Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Global Communication is key to a Global Brand


Globalizing a brand is key to globalizing your business. Social media and Web 2.0 allows consumers - and their sentiments/beliefs - to instantly span borders and boundaries. The days of fragmented markets are coming to a close. Smart companies - those that build true global brands - recognize the imperative of launching global branding and PR initiatives. What a consumer in Tokyo thinks, can quickly impact the behavior of consumers in Toronto or Tel Aviv.
View the global marketplace as a single unit (albeit with geographic and demographic niche markets), and virtually any brand (or concept) can be globalized.

-Josef Blumenfeld

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Strategic PR is more vital than ever


It may be the "gutsy chief marketing officer" that invests in brand-building - but it's the wise one that invests in public relations. At a time when public confidence is eroding - in government, our financial structures, the future in general - the companies that strengthen the public's perception of their brand portfolios are the ones that will better weather this storm. Strategic PR efforts can engage consumers in a unique and targeted way - helping strengthen market support for key brands. The cost for brand-building through PR (rather than advertising as the "smooth talkers on Madison Avenue" are recommending) is far less onerous...but can produce far greater results.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Going Global Column in Fast Company's Blog Counters Wall Street Journal's Depiction of Business Climate in India


India has been in the news a lot lately. Whether it’s the cast of the UK TV show, Big Brother, being accused of racism towards the only Indian on set; or India’s Tata Steel buying Corus, the Anglo-Dutch steel group for $13.7 billion; or speculation that a nuclear India could counterbalance Iran and help stabilize the Middle East – India has become big news. I hope this marks a new trend.

Today’s Asian Wall Street Journal has a front page article headlined “Foreign Firms Find Rough Passage to India.” My experience couldn’t be more different – the Indian firms that I’ve done business with, as well as Indian journalists and other influencers, were a pleasure to work with. At times, it seemed as if they were actually grateful for the attention – given America’s near-obsession with China, India is often overlooked.

India is the world’s largest democracy. 300 million of its billion people are moving into the “middle class,” fueling economic growth rates most countries would envy. India has a vibrant free press; the rule of law is uniformly enforced. State-of-the-art infrastructure, combined with English-speaking Western-educated workers, makes India a comfortable global environment for most Americans.

Similar to any other emerging market, we need to learn more and they need to learn more. Just like the Chinese, personal relationships are crucial to success. The large and highly-networked expat and Indian-American community serves as an easy and welcoming bridge between the US and India. Unlike the Chinese, however, India’s business, legal, marketing, financial, and other aspects of business culture are stable, predictable, and remarkably similar to our own.

Anyone going global would be missing an attractive business opportunity, if they overlooked India. Counter to the Journal’s report, I see smooth sailing ahead in India.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Josef Blumenfeld selected as "Expert" for Fast Company Magazine - writing on Going Global

In his inaugural column for "Going Global" on Fast Company's blog, Josef Blumenfeld encourages readers to make 2007 the year they go global. As an "expert" for Fast Company, Blumenfeld will contribute regularly to the publication's website and blog.


Friday, December 29, 2006

Josef Blumenfeld explores Wal-Mart's impact on China's overall economic growth for Asia's leading PR trade publication, Media

Media Magazine (Asia)
November, 17 2006

Distribution critical to Wal-Mart China strategy

Wal-Mart's expected acquisition of Chinese grocery chain Trust-Mart will give the US giant unprecedented scale, catapulting it ahead of Carrefour to become the largest foreign retailer in the mainland. In China, meanwhile, Wal-Mart is attempting to become a national retail chain in a country with no cohesive national distribution system. According to Tradewind Strategies founder Josef Blumenfeld, by establishing a nationwide retail footprint, Wal-Mart will lay the groundwork for future economic growth across China. Grey Worldwide Shanghai general manager Alan Lo said Chinese consumers spend less on shopping per visit than Americans, but they shop more frequently.

The world's largest retailer finds itself at something of a crossroads in the world's most populous nation. Wal-Mart's expected acquisition of Chinese grocery chain Trust-Mart will give the US giant unprecedented scale, catapulting it ahead of Carrefour to become the largest foreign retailer in the mainland.

But several questions marks remain over Wal-Mart's international strategy. At present, over a fifth of its US$316 billion in total sales are generated outside the US; Wal-Mart would like that proportion to be closer to a third.

But progress has hardly been smooth. Its UK subsidiary continues to underperform, while high-profile pullouts have occurred in Korea and Germany.

In China, meanwhile, Wal-Mart is attempting to become a national retail chain in a country with no cohesive national distribution system. Clearly, the rewards are huge, with the mainland retail market estimated to be worth US$750 billion by 2008. And distribution is just one worry.

Already the company has given in to unionisation demands from the state-run All-China Federation ofTrade Unions, a notable climbdown from its anti union US stance.

It has also made key strides in honing its offering for the unique characteristics of the Chinese marketplace, where consumers do not want to buy a carboot-load of supplies at each visit.
But Wal-Mart is one of the most financially successful companies the world has known, so few doubt the seriousness of its Middle Kingdom aspirations. A number of foreign players, in addition to the already-ensconced Carrefour, are eyeing the China market, and competition is expected to intensify. Tesco recently announced plans to launch its first branded store in Beijing,as the first step to branding all of its 42 jointly-owned Chinese hypermarkets.

