Friday 28 February 2014

The crispy duck theory

Nine days spent in Shanghai and Beijing traffic jams were not a waste of time but actually the best way to develop our mission in China: to deliver a clear Brand Positioning for Fiat in the Middle Kingdom.

It was not our first overseas visit to deliver Brand thinking. We have also been to India, once for Fiat, once for Jeep, we also went to Korea to launch the Fiat Brand. On each occasion we faced different cultures, different market situations, new problems to solve and thus fresh strategies to devise.

The key question we are asked hasn’t changed: “How can you achieve effective Brand Positioning in countries where you don’t live, where you don’t speak the language, where you don’t even know the culture?”
Actually the answer is pretty simple. When we arrive in a country, we do what the locals and the HQ people have no time to do: humbly listen and observe.
We meet all the people working locally - the management, the marketing team, the production team, the dealers, the PR people, the advertising & media agencies, some buyers and non-buyers.

Interestingly we discovered that all these people, who don’t generally share with each other, often have the same perception of where the problems lie. All these people are committed to what they do and have ideas about what should be done to improve the business, yet no one takes the time to listen to them. They do not get the whole picture but every one holds part of the puzzle.
Identifying the problem is for us the starting point of the thinking.

The local marketing teams are always good professionals, they know the market, they can put together some interesting powerpoints about the market and the target.
The target, that’s the second point. Without a target there can be no strategy. So we go to the places where the target goes, restaurants, shops, their leisure places, to enrich the surveys with our own perception.
The third step is to listen to the HQ guys. They’ve got the global vision. Generally they want the local strategy to fit the global vision. This is the wrong way to do things. What we do is make the global vision fit with the local reality.

Then we get back to Paris and pull the strands together. Now the hard work begins. Now we must get everyone agreed on the strategy, through conference calls based on the powerpoints we devise.

There are three to five steps, one per week, to get everyone onboard with the Brand strategy, the Brand platform and the Brand claim.
From appointment to delivery, it takes no more than 2 months.
Then the local advertising and PR agencies go to work to turn the Brand platform and Brand Claim into communication material.
And it works!