitz, 1989). This is because as production volume increases, the employees
involved in the production process accumulate experience and learning, which result in steady
reduction in costs as the firm moves down its learning curve. Global efficiencies are
influenced not only by the scale economies of its various activities, but also by the presence
of cost saving across functions or units. Economies of scope exit when “it is less costly to
combine two or more products lines in one firm than to produce them separately” (Panzar and
Willig, 1981, p. 268). The strategic importance of scope economies arises from a diversified
MNC’s ability to share investments and costs across the same or different value chains. Such
sharing can take place across segments, products, or markets. Sony is an example of a firm
that has captured scope economies through the exploitation of a single brand name across
diverse markets and Matsushita have benefited considerably from its ability to market a wide
range of products (radios, TVs, tape recorders, VCRs) through the same distribution channel.
Another important component of scope economies is shared knowledge. NEC, for example, is
seeking global efficiency through the combination of its competencies in computer and
Globally standardized products can increase competitive leverage by providing low-cost
products that can be the basis for invading markets (Yip, 2003). When they first entered world
markets, most Japanese firms lacked the resources to develop and support different products
for different countries. Turning this weakness into a strength, they focused on a small number
of globally standardized products that initially via low cost, then via superior quality, allowed
them to conquer market after market (Yip, 2003).
This strategy is defined as a global strategy because it views the world as its unit of analysis.
The underlying assumption is that national tastes and preferences are more similar than
different, or that they can be made similar by providing customers with standardized products
with adequate cost and quality advantages over those national varieties that they have been
used to (Jain, 1989; Levitt, 1983; Ohmae, 1989; Samiee and Roth, 1992). This strategic
approach requires considerably more central coordination and control than the others. In such
companies, research and development, manufacturing, and marketing activities are typically
managed from the headquarters, and most strategic decisions are also taken at the center. For
firms adopting a global strategy, a competitive advantage depends primarily on the search for
global efficiency. Such MNCs use all the different means to achieve the best cost and quality
positions for their products and services (i.e., Johnson, 1995; Roth and Morrison, 1990). This
has been the typical approach of many Japanese companies such as Toyota, Canon, Komatsu,
and Matsushita (cf. Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998). Such a global strategy, with its focus on cost
control, requires a tight central control of product development, procurement, manufacturing,
and marketing. Such an approach fit the cultural background and organizational values in
many Japanese MNCs. At the foundation of the internal processes were the strong national
cultural norms that emphasized group behavior and valued interpersonal harmony. By
keeping primary decision-making and control at the center, Japanese companies could retain
their culturally dependent management system that is communications-intensive and people-
Alternative Global Strategies
Porter (1990) developed a model global strategy based upon the generic strategy framework (Porter,
1980, 1985). He argued that the generic cost leadership or differentiation strategies can be operated on a
global scale as either global cost leadership or global differentiation, targeting either an entire global
market or a particular global segment. In other words, the scope of the strategy can be either broad or
narrow but on a global scale. Each of these archetypical strategies represents a fundamentally different
conception of how to compete. In shipbuilding, for example, Japanese firms follow the differentiation
strategy, offering a wide array of high-quality vessels at premium prices. Korean shipyards pursue th e
cost leadership strategy, also offering many types of vessels at lower cost that can Japanese firms.
Successful Scandinavian yards are focused differentiators, concentrating on specialized types of ships
such as icebreakers and cruise ships that involve specialized technology and which commend prices high
enough to offset higher Scandinavian labor costs. Finally, Chinese shipyards (cost focus), the emerging
competitors in the industry, offer relatively simple, standard vessel types at even lower costs (and prices)
than the Koreans (Porter, 1990, p. 39).
As several companies have found, however, such efficiency comes with some compromise of
both flexibility and learning. For example, concentrating manufacturing to capture global
scale may also result in a high level of inter-country product shipments that can raise risks of
policy intervention, particularly by host governments in major importer countries. Similarly,
companies that centralize R&D for efficiency reasons often find they are constrained in their
ability to capture new developments in countries outside their home markets or to leverage
innovations created by foreign subsidiaries in the rest of their worldwide operations (Ghoshal
and Bartlett, 1998).
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, many of the firms pursuing a global strategy were very
successful (Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998). In a rapidly globalizing environment, they
dominated, not only local companies, but international and multinational competitors as well.
Their very success, however, created and strengthened a set of countervailing forces of
localization. Customers contributed to the strengthening of the localizing forces by rejecting
homogenized global products and reasserting their national preferences, albeit without
relaxing their expectation of high-quality and low costs that global products had offered (Holt,
Quelch and Taylor, 2004; Quelch, 2003). As a result, many global firms recognized that the
demands to be responsive to local market and the pressures to develop global-scale
competitive efficiency were simultaneous (Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998; Holt, Quelch and
Taylor, 2004) (cf. box 4). Under these conditions, the either/or attitude reflected in both the
multinational and the global strategic strategies were increasingly inappropriate. The
emerging requirement was for companies to become more responsive to local needs while
retaining their global efficiency, an emerging approach to worldwide management that
Bartlett and Ghoshal (Bartlett, Ghoshal and Birkinshaw, 2004; Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998)
call the transnational strategy.
Box 4: Global Brands
“Although Levitt (1983) did not explicitly discuss branding, managers interpreted his ideas to mean tha t
[MNCs] should standardize products, packaging, and communication to achieve a least-common-
denominator positioning that would be effective across cultures. From that commonsense standpoint,
global branding was only about saving costs and ensuring consistent customer communication. The idea
proved to be popular in the 198s, when several countries opened up to foreign competition and American
and Japanese corporations tried to penetrate those markets with global brands and marketing programs.
While the world economy continued to integrate, experiments with global branding soon slowed.
Consumers in most countries had trouble relating to the generic products and communications that
resulted from companies’ least-common-denominator thinking. Executives therefore rushed to fashion
hybrid strategies. They strove for global scale on backstage activities such as technology, production, and
organization but made sure product features, communications, distribution, and selling techniques were
customized to local consumer tastes. Such “glocal” strategies have rule marketing ever since” Holt,
Quelch and Taylor, 2004, p. 68.
