There are almost 3 billion potential customers online. In theory, the internet allows all brands equal access to them. But in practice, very few midsize brands succeed outside their home market.
This webinar will help listeners assess their readiness to market abroad, explore different growth strategies and provide useful real-life cases. Listen and read here:
Bob: Hey everybody, welcome to this BrightTALK webinar from Duffy Agency. I hope you are here today because you want to grow your business over borders because that’s what we are going to be focusing on. My name is Bob McInnis. I’m the Global Account Director at Duffy Agency, a digital marketing agency that specializes in helping companies grow their businesses outside their home markets. I’m in New York and I’m joined today by our CEO and Founder, Sean Duffy.
Today Sean is going to run through some of the most common mistakes that companies make when marketing outside their home markets as well as some tips on how you can avoid those mistakes as you ready your business for growth abroad. Before that, if I could just set the stage a little, when we think about cross-cultural market blunders, these are usually the things that come to mind, aren’t they? (Slide #3 reference)
These are all real back translations: Parker – won’t leak in your pocket, make you pregnant; Coors Light – suffer from diarrhea; Clairol – manure stick (It was mystic in English, but when they marketed that in Germany, they translated it as manure stick. I’m sure they didn’t mean that.); American Airlines – fly naked; etc. I know these are amusing and they are well circulated on the Internet these days, but they’re really not the things that ruin businesses. They are just these small hiccups that occur when executing campaigns in foreign countries, and they’ll probably continue to happen. And, proof of the fact that they are just these small hiccups is that all of these companies with these stories still lead their markets in their categories. The marketing problems that Sean is going to address today, they might be a little less amusing for one thing, but far more damaging and, for the most part, invisible. And, that’s what makes them so dangerous.
Before Sean starts, what I’d like to do is just frame today’s discussion with an example that has been in the news this year — Target. For those of you in Europe who may be less familiar with this brand, Target is a US discount retailer with annual revenues of about US$70 billion. They employ around 350,000 people and they are second in size only to Walmart in the US. Target has built its success in the US on clean stores, known brands, cheap prices, and convenient locations. That would really seem like a universal formula for success, wouldn’t it? At least it seems like a formula that should be able to survive the trip from the US to Canada right next door. That’s why so many people thought Target would repeat its enormous domestic success when they expanded north.
In March 2013, Target opened over 100 stores across Canada. It was the company’s first attempt to do business beyond their domestic market. Less than two years later, it admitted defeat, closed all 133 stores, and fired its 17,000 Canadian employees. As Forbes put it, “The retailer failed to entice shoppers in Canada, a country of 36 million people with a way of life similar to Americans but with habits different enough to make it a potential minefield for US retailers.” This story isn’t the exception, it’s more the norm. In fact, the Harvard Business Review recently featured a sobering survey of over 20,000 companies that details how the majority fail at their attempts to go global.
It’s not just large multibillion-dollar consumer brands like Target that stumble. Even more challenging issues come up for brands with less resources, like small to midsized enterprises engaged in either business-to-consumer or business-to-business sales. The takeaway here is that Target didn’t fail for lack of adequate translation. It was nothing that obvious. They failed for much more fundamental strategy issues having to do with cross-border marketing. That’s what we are going to be focused on today.
What I’m going to do is, I’m going to hand this over to Sean Duffy. Are you there?
Sean: Great, thanks, Bob. Thank you. I’m going to cover eight traits that we find really give companies an advantage when they are marketing over borders. In truth, we could run an entire webinar on any one of these eight traits. What I’m hoping to accomplish today is to at least touch on them and trigger some thoughts on your end as you’re looking at your market, your foreign markets, either for companies that are currently marketing abroad, but wish they could do a little bit better, or for companies that haven’t gone abroad yet and are planning to enter new markets.
I hope the topics we bring up trigger some thoughts and maybe even further questions that we can explore at the end. Then, if there is not time, of course, we are happy to address them later offline. The first thing you might consider, really a basic question if you’re crossing borders, is why are you crossing borders? It sounds like a simple question, but identifying your objective in the markets you enter is fundamentally a deciding point, I think, as you start heading out into a foreign market. The starting point for a lot of companies is sales.
