Global Marketing

The Monetization of Cross-Cultural Spiritual Influence

Maharishi and The Beatles

The East and the West are inherently different, but are slowly influencing each other in many ways; one of those ways being spiritual.

Eastern influence began to permeate in the 1960s when The Beatles started to follow Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who founded Transcendental Meditation in India. The Beatles liked his philosophy and eventually communicated that philosophy to the world.

Today, Eastern spiritual ideals like meditation and yoga are starting to become commonplace in the West. Naturally, the West has taken its own spin on these traditional practices and has even formed profitable companies on the basis of improving people’s lives through spiritual connection. There are yoga studios like CorePower Yoga that are more fitness-oriented than spiritual, but still founded on Hatha yoga, originated in India. CorePower Yoga used to have statues of Eastern spiritual leaders, like the Buddha, in its studios, but has since taken them out to encourage a more neutral space.

Other companies have seized the opportunity to monetize a meditation practice; companies like Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. These apps offer pre-recorded guided meditations, courses, and soothing music for customers that want to have less stress in their lives. The guided meditations range in duration and difficulty level. Beginners might start out with a shorter, heavily guided meditation; whereas advanced practitioners might partake in a longer, lightly guided meditation. These apps offer subscription models, premium options, and individual courses designed to focus in on a specific area (for example, “How To Be A Compassionate Leader” by Lodro Rinzler is a 7 day course in Insight Timer available exclusively for “Member Plus” members for $59.99/year).

Meditation studios are slowly popping up in major metropolitan areas as well. In 2018, Orange County welcomed its first meditation studio in Newport Beach, CA, MDitate. The space is tranquil, the instructors have years of experience guiding people through a spiritual practice, and the intention is set for healing. Other meditation studios, like The Den or Unplug in Los Angeles, are also capitalizing on the people’s need for stress relief.

As the world becomes increasingly stressful, Westerners are tapping into themselves and realizing the benefits of practices like yoga and meditation. As Westerners demand resources to practice these spiritual modalities, companies are responding with platforms and profit.

Is it wrong to capitalize off of practices rooted in Eastern tradition?

Preethaji and Krishnaji are spiritual leaders in India and recently co-authored The Four Sacred Secrets. In the book, Krishnaji says, “Conventionally, a quest for a transformed state is often associated with hippies or with people who are retired from life. It is assumed to be the zone that only those who are disinterested and disillusioned with life choose to enter. Throughout the ages, a transformed state of consciousness has been pursued as an end in itself, but Preethaji and I make a clear distinction in this regard.” He then goes on to list the substantial accomplishments they have made by being spiritual teachers, including founding 5 global businesses and a meditation app.

Monetizing spiritual practice does not immediately equate to diluting or appropriating Eastern spiritual tradition. In fact, monetizing these spiritual practices have had a great deal of influence in positively expanding Western culture.

Would you still meditate or do yoga if you did not have a studio or an app to guide you? Let us know in the comments!

-Cassity Brown

Global Marketing

Branding & Coronavirus

It’s May 2020. The world is in a pandemic because of the COVID-19, coronavirus, outbreak. People all over the world are quarantining in their homes, trying to stay safe and healthy. Some businesses are closed or going under while other businesses are booming (i.e. Target, Amazon, grocery stores alike). There is no end in sight in the United States, prolonging the closures of businesses and the quarantining of shoppers.

How is COVID-19 affecting branding? Are businesses using this as an opportunity to market to an enormous target market (i.e. people struggling in quarantine)? Is that ethical? Are consumers seeing through it?

Car companies are offering payment deferrals of 90 days to 6 months with the purchase of a new car. Food brands are showcasing their charitable efforts on commercials. Telecommunication companies are ensuring people are staying connected. And more.

The Frito Lay commercial shown above is one of the many commercials centered around coronavirus efforts. Some responses praise the company for its altruism, some responses see through the commercial for what it realistically is—an ad for Frito Lay. Perhaps it depends on the perspective of the viewer whether their opinion will be applauding Frito Lay for its good works or shaming it for its humblebrag. The commercial explains that now is not the time for brands to be telling “us” what to do, but rather showing us. It then proceeds to list the several unarguably positive works the brand has done to contribute to the coronavirus pandemic.

This article in Fast Company criticizes the move. This article in Marketing Dive praises the commercial and explains that Frito Lay’s data shows that consumers respond more positively to ads that show what brands are doing rather than brands telling the people what to do. Marketing Dive also noted that consumers believe that brands will make more and quicker impact on COVID-19 relief than the government.