In such firms, key activities and resources are neither centralized in the parent company, nor
decentralized so that each subsidiary can carry out its own tasks on a local-for-local basis.
Instead, the resources and activities are dispersed but specialized, so as to achieve efficiency
and flexibility at the same time. Furthermore, these dispersed resources are integrated into an
interdependent network of worldwide operations. In contrast to the global model, the
transnational strategy recognizes the importance of flexible and responsive country-level
operations (Jarillo and Martinez, 1990; Taggart, 1997). Compared to the multinational
strategy, the transnational strategy provides mechanisms for linking and coordinating foreign
subsidiaries’ operations to retain competitive effectiveness and economic efficiency.
Customizing Global Marketing
According to Quelch and Hoff (1986), how far a company can move toward global marketing depends a
lot on its evolution and traditions (i.e., its administrative and cultural heritage). To support their
argument, the provide two examples:
(1) Although the Coca-Cola Company had conducted some international business before 1940, it gained
true global recognition during World War II, as Coke bottling plants followed the march of U.S.
troops around the world. Management in Atlanta made all strategic decisions then, and still does
now. The brand name, concentrate formula, positioning, and advertising theme are virtually standard
worldwide, but the artificial sweetener and packaging differ across countries. Local managers are
responsible for sales and distribution programs, which they run in conjunction with local bottlers.
(2) The Nestlé approach also has its roots in history. To avoid distribution disruptions caused by wars in
Europe, to ease rapid worldwide expansion, and to respond to local consumer needs, Nestlé granted
its local managers considerable autonomy from the outset. While the local managers still retain much
of that decision-making power today, Nestlé headquarters in Vevey has grown in importance. Nestlé
has transferred to its central marketing staff many former local managers who had succeeded in their
Nestlé businesses and who now influence country executive to accept standard new product and
marketing ideas. The trend seems to be toward tighter marketing coordination.
In terms of marketing strategy, George Yip’s (2003) view is that a worldwide marketing
strategy must be part of a worldwide business strategy. A global strategy will be appropriate
when customer needs are globally common, when there are global customers and channels,
and when marketing is globally transferable. In addition, cost drivers are likely to favor a
global approach to marketing by creating economies of scale and scope. There are also
competitive advantages of global marketing, through, for example, global branding. Yip did
not advocate a marketing strategy which is global in every detail, rather one which is global
where there are evident advantages and local where necessary: So global marketing is not a
blind adherence to standardization of all marketing elements for its own sake, but a different,
global approach to developing marketing strategy and programs that blends flexibility with
uniformity (Yip 2003). In essence, then, a transnational marketing strategy is concerned with
devising a strategy which is global in scope and which is globally coordinated. The extent of
globalization of each element of the strategy will be dependent upon the organization’s
transnational strategy and the relative advantages of globalization or localization based on
factors such as customers needs.
In the first section of this chapter, we have presented the four generic strategies that a MNC
can follow to gain a competitive advantage in worldwide markets: the international,
multinational, global and transnational strategies. We have also explain that firms are, to a
significant extent, captives of their administrative and cultural heritage and that, due to this
heritage, typical American MNCs have tended to follow an international strategy, typical
European MNCs have tended to follow a multinational strategy, and typical Japanese MNCs
have tended to adopt a global strategy. Finally, we have shown that more recently, due to a
convergence phenomenon, MNCs from all regions are now adopting a transnational strategy.
In the next section, we present how these four generic strategies at corporate-level influence
marketing strategic decision-making.
DECISION-MAKING ABOUT MARKETING ACTIVITIES
Within the general framework introduced in the first section of this chapter, decision-making
about marketing activities in a MNC has two important dimensions: (1) decision-making
configuration, which refers to the location of various marketing decision centers through the
world (geographically centralized or decentralized); and (2) decision-making coordination
and integration, which refers to the extent of standardization or adaptation of marketing
When centralized decision-making is in place, most important decision are made at the top; if
decentralized decision making is in place, decision are delegated to operating personnel.
Another issue is how decision-making is used to help the subsidiary respond to the economic
and political demands of the country. Sometimes, these decisions are heavily economic in
orientation and may concentrate on things such as return on investment for overseas
operations. Other times, decisions are a result of cultural differences. For example, the
performance evaluation decisions of local personnel by expatriate managers are greatly
affected by the expatriate’s cultural values (cf. Hofstede, 1980b, 1991, 2001). The best way to
illustrate differences in decision-making styles in the international arena is to give some
comparative examples (cf. box 5).
Box 5: The Impact of Culture on Decision-Making Processes
Given the differences in value orientations, Hofstede has long questioned whether American theories
could be applied abroad and discussed the consequences of cultural differences in terms organization and
decision-making processes (Hofstede, 1980a). He argued, for example, that firms in countries with high
power distance would tend to have more levels of hierarchy (vertical differentiation), a higher proportion
of supervisory personnel (narrow span of control), and more centralized decision-making. In countries
with high uncertainty avoidance, firms would tend to have more formalization evident in a greater
amount of written rules and procedures. Also there would be greater specialization evident in the
importance attached to technical competence in the role of staff and in defining jobs and functions. In
countries with a high collectivist orientation, there would be a preference for group as opposed to
individual decision-making. Consensus and cooperation would be more valued than individual initiative
and effort. In countries ranked high on masculinity, the management style is likely to be more concerned
with task accomplishment than nurturing social relationships.
