Global Brand Positioning Consulting Interview

Global Brand Positioning: Interview with Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister, Managing Partner, Globeone Cologne

“Due to ignorance, predominant values were violated carelessly”

“It is one thing to be positioned globally as a company, buying across global markets and selling your own products. However, it is something entirely different to present oneself as a company that considers the regional and cultural conditions and expectations in every country where it is present. We spoke to Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister from Globeone about the challenge of developing the know-how required for consulting services to navigate the field of corporate behavior and international marketing.” Author: Tilman Strobel

Global Brand Positioning Mr. Schaffmeister, your consulting agency advises other companies regarding their appearance in foreign countries. Can you roughly estimate and describe the damage caused by companies misbehaving or simply ignoring important local expectations and practices?

Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister: Reliable figures estimating the total loss are non-existent. However, it is clear that immense damage occurs in many different ways: it could be through a poorly designed Tweet that offends local patriotism in the target market leading to product boycotts, or through an unintentional sponsoring of a “blacklisted” artist who is regarded as an enemy of the state in the most important sales market. Almost a quarter (24%) of companies that entered growth markets conclude in retrospect that they should have adapted better to the local market and local prices, citing a misunderstanding of the local market as their most frequent error. Naturally, this is not without consequence. Media Markt’s withdrawal from the Chinese market, for example, is estimated to have cost the company more than 100 million euros. You will be providing some examples of companies that have unintentionally made these mistakes. Which ones do you remember best as illustrating this problem?

Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister: A current example, which shows how hot the topic is, comes from the Italian luxury fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana. At the end of last year, the company published a commercial for the Chinese market which caused enormous public outcry. On display was a Chinese model who tried to eat western dishes such as pasta and pizza with chopsticks. This seemingly helpless and stupid portrayal not only brought accusations of racism and cultural ignorance to Dolce & Gabbana, but also public calls by well-known personalities to boycott the brand. Technically, the idea of referring to the local food culture was good. However, their lack of awareness led to a severe violation of dominant values, including the strong role of the Chinese woman and the immense pride the Chinese take in their food culture. Recently, we read that German cosmetics are quite popular with some Hollywood celebrities. Suppose a German SME wanting to gain a foothold in such a foreign market (which obviously requires a lot of advertising) calls you. What are your next steps?

Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister: We follow our six-stage process, which we have developed for “market-driven positioning” and tailor it to the client’s unique profile: (1) Scan the local market, i.e. collect and review relevant market and consumer analyses; (2) Identify the most important decision drivers for different target groups; (3) Examine whether there are further challenges for the brand that prevent feasibility (e.g., brand perception), in addition to production and legal requirements; (4) Ensure consistency – positioning that is adapted to local market conditions must of course remain consistent with the global brand promise; (5) Analyze competitive communication, i.e. value promises, core statements etc., in order to differentiate the client from the competition with its own positioning; and finally (6) Develop an adequate market entry strategy, which also includes the relevant parameter-distribution, price, and communication. In such cases, we usually work together with local experts to ensure that any communication measures do not offer any points of attack in new local markets. Can the companies also learn something from you about leadership and conversational skills?

Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister: As a management consultancy for strategy, brand, and communication, we naturally have touchpoints with these topics from time to time. However, we are not a genuine HR consultancy or rhetorical training agency dealing with leadership in general. Nevertheless, culturally secure communication also requires appropriate staff management, with which we can help by establishing the necessary processes and governance structures. This includes, but is not limited to, our cross-cultural brand safety training, a concept that has been proven in practice. In which countries would you say intensive training in corporate behavior is particularly important? Can you even estimate for each of the 195 countries in the world what works there and what does not?

Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister: No, it would be presumptuous to claim that we could assess this for all 195 countries. But even if we are not familiar with the nuances of each country ad-hoc, our framework can be applied to any desired country. The dimensions that are at stake, such as language, values, traditions, etc., are reoccurring, even if there are naturally considerable differences from country to country in the concrete manifestation of these dimensions. We offer these trainings for the most important growth markets; and in terms of growth figures and significance for European companies, in addition to China and India, these include Russia, Brazil, and the Arab countries. Although these developing countries did not all develop to the same extent, they remain strong markets for many European companies. Do not forget the USA, either – they are part of almost every project. Mr. Niklas Schaffmeister, thank you for the interview!

Read also: Brand Transformation: Interview with Carina Hauswald, Managing Partner, Globeone Zurich

This interview was published by on July 31, 2019 ( Translation by Globeone.

Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister

Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister

is the Managing Partner of the international brand and communication consultancy Globeone