With retail sales growing at a 13 per cent clip per year, there may be a big enough pie to satisfy several international companies. Given Wal-Mart's appetite for domination, of course, a slice will not be sufficient - unless it is the biggest slice of them all.

Diagnosis 1
The global market-place is littered with companies, competitors, and consultants that underestimated Wal-Mart. While it recently suffered punishing rejections in Korea and Germany, there are few other US companies better suited to mine the consumer marketsof China.

Wal-Mart will succeed in China because it has no alternative - Wall Street expects the world's largest retailer to be a leader in the world's largest market. While it remains to be seen what the company will do with the well-known Trust-Mart brand, one thing is clear: Wal-Mart will export its acclaimed distribution innovation from the US.

By establishing a nationwide retail footprint, Wal-Mart will lay the groundwork for future economic growth across China.

Given the lack of a centralised distribution system in China, Wal-Mart's entry into the market will bring important infrastructure advances nationwide. By putting down roads, building distribution centers, developing local tools, and training staff, Wal-Mart is giving China long range economic assets that stand in stark contrast to the low-price-export machine that is the cornerstone of its current relationship with the Middle Kingdom.

Josef Blumenfeld, founder, Tradewind Strategies

* Wal-Mart's China sales are estimated US$1.25 billion, compared to global revenues of US$316 billion.
* Wal-Mart currently has 66 stores in China, while its target Trust-Mart has over 100.
* McKinsey estimates that China's retail sales could be worth US$750 billion by 2008.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tradewind Strategies in the New York Times

October 8, 2006
Life's Work
Lip Balm as a Metaphor for Fear

FOR several hours last week there were clothes, medications and toiletries spread all over my bed while I inspected my bottles of moisturizer, hair gel and shampoo. I was trying to pack for an extended overseas business trip just a few days after the “no liquids and gels” rule had become a “some liquids and gels” rule. Time was when I packed quickly and out of habit. This trip, my routine was as scrambled as my belongings.

If my six-ounce jar of moisturizer was only half full, did that meet the three-ounce limit? Could I squirt my hair products into smaller travel-size tubes? Should I try to fit everything into a carry-on? And why does the supermarket sell gallon-size Ziploc bags and sandwich-size Ziploc bags, but not the quart-size bags I seem to need at security?

Business travelers are adept at recalculating the equation as the factors change. We stopped carrying nail scissors and wearing belts after 9/11, started wearing slip-on shoes after an attempted shoe bombing six months later, abandoned our lighters a few years ago. The liquid ban was trickier, but we coped.

Steven Rothberg, president and founder of CollegeRecruiter.com, a job-hunting Web site, travels every other week for one or two nights. “You can shave without shaving cream or gel,” he said. “Face soap works just fine.”

Carla Caccavale, a partner in Quinn $ Company, a Manhattan public relations firm, tells how she avoided checking luggage on a recent overnight trip: “I put my makeup on in the morning, and didn’t pack any with me so I wouldn’t have to check, and just went sans makeup for my early return flight the next day.”

Her colleague, Danielle Pagano, an associate vice president at Quinn, had taken to shipping her toiletries via overnight mail so she could stick to her “carry-on only” rule, and still have her favorite moisturizer or lip balm.

But FedEx bills add up, so Ms. Pagano was excited two weeks ago when she heard that the rules had changed yet again. Her excitement didn’t last. “The good news is I can start taking my lip balm with me into the cabin,” she said. “The bad news is that none of my other cosmetic products are three-ounce or smaller.” So she went to Plan C, or maybe D, she’s lost track. She hit the cosmetic counters of a nearby department store and collected sample sizes.

Packing is not the only travel routine we have changed. With each new restriction, a percentage of us restrict our travel. Andrea Nierenberg, president of the Nierenberg Group in Manhattan, which runs workshops on business networking, now takes the train, or even better (remember those bombings in Madrid?) a car service, as far north as Boston and as far south as Washington. Her use of black cars has increased 75 percent over the last three years.

Mark Stevens, the chief executive of MSCO, a marketing and management firm in White Plains, has also started avoiding the airport. “Whenever possible, I say dial instead of fly,” he says. “Ninety percent of the time we spend 40 hours cabbing, flying, hoteling and waiting to hold a two-hour meeting that without the protocol and breaks for tuna wraps, we could have conducted in 15 minutes by phone.”

When we do fly, some of us are changing the planes we fly on. Josef Blumenfeld, business strategy consultant with Tradewind Strategies, said: “ I fly American carriers as infrequently as possible. I feel those planes are the ones most likely to be targeted by terrorists.”

He has also changed the way he dresses when he flies, and he doesn’t just mean not wearing a belt. “I used to pride myself on not appearing like a ‘traveling American,’ ” he explained in an e-mail message. “I used to wear European suits, shoes, and viewed it as a touch of safety. Now, given all the lines/hassles at passport control and customs, I dress as ‘Yankee doodle dandy’ as possible. One comment on ‘last night’s game’ to the almost-always white man at immigration and I sail right through.”

There is money to be made each time we change our ways. When the no-liquids rule was announced, Minimus, a company that specializes in travel-size consumer products, offered free shipping of products to a customer’s hotel. When the rule was amended, Minimus added a “free, quart-size Ziploc bag with any purchase — and we’ll pack the toiletries in the bag as well.”

