Beware the Culture Gap on Global Growth Trail
I’ve been interviewed for an in-depth analysis by Marketing Week on this topic. One of the key reasons it’s so important for brand owners and developers to master the global/local dilemma is because the costs for those who haven’t are immeasurable. For example, the costs to the brand’s and parent company’s reputation from market ignorance is tangible but often difficult to measure due to the time lags involved. Similarly, the cash spent on campaign investments – above and below the line – are wasted when a company’s local execution is misaligned to the culture.
The lack of a global marketing strategy means the risks of off-message behaviour and executions are tremendous. These inconsistencies we know undermine brand building, for which consistency is a prerequisite. It also means the experience for customers across touch points is inconsistent, lowering their loyalty and thus lifetime value and revenue streams to the company.
In a digital world where consumers and corporations are less divided by geographical borders and more and more brands are launching into emerging markets, it’s more than likely that at some point in your career you will be required to go and manage your brand in a totally different region of the world. As a result, the marketing community needs to become “cross-culturally” aware, according to consultants such as Allyson Stewart-Allen, director and founder of cross-cultural specialists International Marketing Partners.
Stewart-Allen goes as far as to say that cultural awareness and cultural ignorance can “make the difference between a successful international deal and an apologetic withdrawal”. Assuming that what worked in your home country will work in your new market not only puts an individual campaign or product at stake, but a marketer’s reputation and career.
She even claims that if senior executives such as BP’s ex-chief executive Tony Hayward or Toyota president Akio Toyoda had done cross-cultural preparation before trying to right their companies’ wrongs before a global audience in the way that seemed natural to them, they may have been able to protect their brand equity from damage.
Hayward failed to recognise the US demand for a positive and open attitude towards crisis management when communicating with the American public about how BP would rectify the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which saw about £50bn wiped from his company’s stock market value.
And as for Toyota, the company’s initial reserved, typically Japanese approach of saying very little about the massive product recalls that were happening was seen by some Western markets as being inactive or even incompetent.
“These are two executives who didn’t read the cultural climate properly,” says Stewart-Allen. “Doing something that is in sync with a particular cultural climate is really important.”
A lack of cultural knowledge can cost a brand dearly. If a business executive makes a serious blunder in an overseas market as a result of not knowing how that business culture works, future working relationships will be hindered, says Stewart-Allen. “The more you study how people work, how they use your products and services in different places, the better. When you work on incorrect assumptions, you make bad decisions that you sometimes can’t recover from. Studying in advance is like an insurance policy, and the return on investment is high because you hit the ground running.”
Read the full article and let me know what you think!