Chocolate Around the World

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Chocolate, a commodity with a long history of cultivation around the world, has become one of the most popular indulgences of our time. The cacao bean has had a long history that extends back to the ancient civilizations, before the Spanish arrived in conquest of these areas. Ancient Aztecs believed that chocolate was the “food of the gods”, and was only consumed by kings.

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Similar to wine, cacao beans develop certain flavors depending on the climate and soil that they are in. Over the years, many cultures have celebrated the various tastes of chocolate and have added their own spin to creating unique versions of this treat. For example, in Southeast Asia, chocolate sometimes exhibits a smoky, earthy flavor, due to being dried by fire during the rainy seasons. Many people around the world distinguish the chocolate from this area as tart and fruity. In Peru, its chocolate beans can be traced back through history. Many people covet the flavor of these beans, as the chocolate itself boasts aromas of earthy vegetation. On the other hand, Colombian chocolate exhibits a roasted flavor, similar to that of a toasted marshmallow. Due to influence of the Aztecs, chocolate in Belize has a lighter color and mild, fruity essence with nutty undertones, and in Mexico, chocolate tends to have an assortment of spices in it. In Africa, chocolate from Cameroon is known for its mild, fruity flavor, and in Ghana, chocolate exhibits a bold, bitter and rich taste. Lastly, in Europe, chocolate in Italy tends to include many caramelized nuts, Belgium is known for its rich, milk chocolate and French chocolate is characterized by its creamy center and dark flavor. It wasn’t until chocolate reached Europe that it was mixed with sugar and a new craze for the sweet candy began.

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In addition, chocolate holds different meanings in several cultures, and is used for different occasions around the world. Before the Spanish conquest, it was initially used as a common currency around Central and South America. Today, it has become an icon for celebrating holidays in the United States, such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Easter. In Mexico, chocolate is used as an offering on the Day of the Dead, in the form of beans or prepared as mole. In the Dominican Republic and Panama, chocolate is used for medicinal purposes. In these cultures, it is believed that chocolate drinks can cure bronchitis, fight fatigue, lessen pain and lower the risk of heart disease or cancer. In the past, it was also believed that cacao beans could heal malaria and similar diseases. Additionally, chocolate has been used for spa and relaxation treatments.

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No matter the use or taste of chocolate, it is always the best treat to get you (or a loved one) through the day!

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Mattel’s Barbie Dolls of the World Controversy

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Mattel first launched its Dolls of the World collection in 1980, which was created to celebrate different cultures and tradition, as well as educate young girls about the world through play. In 2012, Mattel re-launched the line in an attempt to appeal to a new generation of Barbie fans, however, the company was put under fire for “promoting outdated and offensive cultural stereotypes” in their 2012 launch of the new dolls. Various media sources and upset customers commented on the new dolls, stating that their outfits were inaccurate and the passports and accessories that came with the dolls represented clichéd stereotypes. For example, the 2012 Mexico Barbie comes in a bright pink “traditional” dress and a pet chihuahua; this posed many criticisms due to the fact that the dress was an inaccurate example of traditional Mexican clothing, and the chihuahua seemed to be a stereotype of the culture. Offended customers stated that the Barbie could have come in contemporary representations of the country’s fashions or at least in real traditional clothing, such as “a white blouse with colorful embroidery and a woven shawl” and accessorized with an appropriate prop such as “a hairless dog or a Mexican bass guitar”.

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Similar controversy came about for the 2012 India Barbie, which is dressed in a gold sari and comes with a pet monkey, the 2012 China Barbie, which is dressed in a kimono and comes with a pet panda and the 2012 Australia Barbie, which comes with a koala, amongst many others in the same re-launched collection.

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In a statement made to the Huffington Post, Mattel’s responded to the controversy by stating, “Each doll wears an ensemble inspired by the traditional costume and fashion of the country. We consulted with the Mexican Embassy on the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, especially with respect to the selection of the Chihuahua.” However, in an online announcement, Mattel’s Dolls of the World principal designer, Linda Kyaw, admitted that she had never been to Mexico when she designed the doll. Angry bloggers made statements suggesting that the costumes and accessories worn by the dolls were offensive, and one blogger stated that Mattel’s entire set “missed an opportunity to teach about real cultural diversity”.

