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The business of a global organization is ultimately a collection of local realities. Even companies like Lenovo that pride themselves of being a HQ-less networked organization in the end needs to succeed in local markets.

Their success depends on achieving a difficult balance. The first part of this involves enticing the local populace with sharing in a global value. In the 1980s, Levis jeans was attractive to rock music listeners across the world: the brand symbolized a common bond. Apple’s iPod is a contemporary example. One’s local experience becomes part of a global community; and that gives people–though it may sound tacky–a sense of belonging. It’s basically global community created through the local marketplace.

The other part of the equation is the local experience. Call it the global tuned to the local. This is an essential trait, according to a recent Washington Post article, of companies that one “cares about,” that is, companies that create an emotional attachment in their customers. It can’t be measured in numbers, directly at least. It’s amorphous, qualitative, another manifestation of that sense of belonging.

The article identifies four US companies–Starbucks, Apple, Google, and Amazon–that have been globally successful in creating local followers. They, the SAGA, have balanced standard global services and products somehow with an intensely local customer base, and they’ve done it through transforming “some important aspect of contemporary life.” Ledbetter and Weisberg, the authors of the article, go on to note:

Each has had an appreciable impact on our daily routines, taken on a looming presence in popular culture, and often engendered an intensity of feeling more often associated with tastes in entertainment or political views. Together, they have created a new model of business innovation, culture and values.

So while McDonald’s becomes the recipient of anti-globalization political backlash, these companies blend much more easily into their environments. While each company is a giant, to the local customers they don’t seem like “monoliths imposed on other countries from abroad.”

This is the challenge, the benchmark, for global brands: can they create local stakeholders who would provide cultural, emotional, and very importantly, political, support through the turbulence of an increasingly globalized world?

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