When I was a young fellow, basically just starting out on my first job at an international company (which today is one of the world leaders in the Enterprise B2B space), one day my boss told me that I need to go to America to learn the real deal about marketing. His goal was to transform the small German software company into a global player and he was convinced that the USA were the best place for that.
He told me that only Americans can sell a freezer to Eskimos and that this skill set might help his company to convince the Americans to buy European made software. He also believed that if we were successful in the U.S. we would then win everywhere.
My first answer to him was: “No way!”. I loved my home country Switzerland, being close to my family and friends and I competed in Snowboard Racing. None of this I wanted to give up. Well, he told me gently that this was not a suggestion but an order. After all he was Captain in the Swiss Army and 2 weeks later I found myself landing at the airport in Philadelphia with my suitcase, a mattress…yes a mattress…my bike, a snowboard and some of my beloved paintings.
Marketing was indeed different in the US. Everything was bold and loud and salesmanship was perceived as art, while in Europe Sales was often seen as a “dirty” door-to-door job, back in the day. In the US, Sales seemed to understand the value of marketing and our job as Marketeers was to make sure America knew what we had to offer, so Sales would not need to make as many cold calls.
America is a big country and you can communicate/market your solutions and services directly, broadly and efficiently. One language, one cultural belief, one open society, one large market place. Ideal attributes to market anything. I think Europeans, Latin and Asian marketers have it much more difficult. Many languages, huge cultural differences, closed societies, tremendous cultural and historical legacies, many nations. Everybody is doing their own thing even though there is a European Union and other economic clusters.
One day, I was attending a seminar at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia. The keynote speaker, Roberto Civita, Brazil’s Media Mogul, mentioned that Brazilians tell the Americans that we all are Latins. “So it would be easier for the Americans to deal with us. However, the truth is, we don’t have much in common with Mexicans or Peruvians, and we don’t have certainly anything in common with Argentines nor Caribbean’s. Our culture is actually more similar to Germany or America”. Roberto stated a really good point.
Technology companies such as Facebook, Google, Adobe, HP, SAP and many start ups are certainly key players with their reach, scale and localization possibilities. Global banks, insurances, retailers and last but not least governments will be players too as they are global with local reach. Technology will be an enabler and bring efficiencies and automation but you still need the best people, who are able to take all these structured and unstructured data and make it relevant for the local potential and ever-changing buyer.
I believe that Europeans but also Latins and some Asian countries such as Singapore have a slight advantage because they are used to different cultural backgrounds and languages on a daily basis, and are forced – whether they liked it or not – to adapt their marketing strategies to be local and culturally sensitive.
In America this type of localization is not needed, although there are trends emerging like marketing to Spanish speaking audiences, immigrants or other minority groups.
My overall belief is that today the best marketing teams are truly diverse. A balanced mix of different countries, cultural backgrounds and languages is a must have. Too often, the global corporate marketing teams of big American headquartered operations are mainly staffed with Americans. The key to future success in my eyes is to “marry” the American art of Marketing as a science supported by data technology tools with the cultural sensitivity and localization know-how of European/Latin/Asian Marketeers.