Considering that advertisements are one of the most effective ways to get a brand’s message out, I personally see nothing wrong with showcasing the facts. Even if the intention behind the Frito Lay commercial was to increase good will for the company, that does not negate its good deeds. The world needs more positive news now more than ever. Perhaps consumers are even comforted by the fact that one of their household brands is actively doing what they can do combat coronavirus in its own way.

Is a good deed still a good deed if you make an expensive commercial to tell people about it? Comment your perspective below!

-Cassity Brown

Global Marketing

Netflix and Criminal: a localization experiment

If you're one of the many quarantined souls who have been shamelessly binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, you might enjoy this blog post.

You might have noticed that Netflix has been kicking it out of the park for the past few years, releasing successful original TV shows, movies, documentaries and comedy shows. By 2017, Netflix was operating in over 190 countries, with approximately 73 million subscribers residing outside of the U.S.

Given that Netflix was facing strong competition in foreign markets, the company did not have the first-mover advantage in countries like Germany and India, where local-language video content appealed more to the local communities. As such, Netflix needed to establish a local presence, and resorted to extreme localization in its product offerings and marketing efforts. In 2016, Netflix released its first ever Portuguese-language Netflix Original Series, 3%, and in 2017, the first ever German language Netflix original series, Dark, was released, with the latter gaining worldwide popularity and commendation (a must watch!).

According to Netflix's Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, customer preferences are considered at the top of the list, and Netflix is known to respond strongly to these preferences, in order to create content that will appeal to the local communities.

Let's take a look at Criminal: a crime anthology series which focuses predominantly on suspect interrogation, thus creating a story line around it. Criminal is unique in the TV show's extreme localization to fit four distinct markets: France, UK, Spain and Germany.

“Criminal”, the franchise trailer

The franchise trailer for Criminal was released in September of 2019, and features a myriad of characters, with several conversing in different languages from one take to another. That's because each of the four local series were written and performed in the country's native language, featuring native actors. The U.K. edition opens with David Tennant, who is playing a doctor accused of sexually abusing and murdering his step-daughter.

David Tennant in Criminal: UK

However, the German version story line is based on two men who each grew up on either sides of the Berlin Wall, touching on crucial changes that Germany saw after East and West were reunited.

Sylvester Groth in Criminal: Germany

Although the sets and TV show format are structured similarly, cultural signifiers are what made them stand out and become well-received in each local market. The stories behind each character are what resonated with the audience, with Netflix showing an up-close and personal understanding of each culture.

Given that the four “versions” are radically different, why did Netflix release a franchise trailer, instead of pushing out local trailers to each audience?

My take on it is that Netflix is trying to encourage English-speaking viewers to be open to watching content in other languages, especially given the resounding success of movies like Parasite, or TV shows like La Casa De Papel (Money Heist). American viewers can very well begin watching the UK version of Criminal, and transition to any of the other foreign-language shows, while knowing what to expect.

Do you think Netflix should have advertised and promoted Criminal differently? Let us know in the comments below!

-Maria Khalil

Global Marketing

Inclusivity is the New Pink

Cosmetics companies have started to become more culturally sensitive to the vast array of skin tones when formulating their foundation colors. Expanding from the former-norm of “Very Light,” “Light,” “Medium,” “Dark,” and “Very Dark” range, cosmetic companies are aiming for 40 different foundation shades; a standard set by Rhianna’s Fenty Beauty.

Fenty Beauty launched in September 2017 with an unprecedented 40 foundation shades in its lineup. Now offering 50 foundation shades, the brand is dedicated to inclusivity with a special focus on hard-to-match skin tones that were unrepresented in other mainstream cosmetic lines. Rhianna created Fenty Beauty “so that women everywhere would be included.”

It’s not a profound concept that people want to feel included and seen. However, this has been a challenge for a lot of industries, the cosmetics industry in particular. Perhaps the R&D expense just seemed too high to offer more shades than the standard five?

Fenty Beauty proved to all the other cosmetics companies that diverse and inclusive foundation shade ranges can be produced. The overwhelmingly positive response that Fenty Beauty received upon launch also proved that customers are now going to demand nothing less. Established cosmetic brands like CoverGirl, Maybelline, Dior, and others now carry at least 40 shades of foundation.

A person’s skin tone is a part of their identity. For Krystal Robertson, a 26-year old woman with albinism, finding a foundation match with Fenty made her feel “. . . that me finally being myself was worth it . . . It actually means the world that [Rihanna] not only made a diversity of shades for all women of color, but she brought us together.”

While MAC Cosmetics was technically first on the scene to offer 40+ shades of foundation, Fenty Beauty focused on the inclusivity of the brand in its marketing, which is why it has the reputation of setting the industry standard on offering a wide range of foundation shades.

