Tag Archives: Allyson Stewart-Allen

Can Carnival Cruises Rescue its Reputation?

As you continue to watch Carnival Cruises respond to its Costa Concordia accident near Italy, you might be wondering how this company — and the cruise industry — can restore trust during this peak season when cash-strapped consumers are booking their 2012 breaks.

Given the infrequent appearances from executives at this world’s largest cruise line (whose brands include Carnival, Holland America Line, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Ibero Cruises, P&O Cruises Cunard, Princess Cruises, Costa), clearly Carnival’s current and future revenues are at risk unless they take action now:

  • the “how” – immediate communication by the leaders of the company on its search and rescue efforts is a must. As in any corporate crisis, it’s all about speed.
  • the “who” – fielding top executives from Costa’s parent company, Carnival Cruises, is a must as only they have measurable credibility for reassuring concerned relatives, friends, customers, employees, investors, media and other stakeholders. This is a much more effective way to retain (rebuild) trust rather than leaving it to trade bodies to speculate on why the accident happened.
  • the “what” – demonstrating the actions being taken to all stakeholders that contingency plans are in place and being implemented is the best way to reassure people that your brand can be trusted.
  • the “where” – appropriate rescue operations need to be demonstrated in online and offline media by Carnival Cruises to ensure all its partners and channels are informed and aligned with your activities. This includes travel agents, system partners (airlines, hotels, car rental companies) and others in its ecosystem.

Chinese Find IKEA Is Swede Place for Romance

Ignore local knowledge at your peril: this is the lesson for retailers heading for China in the recent Wall Street Journal article “In China, Ikea is a Swede Place for Senior Romance” which Laurie Burkitt capably details.

Recounted in her revealing piece are educational stories about international retailers — IKEA, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s — that are getting accustomed to Chinese consumers expecting to use them as their home away from home, aiming to spend a great deal of time—if not serious money—at these usually generous sized, comfortable stores.  Examples from the article (below) can spare any business expaqnding there much time and stress:

Ikea: At the weekly IKEA romance session in Shanghai, the elderly arrive in swarms of 70 to 700 to get the free coffee offered to holders of the IKEA Family membership card. Ms. Tang, seated amid the backdrop of Poang reading chairs and Vreta poufs, sips coffee and says she is grateful to have such a meeting place. “I make more senior citizen friends when I come here,” said Ms. Tang. In China, IKEA is planning to up its nine locations to 17 stores by 2015 to meet demand from the nation’s growing middle class, who aspire to Western lifestyles at affordable prices. On a recent Sunday in Beijing, Liu Yunfeng sat in a 3,999 yuan ($625) white leather Tirup chair, watching home videos from the screen of her Sony digital camera while her shoeless daughter jumped on the Nyvoll bed of a mock-up room.

Wal-Mart: Several years ago, some Wal-Mart stores in China set up a children’s camp for summer and winter school breaks. During daily sessions, children are encouraged to try their hands as part-time greeters and announce deals over the broadcast system. “If I go to Wal-Mart I’ll want to go for the day,” said Cui Hongyan.

McDonalds: With its free Wi-Fi and clean bathrooms, is adding more electrical outlets to most of its China stores in hopes that people will actually come and hang around longer. In Hong Kong, the fast food giant is developing a service known as “McWedding” to encourage people to marry in their stores. One proposed feature of the ceremony: When it is time for the big kiss, the bride and groom can each chomp on the end of a french fry until their lips meet.

But did these retailers do their homework? Were they prepared for Chinese consumers expectations?

It seems that the retailer s relied on what worked in their home markets and are now struggling to adapt to consumers wanting to turn the retail experience into a full day social experience – “retailtainment.” Chinese consumers love Western and European brands and generally prefer them to their own Asian options. Retailers need to be educated about the unique demands of customers – they need to be relevant and have personality, which is exactly what Ikea, Wal-Mart and McDonalds have done – just a little too late. IKEA, however, is missing one of the biggest brand lessons – cultural sensitivity – when they propped up a notice board at the entrance of the cafeteria, which stated “IKEA would hereby like to inform this group and its organizers: Your behavior is affecting the normal operations of the IKEA cafeteria,” the notice said.

Comparably, Mercedes called on the local culture by flying over some of its best customers from China to join in a focus group to determine customer expectations in a new market. The brand not only differentiated itself, but it also went through the brand localization process, increasing its brand relevance and image in China. Again the key lesson here is to always challenge your assumptions and be prepared for foreign consumers’ very different expectations, particularly in the Chinese market.

Murdochs cause waves on both sides of the Atlantic

Rupert Murdoch (C) walks from a hotel to his flat with his son James Murdoch (L)Last night I was asked on BBC’s Newsnight, its influential current affairs television program, what Rupert Murdoch should do wearing his corporate diplomat hat given he’s now being pursued by a high-profile range of interested parties — UK Parliament’s Culture/Media/Sport select committee, London’s Metropolitan Police and the FBI who all are very interested in the extent of his company’s phone hacking and police bribery practices.  Is Rupert Murdoch’s defiance going to be seen as a Tony Hayward moment, the former BP executive wanting his life back? Clearly his newspaper brands in the US and UK have a lot more defending to do, with the mere whiff of wrongdoing taking the shine off both News International’s share price and the levels of trust in its brands.  The UK impact of this drama hopefully will result in not only a change in the privacy laws and regulation of the media, but will shine a bright light on the nature of British news media ownership and the dysfunctions that imbalances of market power bring.  Stay tuned!

