Act Globally, Think Locally: The Importance of an International Experience

Written by Samantha June 9, 2016

International experience is a necessity for personal growth and development. This experience provides students with unique opportunity to combine international travel with an international education. This allows for ample opportunity to expand our intellectual experience, as well as our business knowledge.

I am a senior at the University of Minnesota, majoring in Marketing and minoring in Management Information Systems. The business school at Minnesota requires students to study abroad, which is a credit that needs to be fulfilled on our transcripts. The professors at my home university give us an international viewpoint of marketing topics. It is, however, a different experience to view it from a personal perspective – living within the culture. With only two weeks of classes under my belt, I have gained a stronger international perspective through a marketing and cultural lens. I am enrolled in two classes at CIMBA; the first is International Marketing, which incorporates marketing strategy topics from a global perspective. The second class is Italy Live, which is an introduction to the Italian language and culture. I have accumulated three major cultural and marketing insights from various classroom excursions and lectures:

  1. Marketing needs to be tailored to your target market: This is a very basic concept that every marketing major understands like the back of their hand. However, it’s easy to become so accustomed to our domestic culture, or even previous stereotypes about other cultures. This is where big name companies like Target and Disney’s amusement park failed to customize their brand to their target market’s culture. My International Marketing class attended a company tour at Little Tikes, a high-end tricycle manufacturer. As we sat through the owner’s presentation, a major differential stood out to me. The company placed a large environmental emphasis on its product and had a unique perspective on our individual carbon footprint. Where as individuals we not only need to look at how we use (and reuse) our products, but find companies who look at their own carbon footprint. The most insightful part about the company’s culture, was the support and commitment to the customer’s carbon footprint and that the company is supporting its customers in making this transition. Not just doing it for themselves.
  2. Act globally, think locally: It’s one thing to consider a strategy from a global perspective. You just extend the marketing plan to the rest of the globe and call it good… right? Well, not exactly. The key to a global strategy is “thinking locally”. We had a guest speaker in my international marketing class who is a Marketing Manager for a mattress company and has worked in the marketing field for confectionery goods and kitchen appliances. Part of his presentation was on this idea of acting globally and thinking locally. The main concept he described was the importance of a global positioning for your brand and that each market has local standards that need to be tailored to. He gave us an example of what three kinds of ovens look like: a modern oven (for over 30 countries), an oven with a more traditional style to it (for only four countries) and a specific oven with a calligraphic style to it (for only two countries). All of these products are successful in their own way. However, the products that are targeted for specific markets are even more successful due to a “local” twist. There are some products that can be focused on the global market (like the modern oven), but there are also markets that need products to be tailored to their needs. 
  3. Cultural differences are prevalent from a young age, but similarities shine through: In my Italy Live class, we were able to have an hour long conversation with some Italian high school students attending the private school here in Paderno. The girl we talked with was 16 years old and lives very close to campus. The language barrier was barely a problem when speaking with her and she had so much livelihood for the Italian culture. She was interested in the same things that we were (we had a small bonding session over Pretty Little Liars) and listened to the same music. It was very interesting how similar our lives were. However, while we had some similarities, she was able to explain the customs and culture of Italian’s more clearly. Italians are focused on family life and leisure, this is especially obvious in areas that have “siestas,” which is a long break in the afternoon. While some differences are prevalent in all cultures, similarities in personality and interests seem to break through the surface.

CIMBA’s educational opportunities are limitless. If you’re able to open your mind to the in-class activities, conversations, excursions, and guest speakers, the involvement will be that much more influential for your education. It will shape your international know-how and experience abroad.