You can see that, if we look at sales only, you might identify an opportunity, you might say to yourself, “Hey, I think we can sell in this country,” because you have a good sales rep there, or because of a certain economic situation there, or some need evolves there. I would say that selling is the relatively easy part. In fact, with digital tools today, you can just play the numbers game and sell a lot, if you saturate the market with your message. Basically, if we look at these tactics, you can actually succeed in selling something. You’ll often see businesses like gambling sites or other impulse purchase type sites that are looking for a quick one-off transaction use this approach. They are not really trying to build a brand; they are just trying to move a product, to sell things. Of course, with that, you can use an aggressive AdWord campaign, you can just send tons of email out to everyone and statistically a certain percentage will click back. You can use re-targeted banners, or you could use social media platforms to sell your product. You can discount aggressively to move the product. This is basically the sales funnel approach. You draw a lot of people into the top, you spin them out at the bottom, and a certain percentage will always buy in between. That can add up, if that’s your approach.
If we look at a different approach, if we look at this (reference slide #10), which is what we’d consider to be a premium brand, you have to do something different. You have to do more things. If you are looking to develop a brand in a foreign market as opposed to just selling, then it’s a different story. To develop a premium brand, you want to ensure that you can establish and maintain a price that will make the effort profitable. So, that circle on top, maintaining the brand’s premium pricing integrity is something you really should think about before you go into that market. Will it be possible in that market not only to sell, but to sell at a high enough price so that it makes it worthwhile? Of course, the next factor is developing a reputation for your brand in that market. That does two things: It helps you hold on to the customers you’ve already invested in acquiring, and it also helps you gain new ones if the old ones are happy, especially today with the way that the internet works in peer-to-peer communication. This takes more than sales tactics. It really requires a much deeper understanding of the person you’re selling to and their market context, in order to develop these two things moving forward — higher price and brand equity.
The sales funnel really isn’t going to help you here. You’d need a more nuanced model, which is why we developed a model of our own over a decade ago that we use to help companies enter new markets, or at least to monitor progress in the market that they are in and diagnose problems. This might look like a lot, but it’s basically a blueprint for going into business. It spells out/outlines the ten conditions you’ll need to satisfy in order to acquire and retain customers in any given market. It also provides a logical framework for your strategic and tactical work, so you can start planning around at least a skeleton, and at least there is a template for your planning. I’ll just go through it really quick. If we start at the top, we are looking at inertia. At inertia, there are basically people out there who would benefit from your product, they would like to buy it, it fills a need for them, but they just don’t know about you yet. What we have to do as marketers in order to find those people is to do a really accurate segmentation, which we’ll talk about in a little bit. If you move beyond that, then they have to become aware of your brand. Online, that’s going to happen in one of three ways or, hopefully, all three of three ways: through paid advertising online, through organic search like Google, or through organic mentions, like on social media platforms where someone says what a great product you have. That just gets you seen.
The next thing is understanding, and understanding sounds like a simple thing, but it can be very difficult particularly in foreign markets. First of all, there is what category you are in. For instance, when we talk about categories, if you are selling watches, let’s say, having the category name watch probably won’t help you very much today because no one really looks for a watch, we typically look for a sports watch or diving watch, etc. If you are in a foreign market, you’ll need to know exactly what words consumers use to designate the category that your product is in. That also becomes important for search on your websites and elsewhere. You want to be using that word and be ranking in that country, in that language for that category word.
Bob: Sean, correct me if I am wrong, but I think the Segway is a good example of a brand that got a lot of awareness, but no understanding, correct?