Two particularly important cultural dimensions are power distance and uncertainty avoidance: power
distance is involved in answering the question of who decides what (headquarters or subsidiaries), and
uncertainty avoidance is involved in answering the question how one (the headquarters) can assure that
what should be done will be done (Hofstede, 1980a, 2001; Pugh and Hickson, 1976). Latin countries that
are high both on power distance and uncertainty avoidance are more mechanistic (Burns and Stalker,
1961) (i.e., bureaucratic). Nordic countries, and to a lesser extent, the Anglo countries, that rank low both
on power distance and uncertainty avoidance are more organic (Burns and Stalker, 1961) (i.e., less
hierarchic, more decentralized, having less formalized rules and procedures). In Germanic societies
where power distance is low but uncertainty avoidance is high, organizations where hierarchy is
downplayed, decisions are decentralized, but where rules and regulations are more formal, and task roles
and responsibilities are more clearly defined. Thus there is no need for a boss, as the organization runs by
routines. In Asian organizations where power distance is high but uncertainty avoidance is low,
organizations resemble families or tribes. Here, headquarters are the boss, and the relationship between
headquarter and subsidiaries may be described as paternalistic. Subsidiaries do not have clearly defined
task roles and responsibilities (formalization), but instead social roles.
Douglas and Craig (1989) emphasized the importance of coordination and integration issues
by relating changes in marketing strategic decisions to the evolution of a firm’s worldwide
strategy over time. They identified three main phases in the evolution of worldwide marketing
strategy with each stage presenting new strategic challenges and decision priorities to the
• Phase one: Phase one represents the initial stage of international market expansion where
the main strategic decisions facing the business include the choice of country to enter, the
mode of entry adopted and the extent of product standardization or adaptation.
• Phase two: Once the company has established a ‘beachhead’ in a number of foreign
markets, it then begins to seek new directions for growth and expansion, thus moving to
phase two of internationalization. The focus in this stage is mainly on building market
penetration in countries where the company is already located. In consequence, the
expansion effort is mainly directed by local management with marketing strategy being
determined on a country-by-country or nationally responsive basis.
• Phase three: It is the third evolutionary phase which is the most important in the context
of global marketing. In phase three the business moves towards a global orientation. The
country-by-country approach to marketing is replaced by one in which markets are viewed
as a set of interrelated and interdependent entities. These are increasingly integrated and
interlinked worldwide and coordination and integration of global marketing becomes
essential to fully exploit the competitive advantages to be derived from the company’s
global scope. According to Douglas and Craig (1989) there are two key strategic thrusts in
First, the drive to improve the efficiency of worldwide operations through coordination
and integration. This will cover both marketing activities such as product development,
advertising, distribution and pricing; but also related production, sourcing and
management. Standardization of product lines globally, for example, will facilitate the
development of a globally integrated production and logistics network.
The second key strategic thrust is the search for global expansion and growth
opportunities. This will involve a range of activities including opportunities for
transferring products, brand names, marketing ideas, skills and expertise between
countries; the identification of global market segments and target customers; and
worldwide product development aimed at global markets.
After having presented and shown the importance of the two dimensions of decision-making
that are configuration and coordination, we need to explain, now, how these dimensions are
combined in four different types of decision-making processes consistent with the
international, multinational, global and transnational strategies.
First, we present decision-making in MNCs having adopted an international strategy. As we
have mentioned earlier, an international strategy is primarily based on transferring and
adapting the parent firm’s knowledge or capabilities to foreign markets. In firms following
this strategy, the parent retains considerable influence and control over decisions related to its
core competencies and the foreign subsidiaries have responsibility over the decisions on how
to leverage these competencies by adapting products and other marketing activities to the
needs and preferences of their local markets (Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998). Carrefour, the
French retailer, for example, uses a standardized hypermarket format, it adapt from country to
country (cf. box 6).
Box 6: Carrefour’s Internationalization
Carrefour has become the first retailer in Europe, second largest worldwide, leader in nine countries and
has more than 9200 stores in 30 countries. More than 50 percent of its revenues came from its
international stores. Carrefour international strategy is based on the hypermarket format with local
adaptability. For example, while the store format is the same anywhere around the world, the company
sells hot meals to French customers in France, Pasta in Argentina and Italy, and it has sushi bars in most
Asian countries. The success of Carrefour export of its hypermarket concept is due, at least in part, to its
careful choice of countries and the ability to adapt its format to local business environments. The
internationalization concept of Carrefour is based on: (1) A simple and clear idea – people in major cities
prefer to do all their shopping under one roof. Carrefour’s logic is based on the belief that choice, self-
service, free parking and low prices have universal appeal. Although these principles might seem simple,
the introduction of free parking in South Korea and Singapore was considered revolutionary given the
high cost of land in these countries; (2) Evolving ideas – each hypermarket around the world should keep
reinventing itself to meet the demands of local customers. For instance, the company has recently
introduced organic food in France, optical shops and tire installation in Taiwan and gas stations in
Argentina. Different formats are present in different countries; while the hypermarket model is the only
format in emerging economies in South America and Asia; different formats exist in European countries.
In addition, in contrast to its standard entry mode by ownership, Carrefour entered several countries – the
United Arab Emirates, Madagascar, Qatar, Romania, Santo Domingo, Tunisia through a franchise
partnership. (Source: www.carrefour.com)
As we already mentioned, a multinational strategy is adopted when managers recognize and
emphasize the differences among national markets and operating environments. Firms
following such a strategy focus primarily on national differences and adopt a more flexible
approach to decision-making and marketing strategies country by country in response to
national differences in customer preferences, industry characteristics, and government
regulations. To better sense and exploit local opportunities, decision-making is decentralized.
Furthermore, decisions related to the foreign operations tend to be made in an opportunistic or
ad hoc manner (cf. box 7).
Box 7: Heineken’s First Foreign Markets
The internationalization history of Heineken, the Dutch brewer, provides a classic example of choices
made on the basis of stand-alone attractiveness. Heineken’s first foreign markets were Egypt, Ceylon,
Singapore, Indonesia, the West Indies, and the Congo. What did these six countries have in common?
Heineken chose the first five countries because they were either former Dutch colonies or on shipping
routes to them. These factors made those markets very attractive to Heineken, even though each country
had little effect on Heineken’s global position. The last country on the list, the Congo, came about
because a Belgian brewer, which also had business in the Congo, had been sold to a Belgian bank, which
then asked Heineken to take care of the company. Source: Presentation at the Annual of the Strategic
Management Society in Amsterdam on October 19, 1988 by G, van Schaik, vice chairman and executive
board director, Heineken N.V. quoted by Yip (2003, p. 65).
