Archive for March, 2011

microMARKETING Maven at the NYAMA’s “Meet The Author Series”

This morning we were delighted to have Greg Verdino at the NYAMA’s Meet The Author Series.  Greg is the author of “microMARKETING” (McGraw-Hill), a very smart new book about the strategies companies and agencies can explore to succeed in the digital world.

What made Greg such a delight is that he’s a natural storyteller.  Nobody wanted to stop listening and leave when we came to the end of the session.  There’s nothing more wonderful than listening to someone who has something important to say and can say it a way that engages and entertains.  Kudos to Greg!

microMARKETING by Greg Verdino

If you haven’t browsed through Greg’s book at, or or Amazon — or even in a real honest to goodness bookstore — then I’ll give you the sneak peak.  Here it is:

The Seven Shifts From Mass To Micro

from Mass Communications to Masses of Communications

from Media Networks to the Network Effect

from Interruptions to Interactions

from Prime Time to Real Time

from Reach to Relationships

from Awareness to Attention

from One Big Thing to the Right Small Things

You might have missed Greg this morning because the alarm didn’t go off, the dog had to be dragged out for a walk in the rain or the taxi kidnapped you and took you ten blocks out of the way. The good news is you can buy the book.

The next author is our series is David Rogers, director of the BRITE Conference at Columbia Business School.  He will be talking about his new book “The Network is Your Customer: 5 Strategies for Brands in a Digital Age”  That’s on Thursday morning, April 13th from 8 am to 9:30 am.  Sign-up at

All Context Is Cultural: Part 2

The last time I was in Beijing was shortly before the summer Olympics.  When I had some free time I walked around, observing the changes that the city had undergone since my previous visits.  Towards dinner time on one of my walks,  I was feeling particularly hungry for pizza.  Being a New Yorker, pizza is comfort food.  I went into a Pizza Hut, where there was a line of people waiting to be seated.  When my turn came, I was shown to a table, handed a menu.  I observed the people around me while waiting for the food to come.  At some tables there were couples, dressed as if to impress each other on a first date.  There were families, also well-dressed.  I suddenly became self-conscious of my own appearance.  Not that I was an American but that I was very casually dressed in jeans and running shoes.

What I observed was Pizza Hut adapting to the local cultural, where going out to dinner was reserved for special occasions.

For brands to succeed across different cultures, they need to adopt and adapt.  Understanding these differences requires careful observation and non-judgmental perspective.

Disney is a great example of an American brand trying to export Americana to a different culture.  EuroDisney was the company’s first theme park outside of the U.S.A.  The cultural conflict flared up as soon as the location, in France, was announced.  In the first years of the park, again and again, Disney stubbed their toes on the local culture.   For instance, EuroDisney did not serve wine or beer at their restaurants during the first year of operations.  Alcohol was almost antithetical to the Disney brand heritage.  You could sense Disney had an almost Puritanical judgment about wine.  However, faced with poor attendance, EuroDisney adapted to the local culture in the second year.

While many of the EuroDisney executives were culturally attuned, the overall Disney organization wasn’t.  The business model was to bring the American Disneyland to Europe.  Had the organization as a whole been more attuned, they would have realized that France has nearly perfected an art form of criticizing the shallow and inauthentic Hollywood culture.  EuroDisney learned through trial and error that success meant re-interpreting the Disney brand to adapt to the local cultures.  And that meant suspending judgement about the local culture.


All Context is Cultural

Who is this man?

What's my line?

Here’s a real example of how cultural context shapes the way we see and understand the world.

This image was actually used in a multinational qualitative study on branding.  People were given given a stack of photographs which included many different types of people, some famous and some anonymous.  Each person in the study was given the option of using any of the photos when creating a collage about a specific brand.

This photo was used by a substantial number of people across multiple countries.  But it was selected for very different reasons, strongly driven by cultural context.

No surprise that in Western Europe and the US that it was easily recognized as Albert Einstein, and people used it when they saw the brand having the qualities of genius, brilliance, or even eccentricity.

In South Africa and some South American countries it was selected when people felt the brand appealed to older people, particularly lower income.  It was never recognized as Albert Einstein.

So who is this?  Albert Einstein or an old man?  All of the interpretations are right.  The answer truly depends on your cultural context.

Oh, and for those of you who thought it was Peter Sellers disguised as a dentist in The Pink Panther Strikes Again.  Well, the resemblance is remarkable.

Peter Sellers




Global Branding vs. A World of Unique Cultures

Last night I was asked about how global branding is reconciled with the real differences between cultures and countries.  I was asked this by half a dozen people who had lived in China, Israel, Singapore, France and Queens (okay, the outer boroughs of NYC are only a foreign country to people who live in the City).

Some context — last night I was at the Media Networking Night up at Columbia University.  It drew a large crowd to Low Library, a group of people from about as many cultures as you could imagine.  The purpose of the evening was for students and alumni to meet with executives from a wide range of media companies, including ABC, MTV Networks, Nippon TV, Random House, NY Times, The Barbarian Group, Ruder-Finn, New York Design Center, Tribeca Film Institute, Epic Records, AOL, Huffington Post, Digitas — and Verse Group!

So back to the Global vs. Cultural question.  The simple answer is that there is no simple answer.  And that is important because what works for IBM will not work for Kellogg’s.


Consider that IBM is selling to IT professionals — people who tend have have more in common in terms of their education, needs and specialized technical language (generally in English).  IBM is also selling products that are almost identical around the world, with compatible protocols so they mesh with other systems in different countries.  Culture has relative low influence on attitudes about IT.

Kellogg’s is selling food to a wide range of people in each country, old and young, tall and short, across all the usual markers of socio-economics.  Culture has a huge influence on taste preferences, foods people eat, even when they eat.  In Battle Creek people eat cold breakfast with milk, milk, milk.  In China they eat a hot breakfast, and drink relatively small amounts of milk.  The low milk drinking is a combination of high levels of lactose intolerance as well as a culture where milk was very expensive so eating habits evolved without it.

Here we touched on two of the considerations in global branding:

1. Product category: weak influence of culture in IT infrastructure or strong influence like food.

2. Target audience:  similar across countries like IT engineers or diverse like the general populations.

Now try explaining that in a throng of hundreds of people in the echoing acoustics of Columbia’s Low Library!

Meet the Authors

At the NYAMA we are starting a new series, “Meet the Authors”.  Each month we will have a breakfast and conversation with an author of a recent and important book on marketing.  You can sign up for them on the website,

The first two authors are Greg Verdino on March 31st and David Rogers on April 13th.

Thursday, March 31, 2011: A conversation with author Greg Verdino, author of  “microMarketing: Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011:  A conversation with David Rogers, director of the BRITE conference and author of the new book, “The Network is Your Customer: 5 strategies for brands in a digital age




The BRITE-ness never ends!

Here is what Nancy Lazarus over at MediaBistro’s PRNewser wrote about Day One of the BRITE conference last week.  She was covering the 7 Digital Trends presentation by Steve Rubel of Edelman Digital:

Storytelling is evolving across media platforms: Given new technology, stories are not always told chronologically as everyone accesses different points of information. He suggested providing employees and customers with compelling stories and tailoring them to each social community.

7 Digital Trends Worth Your Attention – PRNewser


A BRITE holdover

I am delighted to share that David Rogers, the Executive Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership — the group who put on BRITE — will be giving a talk about his new book at the NYAMA on April 12th.

This is the first in the new Author Series that the New York American Marketing Association is presenting.  Once a month we will be hosting an author of new and important books related to marketing.  You can learn more about the series and sign up at

David Rogers's new book

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