Borrowed Culture of Marketing
A missionary acquaintance from Indonesia returns to the states every four to six years. In a recent visit he described how people from the country are being “Americanized” at extreme speeds. Instead of a normal cultural cycle of slow to moderate learning and unlearning, where errors and victories can be understood, the Indonesian culture has been introduced to hundreds of years of technology and social structure in less than 60 years. Children who use iPhones and video games as a norm are balanced by parents who don’t watch TV or use computers at all. That is to say, not only is there a proverbial firehose of culture hitting them, but more critically, it’s a culture that hasn’t earned its own history in a sense. Instead, the small country has injected the newly introduced ways into a people who didn’t do the hard work to get there. It is, plainly put, a borrowed culture. As a result, the “understanding” that accompanies time in a developing culture is lost. How to manage growth, economy, technology and other byproducts of culture acclimation tend to hit back harder than sometimes expected. Crime, for example, is one way the borrowed culture shows tension. Metropolitan areas such as Jakarta, and other locations like Aceh and Central Sulawesi are often cautionary destinations for westerners due to very high crime rates.
When it comes to brand building, marketing professionals have a difficult time agreeing on who or what controls the brand of a company. Some marketers lean towards the idea that the consumer controls the brand. What consumers say about the company is what makes the brand relevant. This describes the “perception is reality” take on branding. Other marketers feel the company controls the brand reflected in Henry Ford’s quote about automobiles. If Ford had listened to consumers, he would have made a faster horse, not a car. This reasoning tends to think company leadership in any marketing space outweighs consumer response or feedback. Without thought leadership within the company, there would be no brand to follow.
The truth, for business and the marketing professionals who help them, lies somewhere in between both extremes. Branding is controlled both by the company who has created it and the consumers who provide insight and feedback into what they feel the business brand is. The challenges a company faces in branding effectively reveal themselves when a company doesn’t believe in or understand the consequences of how to brand well in this dynamic.
A client recently asked me about his SEO (Search Engine Optimization). He was concerned about whether or not it was working for him with the recent changes Merge Left Marketing had made to his corporate site. Just a few days later, he called to share his excitement about a phone call he received and a significant sale he made, as a direct result of someone discovering his services via an internet search—specifically, it was content we had published to generate higher page rank and listings results.