The EPRG framework describes the various ways businesses decide to enter and operate in global markets, first introduced in 1969 by globalization expert Howard V. Perlmutter this framework categorizes four orientations or approaches to global marketing and staffing: ethnocentric, regiocentric, polycentric, and geocentric.
Understanding the EPRG framework
The EPRG framework describes the various ways businesses decide to enter and operate in global markets.
The EPRF framework was first introduced by globalization expert Howard V. Perlmutter in a 1969 journal article entitled The Tortuous Evolution of Multinational Enterprises.
Perlmutter argued that the way a company responds to global market opportunities depends on the assumptions management holds about the nature of international marketing.
These assumptions, which Perlmutter called orientations, dictate how a company manages operations between the headquarters in its home country and its foreign subsidiaries.
The EPRG framework categorizes global marketing strategies according to four orientations which describe various approaches to global staffing. We will take a look at each of these in more detail in the following sections.
Here, the subsidiary must comply with the default policies and procedures of headquarters.
This means the company does not adapt its products to the needs or wants of the other countries they operate in. There are no changes in product specification, price, or promotional strategy.
Essentially, management believes that employees native to the home market can do a better job driving the company forward overseas than their non-native counterparts.
An ethnocentric orientation may also arise naturally because of a shortage of expertise in a foreign country.
Ethnocentric orientation can lead to problems in foreign markets. When Nissan exported cars to the United States, many vehicles failed to start in the much colder North American winters.
Nissan also made the mistake of assuming drivers would place a blanket over the engine to warm it up – which is what citizens in the freezing north of Japan were accustomed to.
Ethnocentric orientation benefits
- Coordination – the lack of variation in employee backgrounds results in more coordination between company headquarters and the foreign country.
- Cost-effectiveness – since there is very little change in terms of product features, price, or promotional strategies, the business can avoid the expenses associated with adapting products for various international markets.
- Expansion capacity – the ethnocentric orientation may also be used by companies that are making their first foray into other countries. The approach allows them to establish new production facilities and launch products with relative ease.
Regiocentric orientation is the belief that countries existing in the same geographic region have economic, social, cultural, or political similarities.
As a result, the strategies developed for one country are effective when deployed throughout.
Coca-Cola has used regiocentric orientation to market its carbonated beverages in the sub-continent region consisting of the Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi markets.
Regiocentric orientation benefits
The regiocentric approach occupies a favorable middle ground between the more specific polycentric orientation and the more general ethnocentric and geocentric approaches.
Companies tend to be more effective since they can cater to broader audiences across multiple countries without the inherent inefficiencies of catering to smaller or more localized consumer groups.
Recruiting employees from specific regions can offer a better cultural fit than taking a more general approach to recruitment.
For example, companies operating in North Africa and the Middle East would be able to hire individuals with an Arab background who are more likely to share the same cultural values.
For example, most Arabs are Muslims and speak some degree of classical Arabic. Cultural fit also has the flow-on effect of reducing the costs associated with employee onboarding.
What’s more, it reduces the likelihood that an employee will experience culture shock and leave their role within the company.
With a polycentric orientation, marketing strategies are based on the economic, political, or cultural disparities of the countries where subsidiaries are located.
Polycentrism is the opposite of ethnocentrism in that the business seeks to do things the way locals do.
McDonald’s is perhaps the best example of polycentrism in action because its restaurants are sensitive to the peculiarities of different markets.
In India, McDonald’s serves vegetarian food because Indian citizens view cows as sacred. In France, Germany, and Portugal, restaurants serve wine in addition to soft drinks.
Polycentric orientation benefits
Companies such as McDonald’s that take the time to understand the host market are likely to be more successful as a result.
Consumers in these markets tend to favor international brands that are sensitive to their cultural and societal values and beliefs.
By the same token, a local workforce whose values are understood and respected are more likely to be happy and motivated employees who have a vested interest in helping the company succeed.
The polycentric orientation is ideal for companies looking to expand into developing or third-world nations.
Most of these nations are characterized by financial, legal, political, or cultural constraints.
Geocentric orientation means the company sees the whole world as a potential market. In other words, they see a negligible difference between countries because consumers have more or less the same needs.
