As a boy, I longed to visit the USA, the cultural melting pot of the globe, where people from every nation lived, worked and co-existed in harmony. A somewhat idyllic view I now realise.
It was only 15 years ago that I first crossed the pond, inevitably to the sunshine state of Florida and as soon as we arrived, my 5 year old son dragged me off to Disneyworld.
His favourite ‘ride’ was a rather timid affair called Small World, where a boat sailed you through a miniature world populated only by children. There were German kids in lederhosen, Asian youngsters with traditional straw peasant hats and pony tails and, to our amusement, miniature Scottish Highlanders with kilts and bagpipes.
They were all happily singing a cute little ditty, in English of course, called ‘It’s a Small World After All,’ and it confirmed our idea of the USA and our rose tinted view of Global Cultural Integration.
10 years later, I went on a 3 day business junket aboard the Aurora cruise ship, which set sail jam packed with marketing agency people and prospective clients, whose purpose was to ‘date’ with a view to establish long term relationships.
During my trip I met with the Global CMO of a renowned technology company, who had a rather different view of the world. His experience was that global B2B marketing was a thankless affair, wherein central marketing departments - mostly based in the USA- were constantly at loggerheads with regional sales and marcomms people about the difference between business and creative culture and who should control budgets.
He also had a disparaging view of agency networks, venturing that often the executives in different locations never met each other and most damningly had different approaches and processes. He bemoaned the lack of ‘franchisable’ models, universal to all.
His use of the word ‘franchise’ surprised me, but he was adamant, citing McKinsey as an example of best practice.
So which view do I subscribe to? The perfect world of Disney where people and cultures positively converge? Or the disjointed and antagonistic world experienced by my ‘date’ on the Aurora?
Well, it is a small world and brands are increasingly operating globally. And, in my view, there is no reason why the international rollout of a brand can’t be strategically and operationally smooth and culturally inclusive.
Yes, there are major challenges to be tackled – both positive and negative; among those are great opportunities like Marketing Automation and potential minefields, like making creativity travel culturally and in different languages.
It will take ‘entente cordiale’ from clients and agencies to work together to develop best practice and consistent methodologies to conquer the world of B2B marketing.
That’s why I was so impressed when I found out that the Business Marketing of America (BMA) is planning to expand out from its heartland of the USA, to establish a truly global alliance of senior B2B marketers, agencies and other stakeholders. And why I am now a particularly enthusiastic member of the steering committee to set up a BMA chapter here in the UK.