Compromise is the Answer

04 Jul 2014|Paul Cowper

Reconciliation is a wonderful thing, but it’s not something that happens easily – it takes application and it’s hard work.

There are days when working with big businesses feels like being an engineer in the pit at a Grand Prix race, tuning up fast for maximum performance, and other days can feel a bit like being a marriage guidance counsellor. Sometimes it seems like I spent the first part of my career trying to broker a peace deal between sales and marketing teams, today I’m more likely to be found trying to bridge the gap between the wants and needs of global and regional / local market teams.

Of course there’s a very good reason that there’s a gap. Typically strategy and direction are set at a global level, but local / regional teams have the job of actually taking this to market and making it work. Essentially it’s all one team trying to achieve the same thing, but the specifics of what each person needs diverge and that can cause tension, to say the least.

So this leads back to the question of what is a good strategy – is it something centrally determined, a nicely modelled and theoretically perfect plan which the markets are mandated to follow or perhaps a more practical approach where each market can craft their own, possibly around a central core?

Coca-Cola is a great example of this. Always reflecting their central core of ‘happiness’ – an emotion that can get lost in translation across different markets – they have smartly tailored a range of innovative pop-ups reflecting local nuances. They put a Coke machine at a Swedish bus stop in the depths of a dark dreary winter – each time a bottle of Coke was bought the bus stop lit up with the best images of summer to brighten the customer’s day. They researched the most popular first names in different markets, and tailored personalised bottles in line with these names, to appeal to a wide audience. And when a Coke bottle is scanned in Brazilian supermarkets, the ‘happiness’ beep strikes and plays the iconic Coke tune.

However defined though, you can’t separate strategy from structure. If strategy is about setting a direction and maximising your resources in service of that, then clearly your resources need to be in the right place to deliver, and be empowered to do so. Typically, we see that different OpCos in any global business will have slightly different working cultures, but those are often aligned to the markets and consumers they serve and flex here is necessary.

My simple rule of thumb is that, where strategy in a global business is concerned, usefulness will defeat theoretical perfection every time. Setting a strategy is a balancing act, you have to ask two questions, what’s the right direction for the business to go in, and how and why will this actually get used, to help make people’s working lives more rewarding. A real measure of the quality of any strategy is its ability to be implemented, and that requires both global and local to collaborate.

In partnership with local entrepreneurs around the world, Pernod Ricard produced ‘Our Vodka’, a global brand with local roots. Every bottle of ‘Our Vodka’ is made with the same recipe (micro distilled) but they use locally sourced ingredients and produce it in eleven micro-distilleries across the US, Europe and Australia. The global motto ‘Keep it simple – it’s vodka’ is integrated across each local market and is represented through the simple design of the bottle with a crown cap. The label changes with the local city but with the same design. The Vodka is global but is all about the local cities; a glocal brand.

Usefulness must come first, but this needs to be aligned to a purposeful vision. Some markets may be further from that destination point than others but all will get there in time. Compromise, as ever, is the answer, especially important when you think that a decree nisi isn’t on the cards!


Written by Paul Cowper, Managing Director, Added Value UK

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