However, it is not enough to simply claim your brand is inclusive, the makeup must reflect it. There is a huge difference between a truly inclusive brand and a brand with 40 shades of foundation with 35 of them being somewhere in the middle, leaving the other 5 with harsh contrast light or dark. Milk Makeup offers 16 shades of foundation and successfully evenly distributes the variation between light, medium, and dark.

As we move toward a global economy, it is crucial for brands to be inclusive. Sometimes, doing so takes shaking up an industry and setting new standards.

What are your thoughts on the cosmetics inclusivity revolution that Fenty Beauty sparked in 2017?

-Cassity Brown

Global Marketing

The Trader Joe’s Hype and Culture Marketing

Culture marketing is a strategy used by companies that allows consumers to peak behind the curtain and to learn about the company's core values and missions through its content, messaging, decor and even product offerings. Most companies have this information simply cited on their website, but the gist is in translating this information into something meaningful and real that will resonate with the consumer. This is relevant for current and potential customers, as well as current and prospective employees and potential investors/stakeholders.

Let's take a look at Trader Joe's:

The Trader Joe's website offers customers and visitors insights to the Trader Joe's story, and also provided a timeline, showing how the company grew and evolved over the years. Trader Joe's used this timeline to share details about a community that flourished over time, and to show the company's commitment to this important pillar. The Trader Joe's experience is unique to other stores, and is due to several carefully thought out elements that turn Trader Joe's customers into fanatics:

You're always met with a friendly cashier who will most likely remember you the next time they see you, and who will engage in meaningful conversation with you. I once left the store with a great podcast suggestion!

Additionally, the handwritten flyers, signs and prices creates a “homey” feeling with a personal touch, which further supports the idea of family and community, versus a printed standardized poster that's shipped out to all locations. That feels rather robotic, doesn't it?

They also reach out to their community via Instagram, and constantly provide updates on new products, as well as share cool recipes and fun kitchen ideas. They even offered free printable coloring books for parents and their kids to unwind and de-stress during COVID-19 times. Although this post had nothing to do with the products they sell, Trader Joe's took the extra step to show customers that they care about the emotional well being of the community.

Most importantly, Trader Joe's culture marketing is also evident in product choices, advertising great quality at great prices, with unique offerings from all over the world, further affirming inclusion.

Paired with their versatile product lines and unique offerings, this culture marketing makes Trader Joe's a go-to for many people and more often than not locks them in as fans and walking advertisements.

Are you a Trader Joe's fan? Let us know why below!

-Maria Khalil

Global Marketing

Korean Trends Crossing Cultural Barriers

In the last 18 months, the West saw a rise in Korean influence, notably within the beauty and cosmetics industry. Estimated at around $13 billion in 2017, Korean beauty, or K-beauty, trends soared across Asia and resonated across the world.

What’s all the hype about?

I went into a deeper dive into the Korean cosmetics market, and here are some interesting insights:

In recent years, K-beauty companies began to expand internationally, with hallyu (Korean Wave) culture becoming more widespread. Uniquely, “South Korea's beauty industry is typically about 10-12 years ahead of the rest of the world” says Marie Claire’s digital beauty editor, Katie Thomas, in an interview she gave to BBC News. Essentially, the pillars of the makeup industry are deeply rooted into the Korean culture, and K-beauty practices are well received across Asia and the rest of the world. To K-beauty fans, the products not only offer the best quality of the best ingredients but attached to that product is the identity value that K-beauty offers consumers. Let’s break it down:

First, skincare is the essential pillar and is “ingrained in Korean culture from a very young age to look after your skin”, explains Thomas. As such, customers who use K-beauty products will rest at ease knowing they invested their money in products that have been used for centuries. Sephora then hopped on the K-beauty train, and co-developed Kaja. This was the first U.S. – K-beauty brand partnership. K-beauty became so popular that even Business Insider compiled a list of 17 of the best Korean skin-care products you can find at Sephora.

Second, there are active ingredients and new, innovative formulas constantly being developed in South Korea that would likely not be considered in the United States, simply due to lack of knowledge of such unique ingredients’ properties (snail mucus, pearl for brightening).

Additionally, the K-beauty industry has a keen focus on facial care products rather than decorative, or makeup, products. This holistic approach is desired by consumers, and the practice is consequently embodied through K-beauty products.

Third, and more importantly, K-beauty boomed online, and thousands of bloggers published video reviews of K-beauty products on a daily basis.

Interestingly, an advantage that South Korea had over countries like the United States is the widespread use of makeup by men, and thus, the amount of social influencers and bloggers was drastically higher in South Korea, just because their target market was inherently larger.