Sean: Exactly. Segway was a product that was launched in the US. It had publicity for over a year ahead of time. Awareness of the product was, at least in the US, to the roof. When it launched, they failed to position. The manufacturer didn’t actually let anyone know exactly what it was used for and the consumer got all confused. Was it something to commute to work with? Was it a recreational vehicle? Have to drive it on the sidewalk? Should I ride it in the street with cars, like a motorcycle? That confusion really, it was an extreme business-wise, an extreme letdown for that company because none of us knew what to do with it. There was a way it could have been launched and we could have learned how to use it and what it was useful for, but it was overlooked. It seems obvious, but it’s really tricky. If you look at anything that Google puts out besides its core competency in search, and a good example is G+, the platform G+… It’s a great example of a product that none of us know what to do with. It’s not quite Facebook and it’s not quite LinkedIn, and we certainly don’t need a third platform to be posting on, but Google is famous for it, they have so much awareness. They get that almost for free, but they tend to relax a lot on positioning anything they put out. It’s why I think most of the products that they launch outside their core competency, information retrieval, wind up, or end up lagging behind usually.
That’s understanding. Now I understand what your product does, the next thing is interest. There are lots of products that do what your product does, so why should I be interested in that? That’s a hurdle you are going to have to overcome and quickly to find the people who are your target market in the foreign market— what makes your product different from the others and hopefully better at addressing their needs. That can relate to your value proposition and how you position the product against the other products in that market.
With positioning, it’s important, usually when we’re doing a global strategy for brands, we try to find a value proposition that will travel country to country. But, we know that the positioning almost never does because positioning is a relative thing. It’s in relation to the market, the target, and your competitors. And, you are really trying to find your space among the competitors and the other options that your target has already. You’ll find that it is rare that it will be identical one market to the next, so you should always be looking at your positioning strategy fresh for each new market. It doesn’t mean your brand changes. Your core brand values don’t change. It doesn’t necessarily mean your value proposition has to change, but positioning should be a local thing.
Then we go on to trust. Now, especially if you’re entering a market and there are four or five other brands that are already there that people have known all their lives, you have a pretty big job ahead of you to start to build trust in your brand. This is really where your brand story, recommendations from other people, and the familiarity and how often they see you, can start to build that trust over time. If they trust you enough, hopefully they’ll try your product. This really has a lot to do with the price and the place. Let’s say they try your product. This is the first sale, so we say that this is the first part where sales comes in. Everything I talked about before, we designate as marketing activity, not sales activity. Basically up to now, we’re generating leads, and then it’s up to sales to convert that lead with the right price and the right place and packaging, etc.
Then we get onto belief. What you want to have happened after the product is tried is the person says, “Wow, it’s exactly what you said it was.” Now, that move back when you told them what the key benefits were in support earlier on when you were getting their interest, you focused on the things where you really had a demonstrable value, and you really had a demonstrable difference. Any product will have 15 or 20 different attributes, so you’ve got to pick the one or two that, when they try it, they are going to say, “Wow, it really did what it said it would do.”
If you get past that, then you get to the point of affinity. If the consumer likes your product at that point, they are going to look for reasons to like the brand behind it. If they like the product, they are going to look for reasons to like the brand. It’s great if you can provide them with some of those reasons. This will have a lot to do with values and causes you might be into, if you are running sustainability programs, if you’re working with charities, etc. A lot of brands today make the mistake, I feel, starting with affinity way up around awareness, and really pushing themselves, their cause. I think that’s really not a good approach because until the consumer is convinced that you have a product that has a need for them, it’s immaterial. First, you have to have the need, and then to set that deeper. Affinity is a fantastic way to keep people, to retain customers.
Think of loyalty. Customers don’t want to keep on seeking out new brands. They want to decide on a brand and just stick with it. It’s one less decision to make in the course of the day, so that has a lot to do with keeping up your quality control, reinforcing the values you offer, making sure that your product remains in stock and available, etc. With digital today, we can go one step further. We can take word-of-mouth and put it on steroids, if you will, across the Internet by really amplifying the message when people like the brand. We really want to turn our loyal customers into advocates. That means getting them online talking about us, getting them recommending us on their Facebook pages, getting them to leave their comments in blog posts about our product, and really helping them. It’s not just passive. We can actually do many things today digitally to encourage people. For instance, if you run a contest, let’s say you are selling crayons and you run a contest saying show us pictures of your children’s crayon drawings, and whichever one gets the most votes will win a trip to Disneyland. That would get most parents online advocating to ask their friends to go and vote for their son’s or daughter’s picture, which really can spread the message out about the crayons and about the trip.