A global strategy requires considerably more central coordination and control than the
international or the multinational strategies. In MNCs following such a global strategy,
research and development, manufacturing, and marketing activities are typically managed
from the headquarters, and most strategic decisions are also taken at the center. The role of
the subsidiaries is mainly to implement headquarters’ decisions.
In such firms, decision about the internationalization process is highly integrated, market are
selected and entered according to a well-crafted global plan (cf. box 8).
Box 8: Japanese Firms’ Expansion Path
Japanese firms often use a global strategic approach to market selection. Kotler, Fahey and Jatusripitak
(1985) identified three typical path of expansion used by Japanese firms, each with a clear global plan.
The most common was to move from Japan to developing countries to developed countries. This
occurred in steel, automobiles, petrochemicals, consumer electronics, home appliances, watches, and
cameras. In this path the Japanese companies built up experience and capacity in the smaller and easier
developing countries. Typically, the United States was then the first developed country to be penetrated,
because of its large size; its relative closeness to Japan; and the lower level of tariff, cultural, and
language barriers than in Europe. The second expansion path, going straight to developed countries,
particularly the U. S., occurred in high-technology industries such as computers and semiconductors. In
this expansion mode the Japanese also sometimes used countries similar to the United States as trial
markets. Fujitsu used Australia this way in computers. A third expansion path was to start directly with
developed countries. This happened with products for which the Japanese home market was still not
developed or too small (for example, videotape recorders, color televisions, and sewing machines).
In firms following a transnational strategy, decisions that need corporate management
supervision or protection from corporate espionage are usually concentrated at the home
country corporate headquarters. These include decisions such as on basic research
underpinning the firm’s core competencies, treasury function and international management
development responsibility. Some other strategic decisions are concentrated in different
subsidiaries in a configuration described by Ghoshal and Bartlett (1998) as excentralization
rather than decentralization. Excentralisation requires the distribution and specialization of
decision-making in such a way that the MNC is able to exploit the comparative advantages of
the different countries where it has operations and at the same time attain scale efficiency in
these operations (Dunning, 1992; Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998). An MNC, advertising and
Marketing decisions may be centralized in London, when decisions about production
coordination are concentrated in South West Asian, and when decisions concerning new
product development are made in Silicon Valley. Other decisions, such as advertising
campaigns and media planning, are distributed in individual subsidiaries because the benefits
of flexible local responsiveness exceed those of economies of scale. The loss of coordination
arising from this distribution of decisions is compensated by its potentials for responsiveness
to specific national needs and political interests, flexibility, labor disputes, natural calamities
and other localized disruptions, and reduction of coordination costs. The result is a complex
configuration of assets, resources, and capabilities that centralizes some decisions at home,
excentralizes some abroad, and distributes yet others among the MNC’s many national
Nestlé’s Brand Strategy
It is evident that the decision to brand globally or locally is not simple. Many MNCs therefore adopt a
hierarchy of global, regional and local brands (Kotabe and Helsen, 2004) to combine the benefits of
global and local branding. The Swiss company Nestlé has, for example: 10 global corporate brands
including Nestlé, Carnation, Perrier; 45 global strategic brands including Kit Kat, Polo, Smarties, After
Eight; 140 regional strategic brands including Macintosh, Vittel, Contadina; and 7500 local brands
including Texicana, Rocky, etc.
In this section, we have shown the influence of culture on MNCs decision-making and
presented the four generic decision-making processes used by MNCs having adopted an
international, multinational, global or transnational strategy. We have also provided examples
of marketing decision-making from MNCs following these different strategies. In the next
sections, we present how these four generic decision-making strategies are implemented in
two important marketing decisions: innovation and new product development and service
INNOVATION AND NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
The development and launch of new products or services is one of the most important
marketing decisions. In competitive worldwide markets, to sustain growth and maintain
profitability over the longer term, MNCs must develop a steady stream of new products or
services (Kotler, 2000). Innovation and new product development are particularly important
because of the rapid changes in customer tastes, technology and competition.
Traditionally, MNCs’ innovative capabilities were dominated by one of two classic processes:
center-for-global and local-for-local (Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998). In a center-for-global
innovation model, the new opportunity or risk that triggered an innovation was usually sensed
in the home country, the centralized resources and capabilities of the parent company were
brought to create the new product or process, and implementation involved driving the
innovation through subsidiaries whose role was to introduce it to their local market. In
contrast, local-for-local innovation relies on subsidiary-based knowledge development.
Responding to perceived local opportunities, these local entities use their own resources and
capabilities to create innovative responses that are then implemented in the local market.
While most MNCs have tried to develop elements of both models of innovation, the tension
that exists between the knowledge management processes supporting each usually means that
one dominates (cf. box 9). Not surprisingly, the center-for-global innovation tends to
dominate in firms following a global strategy, and the local-for-local innovation in firms
following a multinational strategic model.
Box 9: Comparing U.S. and Japanese R&D Strategies
On national comparisons, Johnson (1984) compared the R&D strategies of Japanese and U.S. companies
to determine whether differences in these had contributed to different competitive positions. He noted
that Japanese businesses: (1) invested more heavily in applied research and product development (and
less in basic research projects); (2) invested more on building on preexisting products and technologies
developed by other companies in the same or related industries, rather than in the development of new,
unproven products or technologies; and (3) tended to follow the products or technologies of other
businesses, rather than trying to be first.
