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Burgers, Coke and Customization

In India, you never pay for a burger in Mc Donald’s. You pay for a Mc Aloo Tikki.


It isn’t the same.

Today, the marketplace is dynamic. The company is not only expected to cope up with changing trends and styles in the market with dynamic strategies and innovations but simultaneously is also expected to respond to the diversity within its consumer base with mass customization. If this consumer base is globally located, then customization happens on a cultural level like customized Mc Donald’s American Burgers for Indian customers came to be known as Mc Aloo Tikki or consider the launch of Fanta, an orange-flavored customized soft drink by Coca Cola Company for Germans as oranges always appealed the Germans.

Even with the uncontested corporate strategy of choosing the right markets to conquer at the right times, without these global customizations these companies would have never been able to do justice to their excellent strategies. People will never toss a penny on a product/service solely because of its impressive quality, affordable prices, easy availability, or social purpose if they can’t find a bit of themselves in the product. No corporate strategy can help there.

As a matter of fact, companies never intend to impress the market with corporate strategies of choosing new markets, diversification of their product line, or planning mergers and acquisitions in the future to increase the reach but these strategies intend to create opportunities to impress the market. And mass customization exploits these opportunities. How? Coca Cola’s recent campaign can explain this.

Amidst of hundreds of beverage brands in today’s market focusing on strategizing collaborations, portfolio diversification, or the right branding, Coca-cola simply came up with the strategy of changing the packaging of Coca Cola cans to grab a potential customer glance, thus creating an opportunity to impress. In that minute, if the customer’s glance caught his own name printed on Coca-cola cans (Under this campaign, Coca-cola printed over 15000 common names on their cans in a way “Share it with John” to improve the brand connect around sharing happiness with individuals), then mass customization with a simple corporate strategy played its game better than any strategy alone.

Or even if Coca-cola starts offering flavored coca-cola drinks tomorrow at the same costs that people might like then, that can be another example of mass customization. The crux here is that no matter how extraordinary how corporate strategies are, in the end, you need to sell what people like. You are not here to sell Coca-cola, you are here to sell a drink that people celebrate. And to keep it forever and to keep it wide, mass customization should be consistent with corporate strategies. BUT remember that mass customization is not product innovation. The costs must remain the same.

For a country’s local market, better coordination between mass customization and business strategy is called upon. All the companies want to penetrate deep into the new markets, and certain companies strategize using customer personas for the same. These customer personas can either be based on data collected through website monitoring, surveys, or data collected through gadgets like Alexa which gives a better understanding of the customer or these personas can be based entirely upon instincts, ideas, and conversations. In both cases, the plans of the company are made to adapt and are customized according to these market variations for better customer acquisition and deeper market penetration.

Subway can the best example in this category. Subway is supplying each customer with exactly what they want at the same costs for the company. On the basis of data and trends, it has not only customized its ingredients accordingly to the countries it serves in but also it also catered to the varied tastes of its customers.

A good corporate strategy ensuring affordable pricing of Subs, high awareness in the market, excellent service and positive customer experience would not have been able to claim the market leadership for a long time because of the highly competent competitors. But mass customization can. And it did! The online merchandise websites and travel agents are playing the same game. They sell exactly what the customer wants and hence their business can never be ‘out of fashion’. But under lack of mass customization, doubts always exist regarding the success of even what we believe to be the best corporate strategies.

Mind you, the business model should be prepared in such a way that printing and planning these customized products will incur similar if not the same costs.

This lack of flexibility and customization in KFC, when launched in India in the initial years, costed them a lot. KFC launched itself in India with a complete non-vegetation menu which costed them a major chunk of the market in India and they only recorded losses. They actually came up with a very rigid corporate strategy throughout the world with no customization at the national or local level and this is how it ended for them.

Years later, it came back with its own vegetarian menu specially curated for Indian tastes and culture at similar costs with wider options offered to Indians and mass production for the company. We all know KFC today.

A simple approach of aligning the strategy with mass customization can be to keep strategizing the same way you do but this time, make it more flexible to market variations and be a lot aware of the market that you are catering to.

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