I first discovered Rohit Bhargava through one of the earliest blog posts written about Singelringen. He picked it up in August 2006, very shortly after my company began representing the Swedish product for North America. I was impressed both with Rohit’s blog and his trend spotting.
I am also very impressed with the way Rohit has put together his book launch for Personality Not Included, organizing bloggers to interview him for personal replies to each one. We had the opportunity to review his introduction before posing our questions. I was pleased to be part of what Geoff Livingston refers to as a noteworthy “crowdsourcing” process. I wanted to make my participation relevant to my blog so I created interview questions with an international perspective.
You can read all the great interviews that resulted from this very interesting process as well as Rohit’s introduction to Personality Not Included by clicking on the icon below. Please vote for the best interview (me! me! me!) here and here before Friday, April 4th, 9PM PST. Voting in both places has been blessed by Rohit. My apologies for the inconvenience.
Personality matters in your business. In preface to my questions, please let me share this excerpt from Rohit’s introduction:
The three hottest topics in business today are how to do more with social media (blogs, social networks, etc), using word-of-mouth marketing (the number one source of influence according to just about every international study), and interacting more authentically with customers. Personality is the theme that incorporates all of these topics.
Linda: In running subsidiaries of global companies, there is often discussion of tuning products for the local market. Certainly there are personalities that are strong enough to cross borders, but what did you learn about personality localization?
Rohit: You are right to point out that this is an important ingredient and it’s naive to believe that taking the same personality and rolling it out globally could work. Localizing personality comes down to finding the right individuals in every regional team and giving them to tools to craft the right personality and voice in their regions. The book offers a guide on how to do that which could be rolled out across different regions equally effectively.
Linda: Did you gather any stories for companies headquartered outside the USA?
Rohit: I did and I am really glad you asked this! Would you believe that in more than 50 interviews that I have done so far, you are the only one that asked about the international aspect of the book? I did spend quite a bit of time trying to get relevant examples from other countries because I see the global market for this book as a big opportunity. A few of the international brands I talk about in the book are Innocent Drinks (UK), Harry’s Cafe de Wheels (Australia), Moo.com (UK), Singapore Airlines (Singapore), and El Bulli (Spain). Many other brands I talk about are large global brands that are often struggling with exactly the issues you raised in your questions.
Linda: Customer service styles vary by country. In Japan B:B customer service is very personal and very expensive. Subsidiaries of foreign companies operating there have to play by the same rules. How do you see the ROI on this level of relationship based customer service and sales or the opposite end of the spectrum?
Rohit: Building a good relationship does take time. In my experience, I have found BtoB marketers to be the most accepting of this fact across the world. Japan may require more time and effort than many other cultures, but the idea of spending time to build an ongoing relationship is often a core concept that salespeople understand, but marketers have trouble with. The ROI of this type of effort can be huge because it is focused on a direct relationship and more broadly on word of mouth. Compare the “I” spent on this to the investment many brands make in useless television advertising destined to be ignored and you will understand how little this “I” really is. What if United airlines spent a fraction of their advertising budget for meaningless comic strip ads on building relationships with their key influencers?
Linda: Did you find any gender differences in your research? Obviously, there are personality differences between men and women. Can a corporate or brand personality be gender flavored? Should we match the gender of the personality to the bulk of the customer base?
Rohit: Another interesting question I haven’t heard before. I’m not sure that I saw a definite trend one way or the other when it came to gender and brands with personality. There was an obvious correlation with age (which will likely not be surprising), but gender was not an obvious factor in what I found. That said, there are certainly some brands and services that much more significantly target a certain gender because it is a core element of their personality. This is to be expected.
Linda: When will your book be available in other languages? Do you have a plan for which languages to introduce first?
Rohit: I have a large international publisher and so far that has paid off with publication rights already set in 8 countries and another 12-15 under negotiation. We have finalized translation rights for Chinese (Taiwan), Spanish, Russian and Thai. Another 8 or so languages are still under negotiation and all international versions should be out late this year.
Linda: I imagine that your employer Ogilvy is very happy about your book. Did they support you in any way to produce it? Will they be buying copies to give away to prospective and current clients?
Rohit: In terms of getting the book deal and contract, I did that on my own … but yes, the 360 Digital Influence team that I work in at Ogilvy was super supportive of my effort, letting me shift my working schedule to 4 days a week as I wrote the book. Now that I am moving into marketing and promotion, they have been brilliant, helping me to publicize the book, get media interested and coordinating events. I’m very lucky to work for an agency where I get to work on amazing projects, and get this kind of support for the book.