This pattern of difference is by now well established, of course, and Johnson (1984) showed that over the
period 1965-1981, Japanese companies pursuing such strategies had a substantially higher private rate of
return than their U.S. counterparts. In seeking explanations for this, he emphasized the importance of
differential government subsidiaries and tax incentives for R&D in the two countries. He also indicated
that the U.S. government’s strict enforcement of the patent system has deterred many U.S. companies
from taking advantage of opportunities to build on the products and technologies of their foreign
In recent years, these traditional innovation processes have been evolving into new ways of
developing and diffusing knowledge and innovative ideas. These new transnational
innovation processes fall into two broad categories that Bartlett and Ghoshal (Bartlett,
Ghoshal and Birkinshaw, 2004; Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998) describe as locally leveraged and
globally linked. The former involves ensuring that the special resources and capabilities of
each national subsidiary are available not only to that local entity, but also to other MNC
subsidiaries worldwide. The latter process of innovation pools the resources and capabilities
of many different units-at both the parent company and subsidiary level-to jointly create and
manage an activity. Both processes are associated with a transnational strategy.
International New Product Development
Firms following an international strategy do not have an international new product
development strategy per se, but following Vernon (1966)’s international product cycle
theory (cf. box 2), they first develop new products for their domestic market, and only
subsequently sold these products abroad, usually with minimal adaptations. The process is
primarily based on transferring and adapting the parent company’s products characteristics to
the foreign markets preferences. (cf. box 10)
Box 10: Xerox and Fuji Xerox
Fuji Xerox, the 50/50 joint venture established by Fuji Photo Film and Rank in 1962, was originally
intended to be a marketing organization to sell xerographic products manufactured by Fuji Photo Film.
When the Japanese government refused to approve a joint venture intended solely as a sales companies,
however, the agreement was revised to give Fuji Xerox manufacturing rights. Fuji Xerox, not Fuji Photo
Film, then became the contracting party with Rank Xerox, and received exclusive right to xerographi c
patents in Japan. As part of its technology licensing agreements with Rank Xerox, Fuji Xerox had
exclusive rights to sell the machines in Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand,
and Indochina. In return, Fuji Xerox would pay Rank Xerox a royalty of 5% on revenues from the sale of
xerographic products. Rank Xerox would also be entitled to 50% of Fuji Xerox’s profits. A board of
directors consisting of representatives from Rank Xerox and Fuji Photo Film was established to decide
policy matters, while day-to-day operations were left to the Japanese management. Although Fuji Xerox
adopted a number of business practices from Xerox, including organizational structure and the rental
system, it remained distinctly Japanese throughout its history. At the establishment of the joint venture, a
specific schedule was agreed upon, calling first for the sale of imported machines, then the assembly of
imported knocked-down kits, and finally the domestic production of copiers. In 1971, Fuji Photo Film
transferred its copier plants to Fuji Xerox. The same year, Fuji Xerox competed the construction of a
160’000 square-foot manufacturing and engineering facility. The transfer of production facilities to Fuji
Xerox and the direct relationship established between Fuji Xerox and Xerox contributed to a continued
strengthening of Fuji Xerox technical capabilities. Fuji Photo Film engineers had already been making
modifications to Xerox designs in order to adapt the copiers to the local market; Japanese offices, for
example, used different sized paper than American Offices. Fuji Xerox’s CEO, however, advocated the
development of long-term R&D capabilities that would enable the company to develop its own products.
In particular, he envisioned a high-performance, inexpensive, compact machine that could copy books.
At the time, Xerox’s priorities were different. In addition to developing small machines for its local
market, Fuji Xerox tried to stem the competitive onslaught with more aggressive strategies. The company
began to offer two- and three-year rental contract as well as its standard one-year contract, and provided
price incentives that were tied to contract length. During the 1970s, competition in the U.S. and European
copier markets changed radically. Prior to that period, Xerox had had a virtual monopoly because of its
xerography patents. But beginning in 1970, one competitor after another entered the industry, often with
new and improved technologies. About 1978, Fuji Xerox offered to sell its small copiers to Xerox and
Rank Xerox to help them counter Japanese competition in the U.S. and Europe. In 1979, largely because
of Rank Xerox’s success with Fuji Xerox products, Xerox began to import Fuji Xerox products too.
Typically, in the year that the products were introduced in the U.S. Market, the machines were assembled
by Fuji Xerox before export. Then, acceding to union demand in the U.S., Fuji Xerox exported them as
knock-down units to be assembled at Xerox. Fuji Xerox developed its technological capabilities further
in the 1980s, investing heavily in R&D. While it continued to rely on Xerox for basic research on new
technologies, by the late 1980s very few of the models sold by Fuji Xerox in Japan had been designed by
Xerox (Source: adapted from McQuade and Gomes-Casseres, 1992)
Global New Product Development
The key strength on which many Japanese firms built their global leadership positions during
the 1970s and 80s in a diverse range of businesses, from zippers to automobiles, lies in the
effectiveness of their center-for-global innovations (Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1998). This is not to
say that they do not use some of the other operative modes, but in general, the Japanese are
today’s champion managers of centralized activities and tasks (Yip, 2003). In a center-for-
global innovation model, the new opportunity or risk that triggered an innovation is usually
sensed in the firm’s home country, the centralized R&D department of the firms are brought
to create the new product, and implementation involved driving the innovation through
subsidiaries whose role is to introduce it to their local market.
Three factors stand out as the most important explanations of Japanese MNCs outstanding
success in managing the center-for-global process: (1) gaining the input of subsidiaries into
centralized activities, (2) ensuring that all functional tasks are linked to market needs, and (3)
integrating value chain functions such as development, production, and marketing by
managing the transfer of responsibilities among them. For example, at Matsushita, the
integrative systems rely heavily on the transfer of people. First, the career paths of research
engineers are structured so as to ensure that a majority of them spend about five to eight years
in the central research laboratories engaged in pure research, then another five years in the
product divisions in applied research and development, and finally in a direct operational
function, such as production or marketing, wherein they take line-management positions for
the rest of their working lives. More important, each engineer usually makes the transition
from one department to the next along with the transfer of the major project on which he has
been working (Bartlett, 2002).