Two Countries United by a Commoner

This article was just published in the Summer 2011 issue of Market Leader magazine (the house mag of the Marketing Society), showing the power of the “Will & Kate” brand and how well it travels across cultures, even before they were married… their effectiveness in opening the doors for British business around the world will be impressive if this is what brands have done before their marriage… (click here to read the full article)

“Who’d have thought a former British colony of 320 million people which declared UDI in recent history (well, recent by British standards) would so keenly want to rediscover their Britishness, embracing the idea of Royal weddings, calamari hats and pageantry with such gusto, such preoccupation, such envy, such marketing opportunities?

A number of Americans and their local brands celebrated the British milestone marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in various ways – some tasteful,
some not:

  • Diet aid Slim-Fast launched a tweet campaign to capitalise on the excitement of the event by spending $120,000 to tweet anyone interested in William and Kate.  The Royal Wedding enthusiasts found the #royalwedding delivering tweets from Slim-Fast
    with the message “look good for your own wedding with the Slim-Fast diet and check out our Facebook page.”  At the start of the actual ceremony, 11% of all tweets on Twitter contained the #royalwedding hashtag.  A very successful strategy for the brand, as from the day before the wedding until early-May, its followers increased from 930 to 1,356 while their Facebook page fans jumped from 16,000 to 21,400 by 2 May.  Not a bad ROI from the investment despite this untargeted tactic.
  • Sign the giant Royal Wedding congratulations card in LA at Madame Tussauds in Hollywood, where you can write your personal best wishes to Will and Kate.  The oversized greeting card “… (read more)

Spotlight on America | In-Depth Analysis | Marketing Week


International Marketing Partners Director Allyson Stewart-Allen’s 2001 book Working with Americans highlights, among other things, that even though British and American culture is linked through history and language, key differences in approaches to business are worth understanding. She also revealed in her recent session with the Marketing Week-sponsored Marketing Academy that Americans put less importance on relationships but are more task-focused, and want to see numbers-based results and insights over qualitative commentary.

For Nicole McDonnell, marketing director of children’s food brand Ella’s Kitchen, cultural differences in her team’s personality in the US has been very obvious and unexpected. She gives the example of company job titles – Nicole’s business card says “head of making friends”, and the company managing director is Ella’s dad, and his job title is simply that. McDonnell feels this adds to the brand identity, but it has not gone down well with her colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic.

“In the States, it’s all about being the CEO or the vice-president. I would like them to use the job titles we use because they epitomise what the brand is about, but in the US they feel it doesn’t give them enough credibility in their market,” she explains. “I appreciate the titles we like to use might not give the right understanding of how senior somebody is, so getting the right balance on this is something we are in discussions about.”

Diageo’s Cristina Diezhandino, now regional marketing and innovation director for Africa, also discovered some key differences when she embarked on her first role in the US about 15 years ago. First, that the customary greeting of kissing a business colleague in Spain was not appropriate in the US. Second, that meeting formats were a lot stricter than what she was used to.

“Meetings had a set beginning and end, stated in advance, with specific agendas and an outcome to be achieved in that time. What surprised me was that people would simply stand up at the end of the period of time, say goodbye and leave.

“I now regard that as very normal, but when I first experienced it I thought it was not a polite way to end things. Then I realised that it is equally impolite to take up more of people’s time than necessary when they are very busy.”

 

Click here to read my comments in Marketing Week’s  cover feature: Beware the culture gap on global growth trail

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Beware the culture gap on global growth trail | Marketing Week

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.

Marketing Week’s  Marylou Costa, who first heard me speak at The Marketing Academy’s Boot Camp, for which I conducted the International Marketing curriculum writes:

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!

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Marketing Week’s Cover Story on the Marketing Academy

Marketing Week’s cover story, Have faith in the future, is an in-depth analysis of the Marketing Academy’s Boot Camp, for which I conducted its International Marketing curriculum.  Marketing Week comments:

“Young marketers face a dearth of opportunities to develop their business and leadership skills and companies are frustrated by a lack of top-level talent. But a new Marketing Academy is molding tomorrow’s stars and inspiring marketing’s elevation to the board.”

The Marketing Academy Scholars are truly enlightened global citizens who are very worldly for their age – then again – they have grown up in a more globalized era than any previous generation and so they innately think and act with global awareness.

It is essential that as part of Marketing Academy’s curriculum in developing the next generation of future business leaders, they understand the tangible benefits of this worldly outlook that will include fewer conflicts and warfare as international commerce bridges people and cultures.  Given that, it comes as no surprise that the Marketing Academy sponsors include Google, one of the world’s most successful global brands.

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