There are ways you can basically help that along. The endgame with this is you want to start collecting people in what we call the advocacy loop, where they keep on buying and they keep on talking about the product. They keep on buying and talking. Best example of that probably is Apple, and the way they do it is with innovation. We probably don’t need new phones every year or every six months or whatever the schedule Apple is on, but they come out with them and people buy them. We are in this innovation loop, where they keep on upping the ante. They make it more, the next version is always a little bit more seductive than the one before, and they keep people at least talking, and probably buying, if not every cycle, then every other cycle or so. They make it look easy. It’s extremely difficult to do, but that’s where you want to start collecting people in that advocacy loop. You basically have grown a huge fan base in the new market you are in, and, of course, your repeat sales are where you really start to make money. That’s the cycle.
Bob: There is this idea that some brands focus so much on sales through the tactics in the AdWords campaigns and banners and selling on social. It sounds like that there is a lot of activity and revenue coming in, but there is not a whole lot of profit. If they focus more on this building brand equity, they are going to have revenue and, more importantly, they’ll be making money.
Sean: Absolutely. It’s not uncommon for us to start working with a client who rushed into several markets or is making revenue, but their profits have been eroding from the first day, and now they are basically not getting any, less and less interest in them, so then they have to try to bring that up. It’s easier to start thinking about building brand equity and maintaining your margin from the start than it is to come in to answer the problem instead and then try to fix it.
I’ve given some questions at the end of each section, which are basic questions you should think about in each one of these areas. I call them the pre-launch checklist. The point here is that companies often assess new markets based only on sales, but if you’re building a premium brand, you have a very different question. That is not just, can we sell our product here, but, can we develop a premium brand here? That’s an entirely different question that will get you looking at different matters that you’d otherwise probably ignore. That’s a little academic. Let’s move on to the next point, which is appeal. A very basic question, an obvious question: Does your product have appeal beyond your home market? I can give you an example of a product called Kalles Kaviar. (reference slide #13)
This is an iconic Swedish brand. It’s found in almost every Swedish home. It is to Sweden what typically peanut butter is to the States or perhaps Marmite is to the UK or Vegemite is to Australia, except Kalles is fish eggs dispensed like toothpaste and eaten for breakfast. It comes in a number of flavors, like this one, which is banana. I don’t have any data on this, but I’m going to guess that the concept is banana-flavored caviar in a tube for breakfast may not travel very well, at least not to the US.
Culturally-based dietary habits put real restrictions on where this brand can be creating a market for itself. If we go on, this is an obvious thing that it’s something that you should probably bear in mind before you leave your home markets. Is your product popular in your home market? If it’s not popular there, leaving home might not solve that problem for you. Second, does your product address the need that it’s common outside your current geographic market? You should really look at that closely. I wouldn’t just assume that because it’s popular at home, it’ll be popular elsewhere.
If your product has appeal, is it restricted to people of a specific culture or a specific language? This brings us to the next area, which is segmentation. This is critically important. It’s where everything starts and it’s where we always start. After it was identified as a market opportunity, we look at how we are going to get that brand to where we want it to go. There are a lot of countries in the world and where do you start? The good news is that even a friend like Kalles Kaviar can find a market for itself if it does have a proper geographic segmentation. I’d love to give you a formula, but, in our experience, there’s really an art to segmentation. It’s hard to say, “Here is the formula, just do this, it will work for all products.”
If I give you an example on that side, if we look at Kalles Kaviar, for starters, you probably want to look for people who eat a lot of fish, those who their diet consists of lot of fish. You could start to segment the world, as this map does, by fish consumption. You have to be a little careful when doing this. If you look at Brazil, you’ll see that it’s one of the lowest fish consuming nations when compared to Australia or Canada. Based on that, you might just neglect Brazil altogether, but, of course Brazil is, and this data is national, Brazil is a big country; it has a lot of diversity. If you looked at the Northeast region of Brazil, it has a population of 54 million people, which makes it the same or bigger than Australia or Canada. This region consumes three times much fish as the rest of Brazil. That makes this countryside region among the world’s top fish consumers. But, there is no way to see that unless you delve a little deeper. Of course, even if you like fish, you might not like Kalles Kaviar, so you might want to cross reference your list of fish-consuming regions with groups with similar products. Is there a fish taste that’s very popular on that market? Is eating fish for breakfast very popular in that market?