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This year, Mattel re-launched the Mexico Barbie in different traditional attire, which some critics call “Mariachi Barbie”. Sara Rosales, a spokeswoman for Mattel, explained to Fox News Latino that, “Girls enjoy exploring the world and learning about different cultures. The Barbie brand understands the significance of introducing new cultures to girls in a relatable way”. Regardless of Mattel’s statements, critics still believe that even the new 2014 Mexico Barbie, which comes dressed wearing a fitted black bolero jacket and cropped trousers with intricate gold trim and a wide-brimmed sombrero, still fails to capture the essence of a truly Mexican woman. A web site called The Corvallis Advocate said, “Apparently no one from Mattel has set foot outside of the U.S. – possibly not outside of Disneyland’s rather aged ‘It’s a Small World’ exhibit.” Again, Rosales stated, “The Dolls of the World collection features the native fashions, while celebrating the culture and diversity represented within each country in a way that will appeal to Barbie fans of all ages.”

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Controversy over these issues leaves the question to the perspective of the reader – did Mattel really have proper intentions of representing cultures as best it could for the education of Barbie fans of all ages, or were they ignorant in digging deep in to local culture to design the Barbies, which led to offensive misrepresentation of various countries in the eyes of many?

Laduree’s Global Standardization Strategy

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Laduree, an iconic and luxurious Parisian bakery shop and tea salon, has successfully expanded their brand on a global level, all while using an international strategy of standardization in their various regions of business. Established in 1862, Laduree’s claim to fame came in 1930, from founder Louis-Ernest Laduree’s grandson, who had the original idea of placing a creamy, ganache filling in between two macaron shells. Since then, Laduree has become the world’s top, premier seller of the French macaron. In addition to their macaron, Laduree also sells world famous pastries, chocolates and items such as tote bags, candles and beauty products. Laduree currently operates multiple storefronts in 26 countries, and remains a private company headquartered in Marcq-en-Baroeul, France.

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Laduree’s international success can be attributed to their strong brand image that resonates across multiple cultures. The highly-regarded French pastry shop sees themselves as “more than a simple pastry shop and tea salon”; they have established themselves as a “landmark in the field of luxury, whose powerful image abroad embodies the French ‘Art de Vivre’“. Laduree’s storefronts are all standardized: they feature the same interior design ethos in a style similar to that of Marie Antoinette or Napoleon III – antique sculptures, pastel walls and decor, marble surfaces and frescoed ceilings, completed with the display of their fancy, jewel-inspired pastries behind glass encasements. Similarly, their pastries are packaged in their world-recognized ornate boxes, that double as a keepsake or momento for Laduree afficionados.

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Laduree’s steady commitment to its strong brand image is probably the most important factor to its success. Another factor to their success may be in the fact that they strategically locate their stores in luxury-based areas such as the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, SoHo and Madison in New York, USA, Dubai Beach in Dubai, UAE, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Monaco, Shanghai and Hong Kong in China, Milan and Rome in Italy, and the list goes on. These locations capture the majority of their target market and help contribute to the brand’s image of a superior and luxurious French patisserie shop and tea salon.

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In addition to their strategic locations, Laduree has also created successful partnerships that have built even more strength and solidarity to their image, as well as promoted their brand globally to create an iconic but classic fad that has lasted for many years across all ages of consumers. Laduree partnered with the film Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola, to create all the lavish pastries adored by Marie Antoinette and her royal family and acquaintances featured in the film. In addition, Laduree has been featured in TV shows such as Gossip Girl; both the film and TV show have contributed to Laduree’s success in the United States. They also partner regularly with fashion designers such as Christian Louboutin and Marni. In 2011, Laduree was chosen as the official baker for the wedding of the Prince of Monaco and his wife. Recently, Laduree partnered with famous French jewelry designer Marie-Helene de Taillac to create boxed sets of a fashion macaron, and has also released a collection of makeup inspired by the colors of their macarons.

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In this situation, standardization has been a factor for success with this global pastry powerhouse, whereas in other cases, such as their competitors in the global food industry, localization has been key to maintaining brand image. Each company must play on their strengths in order to be successful in international markets; in this case, Laduree has such a strong and steadfast commitment to their brand image, that they successfully standardize their brand from their pastries, products, packaging, locations, storefronts and media so meticulously, across all platforms of their business practices.

