Personality Not Included International Perspective Interview

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.

About Linda Sherman

International, multicultural marketing pro, Linda brings a distinguished background of international subsidiary CEO/CMO to her Social Marketing expertise. These include CEO Club Med Japan, Barilla Japan and CMO Wal-Mart Japan. Linda Sherman has been featured and quoted in Forbes, The New York Times, Christian Monitor and other leading publications. She devised and implemented an innovative guerrilla-marketing plan for ZIMA in Japan that produced a lasting, profitable success. Linda has hands-on technical skills in building and search optimizing WordPress websites and an influential on-line presence. Linda teaches social marketing for business at the University of Hawaii. Her company, The Courage Group, provides websites, digital film, branding and social marketing strategy and training.

Connect with Linda Sherman on Google+

21 comments
annesky
annesky

Hi people. I stumbled upon this place and wanted to say hi.

Random Facts

llamafruit
llamafruit

Greetings people. I just joined the site and I'm just introducing myself.

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

Leslie - You are so right about PASSION. I have been very fortunate over the years to work for companies and brands that I continue to feel genuine passion for.

Roxanne - I enjoyed following your link to Beach Walk #613 where you riffed on the authenticity theme. I only live in Kauai part time but like you I carry the love of natural beauty everywhere I go.

Roxanne Darling
Roxanne Darling

Thanks for pointing me to the interview Linda. You've got a great way of being very neutral in bringing up hot topics like gender. I too am a big fan of authenticity - and think it is a message that may take a few generations to really sink in. But really - being who you are (and not who you're not) is about as efficient a marketing strategy as you can get! And that goes for companies too. The more people know, the easier they can sort and the less they will be disappointed.

Leslie Talbot
Leslie Talbot

Some great comments here - I'd simply like to add that, while authenticity and personality are key to marketing success, the very best marketers bring another ingredient to the table: PASSION. If you have an absolute, rock-solid belief in your offering, your customers cannot help but be carried along, because instead of selling something *to* them you are actually sharing something *with* them.

One needs only look at Linda's success with Singelringen for a case study in the effectiveness of this "evangelical" approach!

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

Wendy, you ARE authentic and deserve great success with your new book.

Wendy Merrill
Wendy Merrill

It really does all boil down to relationships and being ones authentic self doesn't it? I'm learning about how to market myself, with the launch of my memoir (Falling into Manholes: The Memoir of a Bad/Good Girl, Putnam, March 2008), and it's such an interesting process. Thanks for the great insights!

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

Thanks Sandi, When it comes to elevating the conversation, you are already there. I really appreciated your tag suggestions for Singelringen. Ladies Who Launch .... another "coming soon" post.

Sandi Padnos
Sandi Padnos

Great to have met you through Ladies Who Launch. We were so lucky to have your insights and instincts shared with our group. You consistently provide trusted and reliable information on international distribution -- and lots of other matters, too! Whenever you are in the room, it just elevates the level of conversation.

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

Great comment Kathryn, thank you. And not just Americans.

Kathryn Jones
Kathryn Jones

once again it comes down to authenticity, authenticity, authenticity... to my mind the most exciting development of this new media filled 21st century... I will be fascinated to see how both traditional marketers ultimately adopt to this plastic free new paradigm, and whether or not that alters the kinds of people americans choose to celebrate.

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

Thank you Chuck for introducing me to GNLD vitamins. The B Stress packs I have been taking (for 24 years?!) gave me the energy I needed to work in Japan and continue to miraculously guard me from catching bugs going round. I am also happy to have added in recent years Phyto Defense packs. I take the B stress after lunch and the anti-oxidant Phyto's before bed.

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

Thank you Robert, Bill and Guy for participating in Rohit Bhargava's Personality Not Included book launch. I met these three fabulous men when I lived in Japan. Bill, Guy and I know both from experience and consulting to others what it feels like to be a bilingual, culturally savvy Country Manager in Japan striving to convince headquarters to allow us to tune our brands to the very unique Japanese market. As an entrepreneur, Robert ran his own successful operation with the freedom to do the right thing.

LindaSherman
LindaSherman

@JonnyGoldstein Thank you very much for your gracious comment. I learned from your interview too!

Guy Aelvoet
Guy Aelvoet

No surprises in that Linda was the only one asking questions about international, the US doesn't know about the outside world.

Re the adaptability of brands. We have all read the horror stories about brand inappropriateness, yet time after time it is repeated by the HQ people for whom the "if it works here " syndrome stays a sad reality.

Chuck Shelton
Chuck Shelton

I have known Linda Sherman for 24 years. We met in Tokyo in 1984 where I was the founding Pres. for the GNLD (Neo-Life) of Japan. We lived in the same apartment building. Our relationship both business and personal has continued for these last 24 years. It is interesting to read her Interview, as this sounds just like the Linda I have known all these years. She has always seen the Big Picture, and thinks within, but also Outside the Box. I agree with her thinking and questions, as I do Rohit's approach to successful and lasting marketing.. Relationships, Word of Mouth, Personality, Customer Service and Intenational are all keys to solid, lasting and secure success. Good Job Linda, and we look forward to your book Rohit.
Chuck Shelton

Robert White
Robert White

Good questions ... especially those about international marketing and gender differences!

Robert Michel
Robert Michel

I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

Robert Michel

Jason Rakowski
Jason Rakowski

Good Layout and design. I like your blog. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. .

Jason Rakowski

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Opportunity to Bring People to My Blog I used this contest as an opportunity to introduce my new blog to friends I had not yet mentioned it to. I sent e-mails to some of my network in Japan, mostly those on LinkedIn and my Women on Top Japan group. I appealed to the group of Single Life Authors that I list in the “Authors We Love” on our Singelringen site. I also wrote to some of my Facebook friends. Finally I wrote to my Twitter Friends. As Blogger Social drew near I made new TwitterBuds with the participants. I included those that had followed me back. My message basically said: ‘Could you please read my interview and consider voting for me?’ As you might guess, jumping to a blog, scanning an interview and voting is something that TwitterBuds are most willing to do. For the average person, this is a big deal request, but on the other hand I was especially grateful for the comments from my non-Twitter friends who took the time to figure out how to leave a comment on my contest post. […]