Catering to Asian tastes

McRice burgers and noodle bars

McDonald's, the global fast-food brand, is increasingly adapting its burger menu to different tastes as part of a systematic localisation strategy to enhance its popularity.

by Financial Times Business Life, 9 February 2006
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

In Taiwan, that has meant the rice burger: crispy chicken or sliced beef with a mixture of cabbage or lettuce, served between two lightly toasted rice patties. It will also be rolled out to Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia this year.

Localising menus is key to McDonald's strategy for expanding into emerging markets such as China, though there has also been change in some mature markets. Soup is being trialled in Portugal, and pasta is set to join the menu in Australia. 

McDonald's argues that it needs to be more locally relevant, and as part of this strategy has moved its country business heads for Asia and Europe to their regions - rather than basing them at McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Given the recent upsurge in anti-American feeling in many parts of the world, pandering to local palates might seem sensible business. But such initiatives also carry the risk that the company dilutes its iconic brand while at the same time failing to create an attractive local taste.

Convenience food competition is already tough in Asia - for example, from market stalls and noodle bars - where McDonald's biggest seller isn't a burger but the Filet-O-Fish.

Another ubiquitous American brand, Coca-Cola, has a different localisation model that McDonald's might care to consider: it has bought local drinks companies, but deliberately not put its name or logo on the products.  

But for now at least, McDonald's appears to prefer its hybrid strategy of combining global brand with local sensitivity - something that also extends to its advertising. The firm's first global marketing campaign ("I'm lovin' it") is currently running, translated into local languages. And rather than relying solely on the traditional Ronald McDonald clown character, local sports stars are also being used to target young consumers in promotions. 

Source: Golden arches bridge local tastes
Jeremy Grant
Financial Times, February 2006

Review by Steve Lodge

Financial Times Business Life, 9 February 2006 recommends

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