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What Insights Are Statebound Marketers Missing?

Lawrence A. Crosby

What efficiencies and customer insights are American companies missing by not looking abroad?

I’ve been fortunate to have traveled the world, visiting about 55 countries to date. A standing joke early in my career was if you leave the borders of the U.S., you qualify as an “international marketer.” As a consultant, part of my job was helping multinational companies assess their effectiveness in meeting customer needs abroad. I learned the importance of “picking your spot” after watching successful U.S. companies stumble in international markets.

One big-box home improvement retailer just couldn’t understand why Asian customers in an urban area weren’t gravitating to its stores despite having no car to get there and no ability to transport items back to their high-rises.

I recently returned from the Iberian Peninsula, and I continue to be impressed by Starbucks’ ability to “find its spots.” As you may know, the consumption of coffee is culture-laden. In Portugal, locals belly-up to the coffee bar to drink espresso in small cups and chat with their neighbors. For visitors from the U.S., a key word is “abatanado,” which will get you weaker coffee in a somewhat larger cup. Leaving the shop with 20 ounces of coffee in a paper cup just doesn’t happen. The Starbucks model doesn’t fit those Portuguese neighborhoods. There is no “Starbuckanado.”

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Lawrence A. Crosby is the retired dean of the Drucker School of Management. He is the chief data scientist at the KH Moon Center for a Functioning Society, a part of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University.