Standing over my own bed of toiletries, I was struck by the absurdity, and then the sadness. All this energy and effort over the details, after all, is really busy work masking the bigger picture. Focusing on my hair gel allowed me to forget that I live in a world that has come to fear hair gel. I gave up in the end, and packed everything, at full size, in a bag I would check — hoping it, and its owner, arrived safely.

This column about the intersection of jobs and personal lives appears every other week. E-mail: Belkin@nytimes.com.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Global Business - Corporate America's Approach is Counterproductive

From the current issue of American Executive magazine: http://www.redcoatpublishing.com/features/f_09_06_globalstrategies.asp

Like most American businesses, your company probably divides the world into four or five zones: North America, LATAM, APAC, EMEA, and the ever-present ROW (rest of world). For as long as US businesses have been doing business, these designations have served to delineate sales territories, marketing goals, travel budgets, IT expenditures—even bean-counter-level minutiae.

These are artificial groupings, however, designations that were designed decades ago when international travel was rare and international business often rarer. Dividing the globe this way is an American convenience that creates a narrow worldview. The rest of the world (I’m tempted to use the condescending American ROW) does not use these artificial delineations.

Clinging to nomenclature simply because of its staying power in US business harms our ability to mine the world’s opportunities and undermines America’s ability to lead the global economy. Worldwide customers no longer fit into the boxes that corporate America created, and we are paying the price for failing to see the opportunities that exist outside the boundaries of these zones.

Et tu, Microsoft?
Wikipedia’s definition of EMEA is instructive. “EMEA is a regional designation used for government and business purposes. It is particularly common among North America-based companies, which often divide their international operations into the following regions: EMEA, LATAM, APAC.”

A Lexis search of EMEA illustrates that countless American companies use the term. But when one considers that EMEA encompasses Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, seeing this as a single whole makes little business sense.

Even globally minded companies such as Microsoft use this designation. Microsoft’s EMEA site offers IT solutions for 10 categories, including government, investors, and women in IT. EMEA’s governments include liberal democracies, totalitarian regimes, and everything in between; its investment climates range from the transparent to the opaque; and the role of women is starkly different from one corner of EMEA to the other. Given these disparities, is it possible for even mighty Microsoft to force-fit these markets into 10 solution categories?

Microsoft touts the availability of Windows in 19 languages spoken in EMEA. But the European Union has 11 official languages, and the African Cultural Center claims there are 1,000 languages in Africa (South Africa alone has eight languages).

The population of EMEA is staggering. Internet World Stats lists Africa’s population at 915 million, Europe at 807 million, and the Middle East at 190 million. This means the area has 1.6 billion people—30% of the world’s population. The group of countries known as APAC is even more ludicrous to lump together; it comprises more than half the world’s population and spans more than 35 countries.

These are geographies, not markets. Countries within these designations often share nothing but proximity, and even then, it is difficult to argue that South Africa and Norway are proximate neighbors. Viewing your company’s global operations through this antiquated lens is limiting and counterproductive. How America sees the world is far from how the world really is.

These “comfort-zone” designations create missed opportunities that could impact the bottom line:
1. Borderless markets that overlay regions (e.g., the youth market)
2. Same-language synergies that reduce cost (e.g., Spain and Latin America; Portugal, Brazil and Macau)
3. Cost-saving cultural similarities (e.g., UK and US)
4. Deal flow between regions (e.g., South Africa and Australia)
5. Expat communities that exert strong influence on buying decisions and patterns in their home countries (e.g., Indian communities in UK/US and the 1 million-strong Japanese community in Brazil).

It’s a cliché, but in today’s global economy, the world must be seen globally. The lexicon America uses to describe markets suggests we are failing to do that. We learned in childhood that the world is round, but most of us have two-dimensional world maps on our office walls. In North America, our maps keep the Atlantic whole and split the Pacific; in China, the Pacific is whole while the Atlantic is split. This gives us a distorted view of the planet and, along with it, a shortsighted view of global business possibilities.

Look beyond EMEA
Start with a basic question: does your company see the world and its opportunities as global or international? In other words, does your company see the world in its entirety as a business opportunity of endless potential, or do you view it as fragmented, consisting of only a few nations or regions beyond the US borders?

Next, identify your customer/client. To increase global revenue, you must know your worldwide customer base. Determine who your customers are, what they think of your brand and products, why they purchase from you, and what their demographics are. You’ll also need to determine the psychographics of your customers—what are their aspirations, what influences their purchasing decisions? Where your customers live or what port you ship product to is superfluous beyond the details of customs.

Identify where you find your customers and, most importantly, how you reach them. You may discover that geography is the determining characteristic, but you may find your customer identifies with a culture that exists outside of national boundaries. Perhaps your customer lives in one part of the world but gets most of her information from publications, broadcasts, family ties, and community organizations half a world away.

Ultimately, you will discover the dynamics that drive your global revenue stream and ways to keep it growing. Acronyms like LATAM, APAC, and EMEA are relics. They can be kept for bookkeeping, payroll, and accounting purposes if abandoning them will create chaos within your organization. But when it comes to marketing and generating revenue from the new global marketplace, it’s time to retire those terms and pursue a more strategic approach to your business.

