McDonalds in Beijing: Localization of Americana



According to me the Author talks about the recent changes in the Chinese society and the new tendency to adopt the foreign culture influences and transform them into local institution which was restricted by the Chinese political system during the Maoist era.

The important points made in the article are as follows:

  • Acceptance of foreign culture influences.
  • Beijing customers are the active partners in the process of localisation.
  • Representation of McDonald's as Americana and the promise of modernisation.
  • People patronize McDonald's to experience a moment of equality.
  • Making experience at McDonald's restaurants exotic, American, and to a certain extent, modern.
  • Genuineness of McDonald's food that is being identical to its American counterpart.
  • Attraction to McDonald's by its American style rather then its food.
  • McDonald's interpretation of its food as a foreign form of xianbing.
  • The culture of fast food attracting the Beijing consumers.
  • A way to take part in transnational cultural system.
  • At McDonald's, eating environment is considered as romantic and comfortable.
  • McDonald's experience is treated as a chance to explore American culture and give their young one a special treat.
  • McDonald's representation as a symbol of American Culture has led them to accept new patterns of behaviour.
  • Willingness to accept the exotic culture and social behaviour in general.
  • McDonald's treated as a place to gain status.
  • Efforts made to adapt Chinese cultural settings.
  • McDonald's as a place to hang out
  • McDonald's creating a family atmosphere for Beijing customers.
  • Personal interaction with customers.
  • Beijing customers want their children to learn American culture.
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Finally the author concludes saying, "McDonald's has transformed into middle class family establishment, where people can enjoy their leisure time and experience a Chinese version of American culture".

Critical Review

I think that the article is relevant in today's world and the localization process mentioned by the author in the article. For any multinational company it is necessary that they try to adopt the home country's culture i.e. tries to bring the home culture in their goods and services. As said by Mingsheng Li, a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication, Journalism and Marketing at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand, the degree of localization largely determines the degree to which a business succeeds or fails in a given country. The more the company works toward localization, the more likely it will be successful. It is necessary to understand one's culture and traditions and respect their tastes.

But what is localization?

To attract the target market, a product is made linguistically and it is culturally appropriate.

When a company plans for global expansion, it is involved in the process of communication with local customers. Therefore it is necessary for the company to get familiar with local culture, study different customs, and make proper adjustments to their strategies according to the varied response of customers.

The best example would be McDonalds in India. Majority of people in India are vegetarian. So McDonalds introduced range of vegetarian food in their outlet with the added flavor of American culture in it. McDonalds also priced their product according to the income of common people in India. Indian consumers were aware f the fast food culture, but the fast food in India was unhealthy and unhygienic. Introduction of McDonalds in India brought about the change in the fast food culture of India. The burgers were priced at Rs 20 which was affordable for an average middle class family.

If McDonalds did not adopted localization strategy in China i.e. if they did not adopted the Chinese culture and traditions and the consumers taste, it was a failed project and the people of china would have banned it just like the French company Carrefour, hypermarket chain with more than 100 stores in major cities in China. The company had donated a large sum of money to the Dalai Lama. Calling for a boycott against French goods, Chinese nationals also called for a boycott against tourist travel to France. (Mingsheng Li, a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication, Journalism and Marketing at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand).

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According to the article presented by the author it talks about the recent changes in the Chinese society and the new tendency to adopt the foreign culture influences and transform them into local institution which was restricted by the Chinese political system during the Maoist era.

I strongly agree with the article and its process of localization strategy.

The brand name of McDonalds was already there in the minds of Beijing customers. And before the McDonalds entered the Chinese market, the people of Beijing were fond of the American style and its culture. They were keen to learn the American or the Western culture. And when McDonalds entered the Chinese market on 23rd of April 1992, it served more than 40000 customers on the first day. This shows that the Beijing consumers were waiting for such kind of change in China, where they can experience the American or the Western culture. McDonalds has always been a fast food restaurant. The fast food in China was expensive and unhealthy. As mentioned in the article, in the eyes of the Beijing customers McDonald's represents Americana and the promise of modernisation. People also patronize McDonalds to experience the moment of equality. But McDonalds mad sure that they follow Chinese culture and Tradition and also keep up with the taste of the consumers to be successful in Chinese market.

Some of the strategy adopted by McDonalds to attract the customer is

  1. Online chats "Madden, Normandy; Wentz, Laurel. Advertising Age, 7/31/2006".

For its its growth strategy in mainland China, McDonald's has created a live online chat series with the popular portal Sina and, a website launched by McDonald's in the mainland. Consumers can interact with leading sports, entertainment and business figures. The first one-hour episode Aug. 1 in Beijing will feature Houston Rockets basketball star and Shanghai, China, native Yao Ming, who signed a multiyear global partnership deal with McDonald's in 2004. The online initiative has "no target age group," The program aims to provide consumer-focused education and encourage active, balanced lifestyles, but also be seen as an effort to ward off potential concerns about the nutritional content of fast food in general in China.

  1. Opens drive-through in China "Madden, Normandy, Wentz, Laurel, Advertising Age, 00018899, 1/30/2006".

China's rapid transformation into a car culture had led McDonalds to open drive thru in China. Drive-through sites, which account for a large proportion of McDonald's sales in the U.S., reflect China's rapid transformation into a car culture. With almost 6 million automobile sales last year, China has surpassed Japan and is now second only to the U.S. in annual car sales in the year 2006.

This kind of strategy is a sign of bringing the American culture in China. But they are keeping in mind about the culture and traditions of China.