Even if people are predisposed to like your product in those markets, there could be laws or import regulations that pose additional challenges to you. You might want to add that to your cross segmentation filters as well. This is the point, it’s really an art. You should try to be creative and insight-driven when you are doing the segmentation.
Bob: I think the big takeaway here is that my children in the US are eating peanut butter and your children are eating caviar for breakfast. Is that what’s going on in Sweden?
Sean: Yeah. Yes. That’s pretty much it. It’s hard, when I moved to Sweden, it was hard for me to imagine that people thought peanut butter wasn’t a great thing to have on toast for breakfast. Of course, a lot of marketers might feel that as well. Basically, segmentation, do you have a geographic market segmentation to help you identify reasons of opportunities? Can your product be legally sold in these geographic markets? What legal or regulatory issues might apply?
Adapt. When you think about marketing, a lot of people define marketing as promotion, but, if you remember, marketing is actually the adaptation of product, price, place, and promotion in relation to the market that you are looking at. Actually you might discover differences in different markets, but that’s only half the battle.
The other thing is actually adapting your marketing mix, those four things, to accommodate those differences. I find this isn’t just about your ability to adapt; it’s really about your willingness to do so. It’s often a mindset thing. A good example of this is IKEA (reference slide #19).
They were really struggling when they arrived in America, in the United States anyhow, because they made a lot of assumptions about the US market as well as Canada that were pretty far off. They were looking at their success in Sweden, in the Nordics and even Europe, and then applying that model to the US. One of the more glaring missteps I think they made was that for many years they were selling king and queen-sized beds to Americans. The only problem was that a European king or queen is not the same size as an American king and queen; they are a little bit smaller. For IKEA management in the US, this was a huge issue. They got hundreds of complaints every week and it was really eroding their sales and their brand equity. You can imagine the frustration: You drive all the way out to IKEA to buy your mattress or sheets, and then you get them home and realize they don’t fit. In many states in the US, you can’t return bed linen or mats, so that could be a significant issue.
We were working with IKEA at the time when this was going on, and we were often caught in the middle between the folks in the US at IKEA and the folks at Älmhult in Sweden at the headquarters. They had the ability to change this readily. They could have changed it in a couple of months, but what they lacked was the willingness. It was really a mindset issue that was causing a lot of frustration with the American organization. One day I was at the headquarters in Sweden, I just asked the person in charge of the beds in Sweden. I said, “Why do you persist when it’s clear that this is really bad for business?” Her reply was epic. It was, “We will “learn” the Americans that prophesize their beds.” Meaning basically that the market will adapt to us, which, even for IKEA, is absurd. It might be possible perhaps that they could do that in Sweden maybe, but they certainly couldn’t do it in the States—especially being a new brand trying to introduce themselves and build their brand there. A few years later, they did switch to American sizes. In the first twelve months, they saw, I think it was a 700% increase in sales, needless to say. Some people indicated it’s in back of the envelope calculations and with the amount of money that they had lost in the interim, not to mention the reputation and customers who will never come back, and then it’s a staggering figure. Let me put it that way.
If you’re looking to go to a new market, I think there are two issues to look at versus the willingness. Is there an understanding in your company of the need to adapt both marketing strategy and marketing mix in response to the market? That will be like the positioning we talked about, and maybe changing the product to suit the market better. Not only radical change, because if you change it enough, you’ll be probably moving away from your brand. It’s not bad; it’s just making small adjustments so that it feels better. The second is ability. Is your company capable of making those changes?