Josef Blumenfeld has managed communications and outreach strategies in 28 countries and is the founder of Tradewind Strategies. He can be reached at jblumenfeld@tradewindstrategies.com.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Outbound China helps China's Joymain

Shanghai med device company wants to know Mass.
Boston Business Journal - April 14, 2006
by Mark Hollmer

Wang Youshan contacted the Boston Business Journal recently, wanting to introduce himself. And our life sciences readers may want to pay particular attention.

Wang is chairman and president of the Joy Main Science and Technology Group Corp., also known as Joy Main -- www.joymain.com on the Web -- a medical device company headquartered in Shanghai with more than 18,000 employees.

Joy Main makes and sells everything from blood pressure and body fat monitors to weight loss products, and clothing and bedding products that feature something known as "Far Infrared" properties that are said to help treat pain and insomnia. The 6-year-old company is already a giant, spread out through 30 provinces in China with $280 million in revenue reported in 2005. Joy Main reaches legions of Chinese consumers through 3,600 stores and franchise businesses and 7,000 sales counters at local department stores, and some of its products are already sold internationally in Australia Austria, Japan and the United States.

And now Joy Main wants to grow here, by beefing up its U.S. presence and making deals with local medical device companies.

Speaking through an interpreter, Wang extended an invitation to MassMedic, for example, the state's medical device industry group. He wants any interested members to come visit the company and its facilities.

He hopes to obtain new American biotechnology and medical device products that Joy Main's extensive distribution network can sell. He wants to form partnerships with American sales people who can promote Joy Main's products here. Wang also looks to form partnerships with biotech and medical device companies who could help develop, market and sell Joy Main's research and development platform. And Wang is interested in finding American economic specialists who can help him boost sales even more in China.

Wang's interest in Massachusetts aside, his story has a big twist: Wang found his Massachusetts audience, via the Boston Business Journal, pretty much by chance.

Last week he represented one of about 125 Chinese companies that registered for a New York state-sponsored conference last week held to help Chinese companies establish themselves domestically. He became aware of us because of Joe Blumenfeld and Janet Carmosky, the two principles of Massachusetts-based Outbound China, a new consultancy formed recently to help Chinese companies deal with logistics and public relations issues as they establish themselves here (we wrote about it last week). Outbound China attended the conference. The pair met Wang. Hoping to build a relationship with him, they said they could help Wang reach the Massachusetts audience in which he expressed interest. Carmosky herself acted as a translator.

Wang said that he hasn't approached or been approached by any Massachusetts state officials yet. He remains interested, however, because of the state's rich industrial and technology base and its strengths in biotechnology and biomedical research and development.

It's not that Massachusetts isn't making the effort to develop contacts in China. The Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment, for example, employs a consultant in Shanghai and is working to both help Chinese companies expand here and firms here make similar contacts overseas. This week the consultant was to join a MassMedic delegation at a medical device trade show in Beijing to help drum up business and contacts.

Blumenfeld, however, says Massachusetts state and industry officials could do more to reach out to Chinese companies itching to expand into the United States.

"We need to welcome these companies," he said. "Their successes will create jobs."


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tradewind Strategies partners on new service - helping Chinese companies achieve their goals in US

Tradewind Strategies is thrilled to be partnering with China Prospects in a joint venture called Outbound China www.outboundchina.com

Outbound China's sole purpose is to support the strategic PR/communications needs of Chinese companies that are targeting the US for expansion or investment. Given the failures of both CNOOC and Haier, and Geely's pitiful launch in Detroit, there is clearly a need for targeted counsel such as this. China Prospect's founder, Janet Carmosky, has two decades of experience in China, working for a range of companies in several industries. Janet's fluency in written and spoken Chinese, as well as her unique ability to bridge the cultural gap that has been the cause of these highly visible failures, makes her the ideal addition to the vast global experience that Tradewind Strategies brings to the table.

Response has been very positive thus far, and we haven't even announced yet. It is our understanding that no other consultancy exists with the singular purpose of easing Chinese entry into the US.

The Boston Business Journal covered us, pre-launch, on Friday, April 7.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tradewind Strategies looks at Geely in EuroBiz - publised by EU Chamber of Commerce in China

Josef Blumenfeld highlights current shortcomings of foreign firms advising Chinese businesses.


Big dreams, bad communicationEven though they've become big players in every market or industry in which they do business, Chinese companies have had a difficult time teaching the world about their history and intentions. Unsuccessful M&A ventures into the US - witness CNOOC and Haier's attempts to acquire Unocal and Maytag respectively - could blunt the ambitions of companies like Geely - which recently added "International" to its name - says corporate communications consultant Josef Blumenfeld, whose Tradewind Strategies advises Chinese firms seeking M&As abroad. "The Chinese need to recognize that they are not strong marketers in the West. And when it comes to share offerings and acquisitions in the US, the foreign advisors hired by Chinese companies hardly inspire confidence in their abilities to suc-cessfully guide their Chinese clients."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Global Communication is Key to Overcoming BrandUSA Rejection

Consistent Harmony - American Executive, December 2005

There was a time when Made in the USA was the highest accolade a product could carry. The world’s consumers lined up to buy American products and capture a taste of the American dream. McDonald’s golden arches gleamed with global allure; Levis hugged the figures of the world’s “in” crowd. Cadillac was used as a synonym to describe a level of high quality. We even sang about buying the world a Coke.