Starbucks’ Cultural Immersion

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Starbucks, global coffeehouse giant, has over 21,000 stores in more than 65 countries, and operates quite successfully despite the variety of different cultures that it serves. This success is due to strong international partnerships, as well as a keen sense of respect combined with an earnest interest in understanding the local cultures of which it serves. Howard Schulz, CEO and Chairman of Starbucks Corporation, stated, “We remain highly respectful of the culture and traditions of the countries in which we do business. We recognize that our success is not an entitlement, and we must continue to earn the trust and respect of customers every day.” An interesting aspect of Starbucks’ global success is the fact that they master the art of localization, all the way down to the flavors and look of the entire storefront.

Starbucks calls the re-vamping of their stores a “localization make-over”, in order to appeal more to their local audience. This global store make-over was carried out in response to a critic’s comment stating that customers were beginning to view the coffeehouse chain as an equivalent to a fast food chain, because every store around the world looked similar. According to an article on Daily Finance, Starbucks has since opened 18 different design stores across the globe.

For example, Mexicans see Starbucks as a sort of “bar”, where group conversations and get-togethers take place. For that reason, Starbucks changed their look to emulate a local bar on the streets of Mexico.

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In China, furniture inside the coffee shop can be rearranged to accommodate large groups of patrons. In some locations within China, Starbucks has re-done its storefront to blend in to the local and traditional architecture of the surrounding area in order to capture the attention of a wider variety of customers.

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In Japan, Starbucks’ design was inspired by the traditional Japanese service spirit “ichi-go ichi-e”, or “one time, one meeting”. The store itself boasts traditional attributes from traditional tea houses, along with parts of green gardens and contemporary artwork.

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In addition to changing its storefronts to cater to local culture, Starbucks has also created special flavors based on the customer base it is serving, just like other large food giants such as KFC and McDonald’s have done in their respective locations. For example in Japan, unique tastes that are offered include a Tiramisu Coffee and Frappuccino, and in Pacific Asia, a Coffee Jelly Frappuccino.

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In China, Starbucks offers a Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino, a Honey Yoghurt Frappuccino in Eastern Europe and a Creme Brulee Macchiato in the UK.

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In addition to these flavors, Starbucks offers even more of a variety of fun and unusual flavor pairings in different locations around the world. In order to experience just how tasty and architecturally-interesting Starbucks makes their international coffeehouse experience, you may just have to book your next flight in the near future!

 

 

Sources:

kwintessential.co.uk, thedailymeal.com, brandchannel.com and starbucks.com

The Importance of Localization (and how Coca-Cola localizes successfully)

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Going global with a business is one of the best ways to strengthen a brand by giving it more leverage internationally, along with higher profit margins. However, one of the greatest difficulties is to break the barriers of culture and language in order to have successful products and/or services overseas, whilst still remaining true to brand image and company values. In doing so, a company must have a strategy for multilingual content marketing ahead of time in order to seize valuable opportunities in emerging markets. According to Fortune 500, “companies that translated information to keep up with or to gain an edge over their competitors were 2.04 times more likely to have an increase in profits”. This requires companies to pay very close attention to cultural norms and nuances in order to convey their brand message appropriately and market their products or services effectively.

In order to be successful at localization, companies must consider alliances with local partners who can seamlessly tie the company’s brand message into the local culture. The key in this partnership is to effectively resonate the brand’s message with the local target market, while maintaining consistency in company image and values, no matter where the company is marketing. Consider, for example, Coca-Cola’s campaign during the FIFA World Cup. Each country’s webpage was localized with popular, local celebrities and culture, though every page still conveyed the same Coca-Cola brand message and image.

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Localization can not only help a company convey their brand image and message across cultures to gain a profit, but with proper planning, can help a company save both time and money when planning to market their product or service abroad. Companies must plan ahead by thinking of localization first, before creating their ad, rather than creating an ad in their native language and attempting to translate it into other languages after. Not only is this ineffective, it costs more time and money and a company is more susceptible to the pitfalls of localization. Additionally, doing this can hurt a brand’s image almost instantaneously and may also result in lost promotional opportunities in a new market. Taking the right steps to insuring that a brand is culturally relevant will give a company quicker success internationally and a better chance of gaining (and maintaining) loyal customers in a different culture’s market.

Lastly, here are a few advertisements displaying the same Coca-Cola ad in different languages and cultures. Each ad has children of a certain cultural background (based on the country of the advertisement) singing about joy and happiness, and the ad highlights different crises and troubles that are happening within the specific country, i.e. localization of ads. Enjoy!

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Based on the article:

Megarry, Darren, and Evelyn Toro. “Localization Should Be a Forethought: Five Tips for Success.” MarketingProfs. N.p., Sept.-Oct. 2014. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.