Multinational New Product Development
European MNCs rather prefer to develop local-for-local innovation processes, which rely on
subsidiary-based knowledge development. For reasons related to their unique administrative
and cultural heritage, European companies have a track record of local adaptation and
functional excellence unmatched by other companies of comparable size, diversity, and
maturity, to the extent that many European MNCs are often thought to be a domestic
company in the countries in which they operate. Responding to perceived local opportunities,
these local entities use their own resources and capabilities to create innovative responses that
are then implemented in the local market. Of the many factors that facilitate local-for-local
innovations, there are three that are the most significant: (1) the ability to empower local
management in the different national organizations; (2) to establish effective mechanisms for
linking the local managers to corporate decision-making processes; and (3) to force tight
cross-functional integration within each subsidiary (cf. box 11).
Box 11: Philips’s Multinational Innovation
Since it was founded in 1891, Philips has recognized the need to expand its operations beyond its small
domestic market, but the successive barriers-poor transport and communication linkages in the early
decades of the century, protectionist pressures in the 1930s, and the disruption of World War II—
encouraged the company to build national organizations with a substantial degree of autonomy and self-
sufficiency. Such dispersed managerial and technological resources, coupled with local autonomy and
decentralized control over the resources, enable subsidiary managers to be more effective in managing
local development, manufacturing, and other functional tasks, such as marketing (Source: adapted from
Transnational New Product Development
The complexity of the innovation and new product development processes in a MNC is
significantly enhanced by the fact that the location of an opportunity is often different from
the location where the complementary capability of the company is located. For example,
while a company’s hardware technology and main research laboratories may be in Japan, and
its most-skilled software engineers may be in the United States, its fastest growth market
opportunities may be in Europe (Johnson, 1995; Roth and Morrison, 1990). To tackle this
challenge, firms following a transnational strategy have developed a two-pronged approach
described by Bartlett and Ghoshal (Bartlett, Ghoshal and Birkinshaw, 2004; Ghoshal and
Bartlett, 1998), as locally leveraged and globally linked. The locally leveraged and globally
linked processes use linkages among different units of the firm to leverage existing resources
and capabilities, regardless of their locations, to exploit opportunities that arise in any part of
the firm’s worldwide operations. This involves building an integrated network configuration
featuring a combination of centralized, specialized and distributed assets and capabilities, to
ensure that knowledge developed in headquarters or subsidiary units become available
throughout the firm and that the special capabilities available in different units are pooled to
tackle tasks in any part of the firm’s worldwide operations. The two aspects of this approach
ensure high levels of knowledge creation, diffusion, and worldwide learning within the MNC.
The first aspect of the approach is centralized knowledge development and diffusion. In this
case, knowledge is developed in the centralized operations but also incorporating inputs from
different subsidiaries to ensure that the centralized knowledge development process is market
driven. The developed knowledge is diffused through transfer of personnel involved in the
process to other units thereby broadening the scope for knowledge sharing. The second aspect
of the approach is localized knowledge development in which empowered subsidiaries
develop special knowledge based on creative responses to local environmental demands made
possible by tight cross-functional integration.
While the two more sophisticated processes that result in transnational innovations are
becoming more widespread, they have supplemented rather than replaced the traditional
central and local innovation processes. In a competitive environment, most companies
recognize the need to engage their resources and capabilities in as many ways as they can. In
other words, they must maximize the number of processes through which they can develop
new knowledge, build new capabilities, and deploy new ideas rapidly around the globe. The
challenge is to build an organization that can simultaneously facilitate all four processes of
innovation and learning.
SERVICE QUALITY STRATEGIES
Beside innovation and new product development, another important strategic decision for
MNCs is the one related to the quality of its products and services. Because, this decision is
more complicated and more important in the case of services compared to the case of product
(Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman, 1985, 1988), we will focus our attention, in the chapter,
on service quality strategies. In services marketing, the concept of service quality plays a
central role in understanding customer satisfaction and retention (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and
Typical services differ from physical products in four key ways: (1) they are intangible as
they cannot be stored or readily displayed or communicated; (2) production and consumption
of services are inseparable; (3) services cannot be inventoried, and production lines do not
exist to deliver standardized products of consistent quality, therefore, delivered services are
heterogeneous in nature; finally (4), because services cannot be stored, they assume a
perishable nature (e.g., Zeithaml, Parasuraman and Berry, 1985; Zeithaml and Bitner, 2003)3.
These characteristics have a strong impact on the internationalization strategies of service
firms as well as on the standardization or segmentation of service quality (Furrer, Liu, and
Sudharshan, 2000; Lovelock and Yip, 1996; Vandermerwe and Chadwick, 1989). There are
fewer opportunities to realize economies of scale with services than with physical products
and guaranteeing service quality worldwide is more difficult (Gillespie, Jeannet and
However, not every service is equally affected by these characteristics. Lovelock and Yip
(1996) distinguish between three categories of services: (1) people-processing services, that
involve tangible actions to customers in person; (2) possession-processing services, that
involve tangible actions to physical objects; and (3) information-based services, that depend
on collecting, manipulating, interpreting, and transmitting data to create value. People-
processing services necessarily involve a high degree of contact with service personnel and
3 Another important characteristic is the absence of ownership (Judd, 1964; Lovelock and Gummesson, 2004;
Rathmell, 1966, 1974). This characteristic is, however, less relevant in the internationalization context we are
discussing in this chapter.
facilities (Lovelock and Yip 1996); therefore, there is a need for segmentation to adapt these
services to local cultures (Furrer, Liu and Sudharshan, 2000). On the contrary, possession-
processing and information-based services have the potential to be much lower contact in
nature (Lovelock and Yip 1996), so they can be standardized at the global level. That is, it is
when services involve a high degree of interaction between customers and service personnel,
that cultural elements have the greatest influence (Furrer, Liu and Sudharshan, 2000). Culture
affects a number of aspects of the service experience, including customer expectations, the
waiting experience, and the recruitment and behavior of service personnel (Gillespie, Jeannet
and Hennessey, 2004) (cf. box 12). One element of service marketing that is particularly
influenced by culture is service quality (Donthu and Yoo, 1998; Furrer, Liu and Sudharshan,
2000; Mattila, 1999; Winsted, 1997)
Box 12: Influence of Culture on the Service Experience
Customer Expectations: Customers may exhibit different expectations concerning service levels.