The Internet has provided amazing benefits to companies over borders. The way that you can capitalize on these benefits is really to be digitally proficient. If you do that, I think a couple of things are going to happen. The first is you are going to find it easier and less expensive and less risky to get into the market. Once you are there, you’d be able to compete a lot better because, chances are, some of the people in that market will be more digitally proficient than you are and/or they are on their home turf. Things that we list here, you could see are things you should be thinking about having in place before you meet. They don’t have to be perfect, but at least you’ve got the infrastructure set up.
If we go to architecture, once you’ve set up your digital infrastructure, you have to architect it when you’re going outside your home market in a way that you don’t have to think about when you are working domestically. This is basically how we organize our online presence. You can have websites, maybe Facebook pages, maybe Instagram accounts, email accounts, etc. How are you organizing those in the different markets that you are in? I think a good example of this was the launch of this diet pill called Alli that we worked with.
The initial brief from the US was to develop a pan-European launch targeting women, but, as you know, if you are living in Europe, there is no such thing as a quote “European” – at least in practice. People in France and Italy or Sweden and Spain have different – they live in different – market realities. Particularly in this case when it comes to dieting, you can imagine women’s ideas about bodyweight, dieting, taking pills, etc. vary considerably from one European country to the next. That’s the thing, nothing about the food habits, which were critical to this product since we did a lot of online content around recipes every week. We needed to first understand the differences by visiting each country and talking to the women and really getting our heads around what their take on all these issues were – and they were quite different. Then, we needed to develop launch plans and online assets for each individual country. We didn’t stray far from the brand, but its little, the nuance changes that we made made a huge difference and helped the target understand that this product was for them. It shot up to number one within a year or even less. It was the number one diet pill in Europe and it worked well.
If we look at it, this is a good rule of thumb, I think. When you are setting up your web assets, like a website and Facebook pages, the kneejerk reaction, I think, for most companies is to mirror your sales segment, how you set up your sales departments. They often have this thing called EMEA, a Europe, Middle East, and Africa site. There will be a site, it will even say in the top sometimes, our EMEA site. However, do any of us really consider ourselves an EMEA? Do you have the same needs as someone in some of these other regions in EMEA? There could be a lot of differences. That’s why creating assets in this way is really not a good idea. It seems convenient from the company’s side, but from the user side, it can be a nightmare. It just reinforces the fact that you don’t really get me or understand me. We try to set up assets in our architecture in a way that the target can self-identify it and will relate best to it. That really means driving for an architecture that makes sense to the target. It tries to communicate to them in their language and it tries to deliver localized content, so it’s more relevant to them. We understand, of course, it is their time and the cost implications for doing that, but at least this should be the goal that you are striving to get to.
That brings up the topic, of course, of translation. The question you asked me, “Is that really the best option?” Bob began this talk with talking about blunders in translation. If we had some simple advice, it would be to never translate. I’m not saying you shouldn’t adapt to the local language, but there are other ways, better options. If we look at the next slide, you can see what those options are. In broad strokes, there are three people you can turn to for helping you get your language sorted out for the different markets you are in.
On the left side, you have translators, and these are linguistic experts. They are executionally-focused, and they are the least expensive. You’ll get a product from them that is grammatically correct, for sure. But, if you think about it, when you’re writing, investing in professional copy, you are really investing in its ability to be related to by the target as well as to motivate them. Those are the first two qualities that are lost in translation. You want to find a better way to do that.
Translators typically, I’m sure there are translators who have a different opinion, but in our experience, we’ve actually done a study on this, using straight translation houses versus adaptors versus copywriters. The nuance, the writing nuance, and the motivational aspect tend to get washed out. On the other extreme, you could go to copywriters, so you can go to a local ad agency and say, “Hey, look at this, we developed this ad. Can you adapt it for us?” What they are going to do is this: With professional copywriters usually his skill or her skill is inventing, conceptualizing new ideas, and new ways to communicate. They may tend to overwork the problem and they are the most expensive. They often reinvent the wheel, which causes problems, and, if you are dealing with three or four, five, six different countries, it can be really impossible to deal with and to manage.