How times have changed. Today, McDonald’s and KFC outlets are the sites of protests and even violence. Levis has a global brand value below that of Spanish retailer Zara. General Motors is gasping for breath while Toyota and BMW race ahead. Mecca-Cola competes for shelf space in European grocery stores.

It’s clear that the world’s passion for American brands has been tempered. American companies comprise 68 of the world’s top brands, but huge swaths of the world’s consumer markets hold negative views of the US and US businesses. In some countries, double-digit percentages of the population actively boycott American brands.

There’s no question that the war in Iraq and America’s pursuit of its own self-interest has spurred much of this anti-Americanism. But the war is only the latest catalyst, albeit one that may portend a sea-change for American brands.

Several US publications have looked at the implications of weakened acceptance of American brands. In some markets, consumer support is merely declining; in others it’s in freefall. Polls by Seattle-based GMI show that 67% of French consumers and 58% of Germany’s harbor negative impressions of US companies. Other research found that 20% of respondents in Europe and Canada say they consciously avoid buying US products. Similar percentages in China and Japan echo that disturbing trend.

Of course, many American brands continue to thrive in global markets. Marlboro cigarettes remain a top seller in most markets. Tiffany & Co. sparkles with customers; many are happy to get on waiting lists for hot products. Clothes from The Gap complement haute couture on Parisian shoppers. American technology leaders Microsoft, IBM, Intel, HP, Cisco, and others provide the tools and innovations that fuel the global digital economy. Starbuck’s serves coffee to consumers around the world and test markets pioneering innovations such as its digital music business in trend-setting Asian cities. Defying skeptics and surprising even some optimists, Starbuck’s now has 10 outlets in café-cultured Paris, a market some said would send the American brand back to the US in shame.

Remember TWA?
In an economy where every percentage point counts, and global markets may be the only opportunity for growth, the market erosion has triggered alarm bells in boardrooms and executive offices across the US. Those percentages represent people, and American companies are confronting the possibility that markets may reject them.

The brands at the top always face pressure from those on the rise, so it’s possible the current decline simply signals a shift in tastes away from the brands that have dominated the marketplace for decades. But many in American business are concerned that we’re be seeing a shift in consumer values rather than tastes.

The end of an iconic American brand is not without precedent. Pan Am and TWA were once the recognized leaders in global travel; today, they are little more than proof points in a business school case study on what happens when the buying public rejects a brand.

Some experts are advising American brands to distance themselves from their US identity. Take on a local “face,” the thinking goes, and you can be seen as less American. But having spent countless fortunes on building these brands, some American products will be unable to shed their identity in the hope of blending in with their global counterparts.

Still, some American brands are wisely adopting a posture that balances local, grassroots connections with the upside of worldwide reach and vision. The adage “think global, act local” comes to mind.Hiring local talent, translating into local languages, and adapting a product for local tastes are all steps that appeal to a foreign market. This would be true even if American brands were not under assault.

At the same time, giving the local arm of a company too much autonomy can lead to fragmentation. At an extreme, this can result in de facto standalone companies, each configured to serve a single market. Fragmentation increases redundancy, decreases saving from economies of scale, and results in the loss of control of a company’s most valuable asset: its brand. A country manager should not be the shepherd of a global brand.

Sending confusing or mixed messages to consumers creates confused customers. By globalizing their branding operations, American companies ensure that their efforts in support of that brand are consistent worldwide. To attract and retain customers, American brands must speak to the global marketplace with a single voice.

Taking advantage
A globalized American brand can connect with the global marketplace by focusing on its company’s values. Do not just tell international consumers about your corporate values, show them. Standing for something positive and working to make the world a better place (or at least appearing to do so) can give savvy American brands an advantage.

America exports more than goods and services; it exports ideas. Leaving politics aside, America has improved the lives of billions of people worldwide, with better healthcare, improved education, cleaner water, and greater freedoms. There are many intangibles the world admires in America, including our innovation and creativity, our optimism, and our business and marketing strengths.

In industries such as agriculture, medicine, education, and technology, American experts are hot commodities. The world may not always want our products (the “hard” side of Brand USA), but it certainly wants our minds.

The “soft” side of Brand USA is often what hurts us the most. Americans who have traveled internationally have been confronted with the expectation of the “ugly” American who expects everyone to speak English and behave like a Westerner.

Companies that compete with American brands are taking advantage of this decline in favorability and some are emerging as impressive global players. When an American brand’s leadership appears vulnerable, foreign competitors know how to grab marketshare. A shopper in Brazil may no longer want a Maytag or GE appliance, but due to heightened brand value, China’s Haier or Germany’s Bosch offer acceptable alternatives.

Creating a brand that appeals universally to consumers is a Herculean task, but the global marketplace expects nothing less. By emerging as a global brand, rather than an American one, US products can continue to compete in the global marketplace. GM may again be seen as the Cadillac of the automotive industry—but the owner will probably have a Mecca-Cola in the cup holder.