Department stores in Japan still employ women in kimonos to bow and greet customers as they arrive at
the store. Service personnel are available and solicitous. In the U.S., consumers tend to be willing to forgo
high levels of service in favor of low prices. They are more accustomed to self-service and may even feel
nervous in the presence of hovering salespeople (Gillespie, Jeannet and Hennessey, 2004).
The Waiting Experience: Time is always an aspect of services, and attitudes toward the time it takes to be
served vary across cultures (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1998). For example, waiters in European
restaurants take care not to hurry patrons. Eating a meal is supposed to be an enjoyable experience most
often shared with friends. Servers also wait to be asked to deliver the bill for the meal. Diners may wish
to sit for hours. Americans would wonder what had happened to their waiter. Americans expect fast
service at restaurants and like the bill to be dropped promptly on the table. What would be a good service
experience for a European diner would be a bad one for an American (Gillespie, Jeannet and Hennessey,
Service Personnel: In many cultures, such as the Middle East, working in a service occupation is often
considered akin to being a servant. This social stigma can make it hard to recruit qualified personnel for
some positions, especially those that require higher levels of education as well as technical and
interpersonal skills. Until relatively recently, stewardesses for many airlines from the Middle East had to
be imported from Europe, and nursing has never achieved the status in the Middle East as in the West.
Men as well as women feel the stigma. It is not uncommon for well-paid technical repairmen, such as
those in work in air conditioning, to dress in a suit and tie and carry their tools in a briefcase (Gillespie,
Jeannet and Hennessey, 2004).
Service quality is one of the most important issues for service firms (Fisk, Brown and Bitner,
1993). Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1985, 1988; Zeithaml, Berry, and Parasuraman
1988) identified five dimensions of service quality (SERVQUAL): Reliability,
Responsiveness, Assurance, Tangibles, and Empathy that have been widely used by service
firms. Of these five dimensions, reliability is the ability to perform the promised service
dependably and accurately. Responsiveness is the willingness to help customers and provide
prompt service. Assurance is the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to
convey trust and confidence. Empathy is the caring individualized attention provided to the
customer, and tangibles are the appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and
However, the development of these service quality dimensions was based on research
conducted across multiple contexts only within the U.S. (Zeithaml and Bitner, 2003) As a
general rule, reliability comes through as the most important dimension of service quality in
the U.S., with responsiveness also being relatively important when compared to the remaining
three dimensions. But what happens when we look across culture? Are the service quality
dimensions still important? Which ones are most important? (Furrer, Liu and Sudharshan,
2000). Recent studies by Winsted (1997), Donthu and Yoo (1998), Mattila (1999) and Furrer,
Liu and Sudharshan (2000) have established a strong link between cultural dimensions and
For example, Furrer, Liu and Sudharshan (2000) used Hofstede’s (1980b, 1991, 2001)
cultural dimensions to assess whether service quality importance would vary across different
cultural orientations. They found, in cultures with a large power distance, significant negative
relationships between power distance and empathy, responsiveness, and reliability. In such
cultures with a large power distance, customers are more likely to tolerate failure when
service providers are perceived as experts. In cultures with a high degree of individualism,
customers are more independent and self-centered. Individualists, due to their drive and self-
responsibility ethic, demand that others be efficient and therefore demand a high level of
service quality. During their relationships with a service provider, individualists also prefer to
maintain a distance between themselves and the service provider. Due to their self-confidence
and self-responsibility, Individualists do not expect to be assured by service providers. In
cultures with a high degree of masculinity, customers expect a female service provider to be
more feminine than professional. This is supported by the significant negative relationships
between masculinity and responsiveness. In cultures with a high degree of masculinity, it is
important for female service employees to have feminine appearance, which is supported by a
significant positive relationship between masculinity and tangibles. In frequent service
situations, uncertainty from the possibility of failure has to be reduced by the guarantee of a
quick solution to problems. This hypothesis is supported by the significant positive
relationships between uncertainty avoidance and responsiveness, assurance, empathy, and
reliability. On the other hand, in frequent service situations, tangibles are less important
because they do not help reducing perceived risk of service failure. In cultures with a long-
term orientation, long-term relationships with service providers are expected. In these
cultures, reliability, responsiveness, and empathy are extremely important. Also significant
are the negative relationships between long-term orientation and assurance and between long-
term orientation and tangibles are also significant (cf. box 13). Furthermore, a study by Liu,
Furrer and Sudharshan (2001) also showed that service customers from different cultures
react differently when faced with poor quality services, if customers from cultures with lower
individualism or higher uncertainty avoidance tend to complain less, customers from cultures
with higher individualism or lower uncertainty avoidance tend to switch provider, engage in
negative word of mouth, and complain.
Box 13: Cross-Cultural Preferences in Luxury Hotels
In the context of luxury hotels, customer with a Western cultural background (individualism, small power
distance) rely more on the tangible cues from the physical environment and their Asian counterparts
(collectivism, large power distance) are more likely to rely on deportment of service personnel staff. The
hedonic dimension of consumption experience is also more important for Western consumers than for
Asian ones (Source: Adapted from Mattila, 1999).
This relationship between culture and customers’ perceptions of quality being stronger for
service experiences than for the purchase of a tangible product, MNCs in service industries
had to adapt their worldwide marketing strategies. Most service firms having started their
internationalization later than most product firms, they learned from the experience of these
firms (Vandermerwe and Chadwick, 1986). Recognizing that an international or a global
strategy would be difficult due to the intangible nature of most services and the various
cultures of their world customers and recognizing that a multinational strategy would be to
costly to implement and to manage due to the large number of differences within and across
cultures, they often adopted a transnational strategy as soon as they started their
internationalization process. Service firms following such a transnational strategy have two
leviers to achieve both global efficiency and local responsiveness by coordinating service
quality across countries and cultures: (1) cross-cultural segmentation and (2) the
standardization of the core service and the adaptation of supplementary services.
