Global Brands Don’t Always Start Out That Way

The executives at Wal-Mart may be accused (and guilty) of many bad things, but I have to give them credit for sucking up their pride when going global. This article talks about how Wal-Mart decided against using its brand name in Japan; quite simply, Wal-Mart means nothing in the market. Instead, Wal-Mart wisely partnered with an established retailer, Seiyu.

Too many companies are too full of themselves to even consider partnering with local companies. But all too often, this modest approach makes the most sense. So what if you’re the number one company in the U.S. – in another country you’re nobody. But humility (and open-mindedness) is one of the keys to global success.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“For Japanese customers, the name Wal-Mart doesn’t mean a lot. The Seiyu name means a lot. For the near future, we’ll go with the Seiyu brand,” said Billie Cole, spokesman for Wal-Mart International Holdings.

Wal-Mart, which operates in 10 nations besides the United States, has adapted its approach to different markets, making itself more visible with Wal-Mart stores in places like China, while taking a lower profile in Mexico and Britain, where it has chosen partners as it has in Japan.

But nowhere else is the total invisibility of Wal-Mart quite as apparent as in Japan, the world’s second-largest economy, where foreign brands are sometimes embraced – among them, Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton, Walt Disney, the Gap – but often face failure verging on total rejection.

Eventually, I imagine that Wal-Mart will re-brand Sieyu. But the key word is eventually.

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