Josef Blumenfeld is a global communications consultant with experience in 28 countries and is the founder of Tradewind Strategies. He can be reached at jblumenfeld@tradewindstrategies.com.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Reversal of Fortune: Learning from Haier and CNOOC

(Published in Mandarin in China Business August 12, 2005)

The Haier/CNOOC chapter of US-China business relations has drawn to a close. The withdrawal of both bids for US companies – even before Maytag/Unocal shareholders could vote to accept or reject the offers – effectively returns us to where we were before: Lenovo remains the only example of a successful Chinese acquisition of an American company. The bloodbath that followed both bids was regrettable and avoidable. China’s overall business community – collectively dubbed “China Inc.” in the West – has been soundly defeated.

There is an opportunity now that China Inc. should seize. For Chinese companies to succeed in the US, they must adapt their approach to the market and learn how to bring a positive and cooperative message directly to the American public. China’s opponents and competitors learned very quickly how easy it is to undo even well intentioned Chinese efforts: frame the debate and drive the press coverage. If China harbors any hope of success in the US, its business messengers must learn to bypass the anti-China filters that now pervade American media coverage and public opinion.

In an August 3 editorial on the “sunk” CNOOC deal, the Financial Times wrote: “surprisingly, given the importance of China to so many US companies, there was no sign of a balancing pro-China” message to counter Chevron’s opposition to CNOOC’s bid for Unocal. In Haier’s case, there was no message at all – only deafening silence from the company as it tried to purchase an iconic US brand in America’s heartland. Contrast this to the visibility of Lenovo executives following the announcement of its acquisition of IBM’s PC business.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this outcome and not all of it is for China – the Western advisors both Chinese companies hired share in that blame.

Bankers and lawyers, marketers and lobbyists have lined up to help China’s business navigate the US market – one that is as foreign to the Chinese as China’s market is to America . Western businesses working with Chinese companies will share in successful cross-border M&A activity, but those businesses must offer the very best and most strategic counsel possible. Western “experts” did not distinguish themselves with a successful pro-China balance, as the Financial Times observed, and their clients failed. We must do better.

The Chinese business community can do better as well. Executives from both Haier and CNOOC were conspicuously absent in US media – particularly TV. Opponents of both efforts, however, maintained high visibility and honed their message to a consistent and constant warning against these acquisitions. Neither language barriers nor cultural expectations can serve as an excuse for not communicating. Come to the US – the Western press and public have always been open to new ideas and information.

When the influential Nightly Business Report televised its interview with Lenovo’s CEO, media reports indicated that this was Yang Yuanqing’s first interview with the American press. While it is surprising that an officer of a global company like Lenovo was a complete “unknown” to the American media, the company’s public communications in support of its acquisition were commendable. Simlarly, prior to its highly successful IPO last week, baidu.com’s CEO was also visible on US business channels.

There is a seemingly endless flow of consumer and market data produced in the US. This insightful information should be required reading for any Chinese executive with international designs. Chinese businesses can learn about their target markets – what are the pressure points, who are the stakeholders that drive action, what do American consumers want? Plenty of opinions abound, of course, and there are no “sure things,” but taking advantage of analysts, researchers, pollsters and pundits is a valuable way of better understanding a market that China so clearly wants to enter.

There is no “next chapter” for Haier or CNOOC, management will determine what each company does next; they have both been bloodied and battered in the Western media. But there will be a “next deal” for a Chinese company that sees opportunity in an American acquisition. Across the globe, there are American companies that also recognize that same opportunity. By honestly and thoroughly assessing what went wrong in both efforts to acquire two very different companies, Chinese businesses and those they count on for advice and counsel can help ensure that the next chapter in China-US business is a “success story.” After these past two defeats, all of China Inc. will be able to celebrate such a reversal of fortune.

-Josef Blumenfeld

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Haier bids for Maytag - Poor PR hurts its chances

Unless Haier's PR and communications surrounding its attempted acquisition of Maytag improve dramatically - and quickly - China's business community will get a collective lesson on the value and importance of communications, particularly in a market with a free press. After being interviewed by US media outlets, it's clear to me that a series of missteps and poor communication are not serving Haier well. If I were a leader of the union that represents workers in Maytag's plants, I'd be leaning heavily on Sen. Tom Harkin to oppose this sale.

Lenovo's acquisition of IBM's PC business was not important news in the US. Haier's attempt to purchase a brand as iconic as Maytag, and in America's heartland, however, could become big news. Haier could still use this as an opportunity to increase its name and brand recognition in the US; something that would be a strong positive should the rumored offering on Wall Street come to pass.

At this point, however, the company is poised to become a "case study" in how NOT to purchase US companies.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

“Corporate America Often Seems Frozen in Fear” - Importance of Global Communication Highlighted by Tradewind Strategies

Articles in Asia and US Provide Keys to Unlocking Promise of New Markets Through Successful Global Communication

Boston, MA – May 9, 2005 – In articles published in both the United States and Asia, Josef Blumenfeld, founder of Tradewind Strategies, highlights the importance of successful global communication. Many American companies are “frozen in fear” or “mired in confusion” when it comes to reaching vital global markets. Blumenfeld taps his expertise to provide insight and counsel on the opportunities provided by successful global communication, and to warn of the risk ineffective corporate global communication poses for the US economy’s worldwide standing.