In the middle, there is someone called an adapter, and these are people who have the grammatical skill of a translator, but they also have, I’d say, the writing skills and the motivational skills of a copywriter. They can write that little point. They won’t reinvent the wheel, but they’ll make it work in any other than your language. There are several companies who do this very well. A lot of them, we use four or five different companies, most of them are in London, one in Paris, who are very good.
I can give you an example. If we look at this, this ad was an ad we did for Saab many years ago, but I like it because at that time oxygen bars were a big deal in America. There were bars we’d go in, and instead of buying a drink, we buy a canister of oxygen. We were releasing a cabriole for Saab and we got this one: a nice headline for the campaign, and it tested really well in the States (reference slide 32). It’s impossible to translate that, of course, and there is an idea out there that you should be using some sort of mid-Atlantic English, whatever that is, that’s really simple and easy to translate. But, what that means is you are writing headlines that don’t motivate anybody basically, but they are really easy to translate. But, you don’t want to be writing for the translator. This is how we adapted this ad for Sweden. You don’t need to speak Swedish, I think, to see how they did it, Saab versus Claustrophobia. That is no way to translate obviously oxygen bar to claustrophobia. But, the adapter, he was a really skilled adaptor, understood the concept and just used the Swedish context to communicate the same thing. If we are looking at that, we want to make sure that you (if we go to the next slide checklist, reference slide #34) avoid translation when you are doing mass communication, distinguish between translators, adaptors, and creators, and make sure you have reliable providers of each. You’ll need all three at one point.
Optimize the country, the language for each language they are speaking, don’t make it something that’s in the middle. Focus onto bringing ideas into other cultural contexts as opposed to translating words into other languages, if it’s a better way to look at it. Always get back translation, just to make sure.
The last point is assumptions. If you see a picture that’s wonderful (reference slide #36), this really makes this principle real for me. Take this, a pool, it’s a hot day, and you’re in a familiar place, and you come across this pool. You might jump up there and dive in, but when you dive in, you are not thinking about it, but you are actually making a whole bunch of assumptions. You can see on the next slide.
That swimming is permitted, there is water free of microbes and in suitable temperature, pH, chemical toxins. Is that really a diving board? Can it support your weight? Diving allowed? Is your swimwear allowed? Are you specifically, you were particularly invited into that pool? Are there hidden obstacles under the water you can’t see? Is there an animal in the water? Is there enough water? Is there three meters of water under that diving board? If you’re in a familiar place, your hometown, or let’s say a place in Florida where you’d go off, you wouldn’t even think of that, you’d just jump in. But, what about the diving board, this pool is in Tanzania?
Some of the things you are taking for granted in this list might not apply. I can speak from experience. Actually I was in Mexico, I was at a hotel, I came down, I saw the pool, I jumped off the diving board, and there was three feet of water. I dived in and I almost broke my neck. I had the assumption from where I come from that it’s illegal to have a diving board without 12 feet of water under it. Obviously that wasn’t the same or wasn’t enforced in this small town I was visiting in New Mexico, but a pointed reminder nonetheless.
Bob: It’s a good illustration of these invisible things that I mentioned at the beginning of this talk that you don’t see, they are much less obvious, but are much more damaging, of course.
Sean: Exactly. That’s the point, the real danger of these is that you don’t see them. You would never think of those things before you dove in the water, which is why it really helps to have a third-party helping you, being your eyes to see the things that you’re blind to, and you will be blind going through any market in almost every case. No matter how well you might feel you know the market, it’s good to get an outside perspective. This step is actually quantified. There is this Hofstede’s cultural equivalent scale, numbers debates over how accurate this is, but, in general, this professor has made this scale where he rates different countries on these different matrixes. This is how China, for instance, compares to Sweden on these different things. If we go to the next slide, we’ll see how France compares. I just want you to notice on the middle, there is a masculinity scale. That is basically looking at the differences between men and women and basically how, you could say, how macho in a sense the culture is. We see that, when compared to most countries, what lies between gender identities are a little bit more rigid in China. That might be something you might want to think of. I bring that to your attention because if you look at this, there is a case study done between L’Oréal and Clairol, the beauty brands. They both went into China. L’Oréal did great, but Clairol failed miserably.
