Yeah Dad, But They’re From Akron…


In my adolescent years, a fan favorite amongst my friends was the series of “Vacation” movies with Chevy Chase for all of the subtle , sophomoric one-liners, laced with double-entendre. Being from the Akron area made the European Vacation movie especially fun – if you can write to me and tell me about the scene I quote in the title above, I have a special prize (HINT: the prize is an invite that starts with a “G” and ends in “+”).

What does Where we are from, say about Who we are?

For centuries, the difference between friend and foe was often as simple as geographic boundaries. There was no thought given to the trials and tribulations, aspirations and dreams, or the wants and desires of “the others” only the belief that they must be conquered. Sad to say, many of today’s leading consumer brands still feel this way. These brands have been extremely succesful at conquering the U.S. and maybe a few other “mature” markets, but when it comes to global expansion, they are learning that a one-size fits all approach will not work.

Will “What plays in Peoria“, play in Singapore?

The motivations and aspirations of the consumer sector vary greatly from region to region, and again from country to country, and yet again when comparing urban and rural consumers within a single country. We all know this is true and inherently understand it by being a part of it – in the U.S. that means red states, blue states, and even “green” states, but diving deeper exposes distinct groups even within the states, counties, cities, and even neighborhoods. So how do you know how various population groups will respond to your call-to-action? It seems obvious to most of us the differences between New Jersey, Manhattan, and Long Island – but given the close geographic proximity to each other this could be difficult for a non-American (or non-East Coaster) to understand that the three groups of consumers in these areas couldn’t be more different. The same could be said for a wider geography – say we compared the attitudes and aspirations of consumers in the major metropolitan areas of New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston – talk about three different worlds; and this doesn’t account for the Bible Belt, the Rust Belt, or much less anyone not in the hustle bustle of the northeast. A product launch in NYC will (and should) look very different than one in Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, or L.A. And what about the population segments in the suburbs of those cities – surely you can see how complex and challenging it is to identify the right consumer audience in a country where you’ve never lived.

Don’t forget – I have Google+ invites for those that tell me about the scene I quote in the title above…

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If the World is Flat, why do you need a Sherpa?


Flat Earth Sherpa

By now, I am sure you all have read The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Friedman?  If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend you read it right away – it will change the way you think about the future that is already here.  With that said, the basic premise that I took away from the book in a single sentence is that technology has essentially “flattened” the  Earth by enabling real-time collaboration on a global basis. The concept of a small manufacturer in India, sourcing raw materials in China, perhaps on Alibaba, with funding via micro loan from the UK, and selling finished goods on eBay to an American consumer is now a reality.

This is where the irony enters.

This new flat Earth has been a tremendous enabler for small and medium-sized businesses, but has muddied the waters for much larger companies.  I spend a great deal of my time consulting with some of the world’s largest and most recognizable consumer brands, and for the most part these companies recognize and are actively trying to exploit this new flat Earth, but frankly they have no idea how to choose the best countries for expansion, how to maximize growth for those countries they are already in, and in either case, how to navigate the myriad of technology, data, cultural, legal and consumer privacy challenges.

Hence, the need for a Sherpa (hint: ME).

If your company or if you have a client that is facing these types of Global Expansion challenges in this new flat earth, please let me know – I can lead the way.

It has been a while since I have posted an article, and I certainly have no shortage of topics to write about; the fact remains that  I simply do not have enough time in the day.  And to add insult to injury, my travel schedule and client load keeps me flush with article ideas, but  no time to write about them.  I actually did some of the final editing for this post on my new iPhone 4 (more on that in future articles) while my son drank his milk and watched Little Einsteins from my lap!

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and keep your eyes open for a few rapid-fire posts over the next week or so – having not written in a while, they will be based on my travels and observations over the last couple of months.  Don’t forget to leave your comments and provide feedback.

Thank you for reading and Happy Hunting!

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