Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Being Blunt, We Need a Latin Lesson

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Being Blunt, We Need a Latin Lesson

Article excerpt

The biggest shock in Singapore last week was not Jacques Rogge's welcome announcement that London would host the 2012 Olympic Games. The real surprise came 45 minutes later, as the Paris delegation was being interviewed by the world's media.

When team member Tony Parker, a French basketball player who stars in the American NBA, was asked for his response to the London win, he replied: 'I don't know what else we could have done. If we don't have it now, I guess we will never get it. The IOC seems to be very pro-Anglo-Saxon.'

An astonishingly candid response and a rare insight into something most British managers are completely ignorant of: their own identity. After all, we are Anglo-Saxons and therefore we think, act, manage and market accordingly.

Yet, most of the time, we are completely ignorant of this. One of the most glaring Anglo-Saxon traits is the belief that, while the rest of the world has various national idiosyncrasies, we are culturally neutral.

While British managers happily apply cultural traits to their Japanese or German colleagues, they rarely consider their own decisions to be driven by anything other than pure logic and market forces.

Our cultural ignorance is not helped by the fact that while our colleagues in France, Italy and other Latin countries constantly discuss Anglo-Saxon management techniques, they rarely mention them in the presence of their British or US counterparts.

The term 'anglo-saxonne' is one of the most commonly used phrases in the French business vocabulary; that is, until one of them enters the room. I spent two years working for a French company and made some good French friends before anyone politely informed me that a particular suggestion I had made was 'une approche tres anglo-saxonne'.

Anglo-Saxons are classically didactic. We believe in making our presentations and arguments as logical and transparent as possible. In contrast, our Latin colleagues understand that there are many different levels and various occasions to consider when putting forward their case.

The day after the Olympic verdict, French newspaper Le Monde contrasted the pedagogical, structured case made by London's presentation with the discreet, long-term lobbying by Paris. Latin managers enjoy a much more developed political sensibility. When Anglo-Saxon managers are complimented on a good presentation, they assume they have done a good job. …

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