A study was conducted and they found that the Chinese men simply couldn’t relate to Clairol’s brand and the brand image. It was the opposite for L’Oréal, which was really what they thought was the reason. If you look at the L’Oréal packaging (and the promotion was the same), but they have this man. L’Oréal, which is a French company, used a Chinese man’s idea of an aspirational man, and this was a celebrity who was a macho celebrity. Clairol, which is also a French company, used a Parisian’s idea of an aspirational man. But, remember the Hofstede’s scale. This is what they used. This man, for them in Paris or France, wherever, this was aspirational. The study showed that Chinese men looked at this guy and just couldn’t figure him out. They didn’t know actually what he was, but they sure didn’t want to smell like him. It’s a great example of being led astray by your own cultural assumptions and data. I think if they had tested this, that would have come out in the wash much earlier and saved them a lot.
Bob: We have two minutes to go. Why don’t you wrap this up, and I’m going to take a look at what questions have been asked. Maybe we can fit in a couple of questions.
Sean: I think basically the one takeaway from today would be the extent to which you understand your target, their needs and expectations, and the cultural context will really dictate the success. If that’s not challenging enough, you should remember that, in many cases, you’ll be competing against locals who understand that culture infinitely better than you do upon going in. They will use that against you once you’re in that market. The best way to manage this, of course, research is the starting point, but is not the end. It’s really getting on an airplane and spending time with the target in their environment and gaining insights and continually doing that. The more understanding you have, the clearer assumptions you’ll make, and then the less mistakes you’ll make. It’s really worth investing the time and resources you need to do that.
Bob: Great. Thanks, Sean. We actually have a lot of questions here, not a lot of time, but I think we have time for a couple. Actually a couple of people have asked, you talk about the importance of getting these insights before you start implementing anything or creating even a strategy. Do you have a specific way of getting these insights?
Sean: Our methods, we never outsource target market research. We always want to be able to go out and face the client one on one. A good example is, we were dealing with a drug that helps heroin addicts get off it. It is equivalent to methadone, but it’s better. We had a meeting at the company, the drug manufacturer, and we talked about all the advantages we have over methadone. They were very rational things. Your chance of dying from an overdose is almost minimal because you can’t overdose on this, while you can overdose on methadone. There were sexual dysfunction issues that didn’t happen with this drug that did happen with methadone. There were heart issues that didn’t happen with this drug.
These were all advantages, and there were twelve of them actually. We were sitting, we were trying to decide which one of these is best and, of course, our stance was that we can’t decide this, we have to go to the market. I went to Brixton, which is a poor area of – I know it’s a quarry but it’s an area of London where we were able to access a number of heroin users, people who were addicted to heroin. I spent about a month talking to them and the insights I got were phenomenal. And, that the truth is none of those twelve things, none of them, were influencing their decisions. There was one thing none of us saw and it was described to us as willpower. They said, when I take this pill, I can’t take – heroin will have no effect in me for the rest of the day, I struggle with willpower. If I take this pill, I’m basically…it requires five minutes of willpower when I wake up and I’m covered for the day. That was it, and there was nothing any of us, none of the research showed that, but it was consistent in every single person I spoke with. It’s really getting on the ground and really talking to people and getting the insight because there is not really a report or formula that you can do that with otherwise.
Bob: Unfortunately, I am sorry to say we are out of time. However, there have been a few questions about will we be uploading the PowerPoint. Within 30 minutes, a recording of this webinar will be hosted on BrightTALK, so you’ll have that, which will be basically the PowerPoint and voice.
In any case, thanks to everybody for coming today; thank you, Sean, and please feel free to contact Sean or me if you have any other questions or would like to continue the discussion later on. We are going to be checking to see what are the questions that we missed and we’ll reach out to those who we were unable to address about their questions.
Thank you everybody for attending and have a good rest of the day. Thank you. Thanks, Sean.
Sean: Thanks Bob. Thank you.
Bob: Take care. Bye-bye.