What We (Don’t) Know About Marketing Standardization vs. Adaptation

by | Jan 4, 2023

Marketing Mix

Today, many firms compete on a global scale. Large multinational corporations, medium-sized enterprises, and small international start-ups, from both developed and developing countries, generate significant shares of their revenues beyond the borders of their home markets.

“Global market integration has moved questions about the standardization of marketing activities across different countries or regions to center stage for marketing theory and practice.”

To increase their overall efficiency and profitability, firms often consider standardizing their marketing programs and processes. Standardized programs and processes enable them to capitalize on economies of scale in production, marketing, and R&D, shorten the time to market for new product innovations, and exploit promising products, ideas, and practices in multiple markets. Surprisingly though, findings regarding the impact of marketing standardization/adaptation on performance remain inconclusive.

This fragmented picture seemingly results from the many and varied conceptual and methodological considerations that provide the foundation for extant studies. This challenges marketing theory and practice because it is difficult to draw generalizable conclusions from such diverse knowledge and, consequently, provide reliable guidance to international marketing researchers and practitioners. To advance research on the performance consequences of marketing standardization, this study offers a systematic review of relevant literature according to the TCCM review protocol.

The results suggest that extant research on the relationship between marketing standardization/adaptation and performance lacks strong theoretical foundations (instead relying loosely on a few theories); focuses mainly on multinational corporations and small- and medium-sized enterprises from high-income countries (producing consumer durables and industrial goods); and heavily relies on survey data to estimate the impact of marketing standardization/adaptation on product-market and accounting performance.

Based on our analysis of the status quo, we highlight several areas that deserve attention. We identified the need for new, dynamic theoretical perspectives, such as dynamic capabilities theory, and several promising research gaps related to emerging markets, (digital) services (context), individual marketing mix elements, and customer-related performance outcomes (characteristics). Finally, we offer best practices (methodology) to help enhance the validity of continued findings in this domain.

Full reference: Mandler, Timo, Burcu Sezen, Jieke Chen, and Aysegül Özsomer (2021), “Performance consequences of marketing standardization/adaptation: A systematic literature review and future research agenda,” Journal of Business Research, 125, 416–435. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2020.12.023

Cite for: Marketing standardization/adaptation, international marketing strategy, systematic literature review, TCCM review protocol, journal selection criteria, performance outcomes, marketing standardization/adaptation-performance link (Figure 2), specific research gaps

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