Adaptation

The process or strategy of adapting or tailoring an otherwise standardized product or service offering to meet the needs and preferences of a particular market or set of consumers, where such markets and consumers are typically examined and managed within an international marketing context.

The subject of marketing strategy and marketing mix element adaptation versus standardization has been the subject of much marketing research and debate. Since there are many potential factors influencing the appropriateness of such a strategy, it is difficult to say when it is best relative to a standardization approach. In international marketing, adaptation is an essential consideration when marketing to multiple countries or cultures where there are likely to be significant differences in consumer wants and needs relative to a particular product or service offering. While adapting marketing strategies and marketing mix elements often takes more time and effort to develop and implement and is often costlier than standardized approaches which benefit from larger economies of scale, the potentially greater market receptivity to adapted offerings may make such a costlier approach worthwhile over the longer term. Ultimately, however, the desirability, extent, and type of adaptation, whether in marketing communications, product packaging, or positioning, will invariably be highly dependent on characteristics of the company, product, industry, and market.

Marketing managers involved in international or regional marketing should consider the potential for adapted marketing strategies or marketing mix elements. As the decision to adapt such offerings is highly context dependent, research assessing the market, industry, and competition will be essential. Company resources and skills will also be an important consideration to determine whether the assets and competencies of the firm can accommodate and support an adaptation
approach for possible competitive advantage. Even highly standardized firms such as McDonald’s still find it is strategically desirable to engage in limited adaptations to local tastes for their sandwich offerings, for example.

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