However, that didn’t stop K-beauty from resonating with non-Koreans. That’s because the added value that K-beauty is bringing to the table is coated with an extra layer of culture. K-beauty is perfected because culturally, this has been a common practice in all Korean households, and knowledge and expertise have been passed down from generation to generation. Additionally, the novelty of unknown or new ingredients adds to the appeal of such products.

Have you ever tried K-beauty products? Let us know below!

– Maria Khalil

Global Marketing

Culturally Sensitive Packaging Can Make All the Difference

For a universally needed product, you would think the packaging would not make a do or die difference in the success of the product. However, as discussed in class, something as simple as toothpaste can be the source of much corporate controversy. In the case of the Colgate Max Fresh rollout in the early 2000’s, Colgate knew that advertising breath strips in the Chinese market would not be as effective as advertising breath strips in the United States. So, Colgate adjusted their advertising accordingly in order to get their Max Fresh toothpaste into China successfully.

In order for packaging to effectively speak to a certain culture, the packaging must resonate with that culture. By doing market research, companies can figure out how big the market is and how fast the market is growing or shrinking.

For example, UK based co-working space, Hana, has gone international and has done so by entering similar markets in order to promote standardization in their business model, or their customer facing packaging.

Image result for hana workspace

Starting out in London, Hana has expanded to major cities across the United States, such as New York, Dallas, and most recently, Irvine, to promote professional and chic flexible workspaces for up-and-coming professionals.

By expanding to culturally similar major cities, Hana enjoys the benefit of generally standardized spaces and advertising methods.

It would be interesting to see how Hana would intend to enter a culturally different market, like the Latin American or Asian markets. How much would they adapt? Would they stay standard in order to promote continuity in their brand?

As we saw in the Colgate Max Fresh case, it can be extremely expensive to adapt packaging to appeal to a new market with significantly different culture.

Most major cities in the world today are extremely diverse. If Hana sticks to its plan of expanding into these major cities, where high profile and up and coming professionals are located, it will likely not need to adapt too drastically in order to thrive. However, perhaps regional consultants would be a beneficial investment before any official plans are made to jump into a new market.

How do you think an English flexible workspace would need to adapt in Latin American or Asian markets? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

-Cassity Brown

Global Marketing

Righteousness and Marketing, Should They Go Hand In Hand?

The 2014 Winter Olympics were set to be hosted in Sochi, Russia, with roughly 10 major global sponsors endorsing the highly anticipated events. The Olympics, being truly global events, attract major players like Procter&Gamble, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, General Electric…

However, as the Olympics neared, these global companies were facing immense pressure from the media, their consumers, their business partners and really from anyone with an opinion.

The issue lied in Russia's strict anti-gay laws and propaganda. Protests erupted in Melbourne, London, Paris and even St. Petersburg. Gay rights organization such as All Out sponsored trucks with pro-gay signage to drive around Coca-Cola HQ in Atlanta. Activists took to the streets to dump out Coca-Cola, symbolizing their discontent at Coca-Cola's ongoing sponsorship of the Olympic Games. The hashtag #CheersToSochi quickly trended as more and more discontent people joined the movement.

A re-made vintage Coke Ad by Queer Nation NY, denouncing their sponsorship of the Winter Olympics in Russia.

Even during the games, Swedish athletes painted their nails vivid rainbow colors as a statement, whilst Russian players from the women's relay team embraced and publicly kissed on the podium after winning. As such, the games started showing a growing potential for a highly charged, emotional and political event. Potential for arrests was very high, and the games were under intense scrutiny in the international media.

Since these major sponsors were mostly US-based companies, each sponsor was facing intense pressure at-home, and it quickly became a challenge for these brands.

Should the sponsors respect Russia's laws and culture, which are largely anti-gay and criminalize the LGBTQIA+ community, or should they take a stance and join the protests in solidarity, thus risking their sponsorship?

As it relates to our class session on cross-cultural marketing, there is the issue of the self'-reference criterion. Essentially, it's the natural tendency of a company to evaluate what they see through the lens of of their own experience, environment, and by extension, cultures and norms. This criterion could very well be the downfall of a company.

To Westerners, specifically in the US, it seems pretty self-evident that the “right” decision for companies is to stand by the LGBTQIA+ community, and refuse Russia's strict laws. However, when we consider that other countries in the Middle East or in Africa also grossly and legally denounce homosexuality and persecute it, the decision becomes that much harder. It's hard for me to write this and critically evaluate the situation, because of my own self-reference criterion. But from a business perspective, should companies sacrifice their brand, their earnings, their standing in an international market, for a cause that is only deemed valid in more Western Countries?

Tough questions, right? Especially if you're an aspiring businessperson, who will undoubtedly eventually operate in global markets. Where do you draw the line when doing business?

Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Thank you for reading – MK