While differences do exist in reality, the geocentric approach assumes most differences will be forgotten or accepted by the target audience.
Given there are no explicit barriers between the headquarters and its subsidiaries, it can be expensive and challenging to overcome discrepancies in labor standards and customer preferences.
However, with a unified strategy, this orientation rewards the significant investment by making the firm more agile and responsive to change.
American cable channel MTV is seen all around the world but there is little difference in how the channel is branded or presented.
Each channel is named after the country it operates in, such as MTV India, MTV Korea, and MTV China.
Geocentric orientation benefits:
Those with a geocentric orientation tend to be large corporations with similarly large ambitions.
To achieve their goals, these corporations can establish a pool of senior executives with industry experience and contacts around the world.
Employees are hired based on their skills and abilities and not on their physical location.
With a core, unified strategy and an assembled team of competent individuals, the geocentric orientation enables companies to be more agile and responsive to change.
Agility is also increased since there are rarely language or cultural barriers to overcome between different regions.
In general, the geocentric orientation is also easier to execute since there is one strategy and not several more intricate strategies.
Many companies will simply replicate their domestic strategies abroad with very little customization.
While less sensitive to specific cultural needs, this approach is more cost-effective.
Additional EPRG framework examples
Let’s conclude with some more EPRG framework examples.
Like its main rival The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo has a regiocentric orientation.
This is reflected in the company’s organizational structure with dominant market divisions based on numerous geographic regions and a small number of business units.
Each region has the autonomy to coordinate its own operations.
As an example, the Africa, Middle East and South Asia division establishes the region’s primary objectives and handles the implementation of the company’s marketing strategy.
The main advantage of this orientation is that Pepsi can focus on the specific needs of consumers across this region.
Regiocentrism also enables the company to cover a wide range of emerging and developing markets that are vital to Pepsi’s vision of sustainable growth.
Key countries include South Africa, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.
Generally speaking, Apple has a geocentric orientation because it treats every foreign market in which it operates as a singular, global market.
This tends to be true of many multinational or transnational corporations that are headquartered in the developed world with manufacturing facilities in poorer countries with cheaper production costs.
The universal appeal of the iPhone in countries whose citizens can afford its premium price certainly supports Apple’s geocentric approach.
However, the company may need to adopt an ethnocentric approach if it wants to sell the iPhone in countries where consumers have less purchasing power.
Attempts to sell the much cheaper iPhone 5c in Russia in 2014 were one such attempt at this strategy, but the product still sold for the equivalent of an average monthly middle-class salary.
The entry-level iPhone SE was released in 2016 as an affordable entry point to the smartphone lineup.
More recently, the company has announced the expansion of its App Store and Apple Music businesses into developing countries in Asia and Africa.
It plans to target mostly younger generations of non-English speaking consumers who are not currently part of the Apple ecosystem.
Special trade-in programs designed for used smartphones in these regions were also seen as a way for the company to expand its total addressable market by 65%.
Google takes more of a polycentric approach in some aspects of its business.
This is particularly true of its famous Google Doodle, where the search logo is adapted to celebrate various places, people, anniversaries, holidays, and other notable events.
On August 1, 2022, for example, a doodle celebrating Switzerland’s National Day was released.
The previous day, the company celebrated the French game of pétanque, with users able to hover their mouse over the doodle to play the sport interactively.
While Google engineers have now created 5,000 doodles for search homepages around the world, it’s important to point out that they serve as a highly targeted way to market the company in specific regions.
The doodle celebrating pétanque may have some relevance outside of France, but it’s clear that it was marketed to French searchers.
Doodles celebrating specific events such as Switzerland National Day are even more specific and have very little relevance to users who are not Swiss.
- The EPRG framework describes the various ways businesses decide to enter and operate in global markets. The concept was first introduced in 1969 by globalization expert Howard V. Perlmutter.
- Fundamental to the EPRG framework is how a company manages the relationship between its headquarters and foreign subsidiaries.
- The EPRG framework categories four orientations or approaches to global marketing and staffing: ethnocentric, regiocentric, polycentric, and geocentric.
Other connected business strategy frameworks
Porter’s Five Forces
Blue Ocean Strategy
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