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The world, it’s true to say, has never been as interconnected, and not just in a virtual way. We can move around the globe like no other time in our history, finding ourselves immersed in cultures quite distinct from our own, yet at the same time be close to home comforts — in some shape or form anyway — should we feel the need to seek them.
In many ways and for many people, this interconnectedness is a good thing. It can help, especially when it happens in a physical, real way, to break down boundaries among peoples, to make us question any prejudices we may have, to remove the ‘fear of the others’ mentality.
However, in the same way that no two individuals are the same, cultural differences exist across the world. While it can be argued that an ‘Americanisation’ has swept superficially over the Western world and countries closely linked to it, differences remain at a deeper level. The former foreign minister of the USSR, Vyacheslav Molotov, was only partially right in his prediction in this regard back in 1946.
Thus, it tends not to be best practice to lump everybody together in whatever you happen to be at. Yet this is exactly what sportswear giant Adidas seems to be doing with regards its marketing strategy; a kind of ‘one size fits all’ approach if you will.
It all comes down to, we have it on good authority, a strategic change made a few years back, where it moved from a commercial focus to a brand one. Basically, this appears to mean that Adidas must be marketed pretty much the same across the world, whether that’s in Beijing or Bogotá. Cultural differences aren’t considered — or at least they are deemed not important enough as to warrant a country or regional alteration in approach.
How that has played out at this time of year is a lack of direct and obvious recognition of the Christmas season. This is to say that in Adidas stores you won’t find a festive flavour to them; a good thing for some people that, but Colombia ‘does Christmas’ with as much gusto as the best of them. The ‘bland’ Adidas stores will stand out, and the risk is this won’t be viewed in a good light.
Adidas Colombia did suggest a marketing campaign that had a bit of a seasonal swing to it, but not ostentatiously so. Personally, I thought it was much better than the nondescript global one (which, incidentally, originally focused on basketball, a sport that doesn’t register much of a beat in these parts). However, the company’s chiefs said ‘nay’ to the Colombian creation; but who are we to question global Adidas? It is a German company after all.
In one sense, it might be a thinking, and perhaps with reason, that Adidas is a sort of culture in itself and thus doesn’t need to be concerned with others or with seasons. It’s bigger than Christmas and all such malarkey. Plus, as noted above, the main focus for the company has shifted to its brand over the commercial side of things. (Obviously there’s a delicate balance there; the principal focus would soon switch back if sales declined. You don’t get to Adidas’ position, though, without having your homework well done.)
So while the Adidas approach may frustrate its employees on the ground in Colombia, it might just be reflecting a world that is more homogeneous than ever before. We may have our cultural differences, but for some things they matter little.
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