“Executives who ignore the risk posed by ineffective global communication may imperil their business,” Blumenfeld writes in the May issue of American Executive, published by RedCoat Publishing, Inc. “Recognizing the importance of effective global communication and working to ensure that communication is productive positions savvy companies well in the global marketplace.” At the same time, Blumenfeld writes in the current issue of Hong Kong-based Media, published by Haymarket Business Publications Limited, “Slow recovery in the US makes it paramount that American businesses look overseas for new markets.”

“Most American companies lag behind their international competitors when it comes to recognizing the importance of global communications,” Blumenfeld adds. “At a time when penetrating international markets is crucial to economic growth, many US companies lack the in-house talent and know-how to drive programs that will reach global consumers. Stronger global communication experience and perspective, coupled with eroding support for US brands in many international markets, gives non-US companies a unique window for seizing global marketshare.”

“The layoffs that ravaged US companies left few businesses with marketing departments experienced in the global marketplace,” Blumenfeld writes in Media. “Outsourced PR management has become a lifeline for some companies.”

“The need for global marketing communication and Corporate America’s inability to provide it, is a worrisome trend,” Blumenfeld adds. “America’s worldwide economic supremacy is being jeopardized by the increasing inability to tap global markets.”

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Executives who ignore the risk posed by ineffective global communication may imperil their business

The May issue of American Executive Magazine is running an article on global communications:

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

US Brands Face Trouble in European Markets

Interesting article from today's Washington Times on the backlash I've also feared American companies will face in the global marketplace. I anticipate that the ability/inability of US companies to do business abroad will be an important business story in 2005. US brands are facing international market rejection, compounded by loss of market share when their competitors take advantage of this low in America's standing to court consumers in precarious markets. My commentary and background on Tradewind Strategies appear in the last several paragraphs.


Europeans costing American companiesBy Donna Borak

Washington, DC, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- The Bush administration's foreign policy may jeopardize the economic health of American multinational companies abroad, an international consumer survey released Monday said.

According to an international survey of 8,000 consumers taken by Global Marketing Insite World Poll on Dec. 10 through 12, fifty percent of foreign consumers distrust American companies as a result of the U.S. decision to invade Iraq and the war on terror. Additionally, 79 percent said they distrusted the American government, while 39 percent said they distrusted Americans.

"American companies' livelihoods depend on trust. It's extremely important. You almost never get a second chance once that trust is lost," said Allyson Stewart-Allen, co-author of "Working with Americans."

International consumers surveyed from G8 countries like China, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and others described U.S. brand companies like AOL, Exxon Mobile and Starbucks as "arrogant, intrusive and self-centered" making them the top companies likely to be boycotted.
However, analysts explained that consumers were more inclined to boycott a product because they believed it closely resembled the attributes of the United States, rather than brand loyalty.
For example, 64 percent of consumers surveyed thought of American Express as "extremely American," while only 17 percent considered Visa to fall into the same category.
According to Mitchell Eggers, COO and chief pollster at GMI, Visa has been an exception to the rule because it has been able to detach itself from the image of being an American company - a problem that may cost other companies loses in revenue.

"Some American brands become closely connected to their country of origin and are quintessentially American," Eggers said in a released statement. "They represent the American lifestyle, innovation, power, leadership consumers as a significant negative, when it used to be a positive."

According to the poll, the negative international perception of the United States matched the unenthusiastic views of American multinational businesses. Based on their findings, 61 percent of French consumers and 58 percent of German consumers had negative feelings toward American multinational companies. While an additional 47 percent of European and Canadian consumers viewed how Americans conducted business negatively.

"American companies are accused of aggressiveness and arrogance because they insist on imposing the American way of doing this on their international markets; they are inflexible. They show limited respect or concern for non-U.S. cultures," said Stewart-Allen.
For the last three months, GMI tracked the consumption of American products by Europeans and found that as many as 20 percent consistently said they would deliberately avoid purchasing American products.

The survey, which is based entirely on consumer perception, has already seen some affect in the current market with the recent mass layoff of 9,000 GM Europe employees in Germany. Additionally, products like Barbie Doll made by Mattel have seen a 13 percent drop in sales worldwide.

"It could play out in a year...or it just might be a couple months thing and then all of sudden it dies away," said Kenneth Pick of GMI.

However, even if a boycott does occur, some analysts explained that any consumer-lead boycott would not greatly affect American companies abroad.

"Sanctions and boycotts don't work unless they very directly hit the bottom line," said Usha Haley, professor of management and international business at the University of New Haven in Connecticut.

"They don't seem to affect (much) because companies can resort to various mechanism to sell their products."

Haley who has written a book based on a seven-year study on the effect of sanctions and boycotts on multinational American companies in South Africa explained that the best run multinationals are those who are perceived as local brands, so they don't have to face the full force of anti-sentiment.

Though she agrees that there has been a great deal of ant-American sentiment abroad, stemmed from the U.S. polices in Iraq, she does not believe it will significantly affect American multinationals in Europe.

However, other analysts fear the current neglect by American multinational companies to take a closer look at the effects of the current U.S. anti-sentiment, might open further doors to Asian companies who are looking to expand further into Europe.

"They're competitors are going to swoop into those markets," said Josef Blumenfeld, a global PR and communications consultant, and founder of Tradewind Strategies.

"If Whirlpool can't sell, Samson will. The Asians are prime and ready to swoop right in. You can expect them to move aggressively and forcefully to seize market share," said Blumenfeld.