The traditional approach to worldwide marketing segmentation was to segment a market on a
country basis to take account of national differences in demand conditions. Kale and
Sudharshan (1987), however, suggested a different approach for segmenting worldwide
markets, which is more compatible with the requirement for transnational marketing strategy.
The approach makes customers and their needs the basis for segmentation. It has the
advantage of being consumer orientated, while allowing worldwide coordination of
marketing, since it focuses on similarities rather than differences across groups of consumers
in different countries or cultures. The basis of this approach is the identification of
transnational segments of consumers, with similar needs, who will respond similarly to a
given marketing mix. Furrer, Liu and Sudharshan (2000) identified five different customer
segments based on differences in the importance of service quality and cultural dimensions
(cf. box 13).
Box 13: Five Transnational Service Customer Segments
Followers: Large power distance, high collectivism, high masculinity, neutral uncertainty avoidance, arid
Balance seekers: Small power distance, high collectivism, neutral masculinity, high uncertainty
avoidance, and medium-term orientation.
Self-confidents: Small power distance, high individualism, medium femininity, low uncertainty
avoidance, and long-term orientation.
Sensory seekers: Large power distance, medium individualism, high masculinity, low uncertainty
avoidance, and short-term orientation.
Functional analyzers: Small power distance, medium individualism, high femininity, high uncertainty
avoidance, and long-term orientation.
Figure 2 graphically presents the relative importance given by each of these five segments to
the different dimensions of service quality. From figure 2 it is clear that the service quality
dimensions are important across cultures, but their relative importance varies depending on
cultural value orientation. For example, small power distance cultures with high to medium
individualism and long-term orientation (self-confidents and functional analyzers) rate
reliability and responsiveness as most important. On the other hand, cultures with large power
distance and high masculinity (followers and sensory seekers) rate these same dimensions as
less important. The tangibles dimension shows the widest variation, with sensory seekers
rating it most important and functional analyzers rating it least important.
Figure 2: Transnational Service Customer Segments
RELIABILITY RESPONSIVENESS ASSURANCE EMPATHY TANGIBLES
* The CSQI scores have been
multiplied by 10.
Furrer, Liu and Sudharshan (2000) also suggest a number of implications for companies
serving multiple cultures. For example, if the target market has a follower cultural profile,
service providers may want to emphasize training their employees to have professional
knowledge and be trustworthy to gain the trust of these customers, combined with tangibles
and empathy to convey service quality. On the other hand, to serve self-confidents, providers
should emphasize equipping and empowering the employees so they are capable of providing
reliable, responsive service.
A second element of a transnational strategy for service firms, proposed by Lovelock and Yip
(1996), is the standardization of the core service and the cultural adaptation of the
supplementary services. Most services comprise a core service (e.g., a bed for the night,
restoring a defective computer to good working order, or a bank account) and a variety of
supplementary or supporting services (Furrer, 1997, 1998, 1999; Lovelock, 1994; Lovelock
and Yip, 1996). In the core service may benefit to be standardized, increasingly, the
supplementary elements not only add value, but also provide the needed local adaptation.
There are potentially dozens of different supplementary services, although they can be
grouped into eight categories: information, consultation, order-taking, hospitality, care-taking,
exceptions, billing, and payment (Lovelock, 1994) (cf. box 14). Many of these services are
based on informational processes that can be located in one part of the world and delivered
electronically to another. Those may benefit to be standardized, other are involve a personal
interaction between the customer and the service provider and should be customized. In
developing a transnational strategy, service firms must decide which supplementary elements
should be consistent and have the same level of quality across all markets and which might be
tailored to meet local needs and expectations. This is the essence of the transnational strategy,
but services offer much more flexibility in this respect than do tangible goods (Lovelock and
Box 14: Eight Categories of Supplementary Services
Information: To obtain full value from any service, customers need relevant information about it, ranging
from schedules to operating instructions, and from user warnings to price. Internationalization affects the
nature of that information (including the languages and format in which it is provided).
Consultation: Consultation and advice involve a dialogue to probe customer requirements and then
develop a tailored solution. Customers’ need for advice may vary widely based of their culture.
Order-Taking: Once the customers are ready to buy, suppliers need to make it easy for them to place
orders or reservations in the language of their choice, through telecommunications and other channels.
Hospitality: Well-managed businesses try to treat customers as guests when they have to visit the
supplier’s facility. Cultural definitions of appropriate hospitality may differ widely from one culture to
another, such as the tolerable length of waiting time.
Care-Giving: When visiting a service site, customers often want assistance with their personal
possessions, ranging from car parking to packaging and delivery of new purchase. Expectation may vary
Exceptions: Exceptions fall outside the routine of normal service delivery. They include special requests,
problem solving, handling of complaints/suggestions/compliments, and restitution.
Billing: Customers need clear, timely bills that explain how charges are computed. Bills could be
converted in the customer’s home currency.
Payment: Ease and convenience of payment (including credit) are increasingly expected by customers
when purchasing a broad array of services. Major credit cards solve the problem of paying in foreign
funds for many retail purchasers.
(Source: Adapted from Lovelock, 1994 and Lovelock and Yip, 1996
In this chapter, we have presented worldwide marketing strategies as framed by the response
to or management of two imperatives: meeting local demands and capitalizing on worldwide
competitive advantages. Within this framework, we have identified four generic worldwide
strategies: the international, multinational, global, and transnational strategy. We have also
shown that these four strategies could be distinguished by their different positioning on three
key-dimensions that are: standardization-adaptation, configuration-coordination, and strategic
integration. We have also shown that, constrained by their administrative and cultural
heritage, MNCs from different regions of the world tend to follow a particular generic
strategy: Typical American MNCs tend to follow an international strategy, typical European
MNCs tend to follow a multinational strategy, and typical Japanese MNCs tend to adopt a
global strategy. More recently, MNCs from all regions have started to converge toward a
transnational strategy. After the presentation of these four generic strategies, we have
explored the consequences of their adoption for three critical marketing operational strategies:
(1) marketing decision-making processes; (2) innovation and new product development; and
(3) service quality strategies.
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