Local brands versus global brands–where do you stand?
Procter & Gamble (P&G) like to claim that modern marketing started when William Procter and James Gamble started stamping the moon and stars symbol on their crates of candles and soap, which were both made from dead cows and their fat. The moon and stars quickly became seen as a trusted mark of good quality. Ever since, trust and quality has been at the heart of branding: you know what to expect when you buy from any brand ranging from McDonald’s to Versace.
The linkage between trust, quality, and brands goes into deep history. From early times, kings realised the propaganda value of being the face on the coins of their subjects. And the subjects learned to trust that a coin with the king’s head on it had value that everyone would recognise. When kings weren’t debasing their own coinage to pay for wars, they were keen on quality control. In 1125, Henry I of England ordered that all the moneyers who made debased coins should lose their right hands and be castrated. Do not try this form of quality assurance in your office. As ever, the link between trust, quality, and the brand was seen to be vital.
Not surprisingly, people came to trust local brands more than foreign ones. Only an expert would know how much a foreign coin was really worth, and an expert would rip you off with their better knowledge. This formula for trusting the local currency more than foreign gets reversed when the local currency is trashed. I am a multi-billionaire many times over: I possess about $100 billion dollars in cash. Unfortunately, it is a Zimbabwean dollar bill and would not have bought a loaf of bread at the height of the Mugabe hyper-inflation. In that sort of world, the global brand beats the local brands: everyone wanted US dollars, not Zimbabwean dollars.
This matters for leaders, especially in global firms. Colleagues who know you may trust you because you are the local leader, the local brand who is trusted with known qualities. But why should anyone on your global team trust you: they do not know your track record, they do not know your qualities.
If you want to become the trusted leader, you need to earn it. Here are the four elements of becoming the leader people trust:
Build credibility. Do not debase your coinage. As a leader you always need to do as you say. The problem is rarely in the doing; it is in the saying. What we say and what is heard are often quite different. When we say “I will try, I hope to, I will see what can be done…” we know we are not committing. But what is heard is often “I will…” so when you come back two weeks later and say you have tried, that is not enough. At that point, credibility will be broken and the “he said I said you meant but she didn’t...” discussion simply makes things worse. To compound matters, we judge ourselves by our intentions while others judge us by our actions. We will absolutely believe we have done as we say; the other person will think the opposite. Credibility is like a vase: it takes time to make, it is easy to break, and it is very hard to put back together again. If you want to maintain credibility, it is important to be crystal clear about expectations. It is easier to have a difficult conversation about expectations at the start, than to have an impossible conversation about outcomes afterwards.
2. Build personal alignment. We trust the local brand more than the foreign brand: we trust people who are like ourselves. If they share the same background and culture, it is easy to understand what they say and what they mean. It is easier to predict what they will do and what they will not do. So if you meet a colleague from a different culture, invest time in them. Understand more about who they are, what they do, and how they work. Find common ground and common interests, anything from food to holidays to family. Listening is your secret weapon to building rapport and mutual understanding. You have two ears and one mouth: use them in that proportion. Listen at least twice as much as you speak.
3. Find common professional interests and goals. This is more than having the right degrees and experience. It is about finding the common agenda where you can both win together. Focus on where you can cooperate, not compete. Again, this is where you need the magic formula of two ears and one mouth.
4. Finally, remember that risk is like kryptonite to trust. The higher the risk, the more trust you need to work together. That means start on small things and show that you can be trusted to deliver. As your credibility and trust grows, so you can be trusted on riskier projects.
Mr Jo Owen is the author of Global Teams and 14 other management books. He is a founder of the UK’s largest graduate recruiter, Teach First, and has started six other charities, a bank, and a business in Japan.
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