Through his company Tradewind Strategies, Blumenfeld helps American global companies to develop strategies to counter the backlash of anti-U.S. sentiment. He recommends to his clients to promote their companies as "global brands, not American brands" and to localize the company wherever possible.

He cautions that companies should remain flexible in its global marketing plan under the constructs of the current geopolitical situation, which can be unpredictable and ever changing.
However he added, "If they continue a unilateralist approach with complete disregard for the European governments, American businesses will suffer as a result of that."


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Blogged by PR in India site


Flattered that our colleagues in India think like we do!

Article: Cultural Awareness is Key to Securing Global Business

The following article that I wrote was recently published by Mass High Tech:


Cultural Awareness Carried the Day for Companies Seeking Global Reach
Dec. 20, 2004

How you answer this question could be an indicator of the future of the Massachusetts’technology sector in a globalized economy. Ready?

What country is achieving economic growth of 8 percent a year, graduates close to 1 million engineers and programmers annually, saw its stock market rise 80 percent last year, and has free trade agreements with Japan, Australia and the United States?

If you answered "China,"you were off by a couple of thousand miles. Read on for the answer, below.

Since 2000, Massachusetts has lost more than 94,000 Innovation Economy jobs. And it’s not over; layoffs and restructurings continue. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative recently observed that Massachusetts businesses are failing to capitalize on globalization and that the regional economy could be significantly expanded by "serving a wide variety of international markets."

A recent piece in BusinessWeek pointed the way to those markets for the high tech industry. According to the report, with affluent markets maturing, tech's next one billion customers will be Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, and Thai. In reaching them, the report predicts, the industry will be deeply transformed. Unless something changes, this transformation is likely to leave many Massachusetts technology companies behind.

Massachusetts has a lot going for it: large immigrant/expatriate communities; proximity to Europe; an established venture capital community; a multilingual, diverse workforce; and world-class services that can aid corporate globalization efforts. The state’s innovation economy accounts for 25 percent of its workforce. For Massachusetts to continue to thrive, new businesses and industries must blossom, creating new jobs. To make that happen, we need new markets.

Agility, flexibility and timeliness are crucial to reach global markets. Opportunities can appear or disappear virtually anywhere, anytime. Exploring the following seven parameters can give any company an edge as it ventures into the global arena:Gauge your company’s collective global experience. Make sure your organization has team members with work experience in key markets - these may include China, India, Japan and Korea. It could be anywhere. Ask your marketing department what international expertise is in-house and what outside resources exist. If no one in corporate marketing has a valid passport, take that as a sign of trouble.

China. No matter what your business is, your company is likely to be affected by China. From Lenovo’s acquisition of IBM’s PC business to supply chains to the 2008 Olympics, the business momentum in China is having an effect on corporate America. The opportunity in China is as impressive as China is vast. The risks of doing business in China are no secret: constant innovation and cultural savvy are key to staying ahead of reverse-engineering, counterfeiting and counter-innovation (it’s coming).

Don’t let the allure of China overshadow India for attention. India is a democracy with a thriving free press. Indians speak English, and are more culturally transparent to Westerners. These are important distinctions from China. In addition, India’s information economy is booming. Although the media spotlight is focused heavily on the issue of offshore outsourcing and the resulting loss of U.S. jobs, Indian job growth carries an upside: household consumption is expected to double by 2008. That’s opportunity.

E-mail is a terrible form of communication. Particularly for non-native English speakers. Do not rely solely on e-mail to communicate with global partners, customers and suppliers. Relationship building is crucial to doing business in international markets, just as it is at home. Get on a plane, and break bread with your business partners. The results are worth it.

The world is not the United States. Even though English has become the lingua franca of global business you cannot expect contacts and customers abroad to be proficient in English, particularly in technical subjects. Translate and localize your product literature, web site and business cards. Language should be clear and free of idioms. In markets like Japan and Korea, hire professional translators for every important meeting. In these face-saving cultures, it may be difficult for someone to admit that he or she doesn’t understand English well. Decrease the risk of miscommunication and embarrassment by having dialogue translated for everyone. It’s a matter of respect, which is often important currency abroad - particularly for Americans who often have to dispel a reputation for arrogance.

Be prepared. Have crisis plans in place, as well as opportunity strategies. Just as crises erupt without notice, business opportunities can quickly appear. Identify new markets or categories of interest. Advance work on requirements, translation and who the players are could give you first-mover advantage if circumstances unexpectedly allow.

Globalize your perspective. Become a consumer of global media. Read online business news and analysis from a range of global economic centers, including London, Hong Kong, Sao Paolo, Singapore and Frankfurt. Know that the CNN we watch here at home is not the version the rest of the world sees. Understand the differences and what they mean.

Expanding IT business into global markets is a key to growing the entire industry and expanding the Massachusetts economy. Each international market is unique, with its own risks, challenges and rewards.

The answer to the question posed above, by the way, is India.

As more Massachusetts companies reach out to international markets, and more of us learn the intricacies and nuances of those markets, the answer to that question, and so many others, will become clear. The result can be a thriving Innovation Economy and a workforce that leads rather than follows in global business.

Josef Blumenfeld is a consultant on global public relations management and founder of Natick-based Tradewind Strategies. He can be reached at jblumenfeld@tradewindstrategies.com.