Think global, think different

“We’re thinking about starting a family”. Say this to friends and colleagues and they will regale you with stories of cold cups of tea, vomit stained clothes, months of sleepless nights, not to mention the harrowing details around childbirth…

Each day more than three-quarters of a million adults around the world experience the joys and heartaches, the challenges and rewards, of becoming new parents. But the experience is far from universal.

At IOM, we have spent a significant amount of time working with and talking to mums and families around the world. We’ve sung nursery rhymes to Japanese toddlers, watched Chinese mothers give their daughters a foot massge after a long day at school, talked to street mums in Kenya, and surveyed more parents than we care to remember, in all corners of the globe.

And while on the surface it would appear that their attitudes towards parenting are very similar (ask any parent what makes a ‘good’ mum, and they will likely tell you ‘time’ and ‘love’), delve a little deeper and some stark differences begin to emerge.

Go one step further and ask what makes a ‘bad’ mother, and you will get a multitude of answers, replete with granular detail and examples.

In Kenya for example, you’re a bad mum if you’re not god-fearing; Saudi Arabia it’s not listening to your husband; Turkey it’s not baking cakes for your guests; and in China it’s not giving your child the very best education.

Undoubtedly, mothers all over the world want to give their children time and love, but they subscribe to it in different ways. Other factors compete for mothers’ attention (education, religion, friends, children, partners), all with varying levels of importance across countries.

As global brands expand into new and emerging markets and develop strategies that really talk to local populations, the key to success lies in regognising this dissonance and formulating a better understanding of the factors that influence the way mothers behave.

Brands and products that speak to this difference, and recognise why this is, will be at an advantage. Never underestimate the importance of engaging the local culture and capturing the character of the locale.


To find out more about how we can provide you with a competitive edge in your business expansion, please contact us at