article

Mélanie Leroy

International Business Consultant

Views and ideas

 

 

The term “culture” covers different things. It puts us in mind of cultivation or working the land and more figuratively, the humanities, sciences, fine arts and therefore learning and education. To cultivate is to develop, maintain, increase, grow. On the sociological level, culture is defined as “that which is common to a group of individuals”: the distinctive intellectual, material and emotional traits that characterise a society or social group.

 

Only humankind, among all living species, is both an inventor and an heir of culture: we create languages, tools, religions, works of art and we pass on this heritage to the following generations.

 

There are as many cultures as there are distinct groups. Everything that belongs to culture bears the mark of the diverse and the relative: there are several religions, several forms of art, several political systems … The diversity of cultures is something specific to humanity.

 

The strategy of brands finds its natural place within this paradigm. Today, the brand is no longer just Image. It is Experience. In its new relational dimension, its major challenge is to reconcile its identity, its codes and its values with those of a multicultural clientele. In short, get your own brand culture to resonate with the cultures of the world.

 

Customer relations therefore requires the deciphering and understanding of each culture’s specific features. It entails the adoption of a personalised attitude, tailored to the cultural specificities of each customer.

 

In this perspective and because that is its conviction, BlueLink is conducting many projects:

 

The first of these concerns the Air France loyalty programme: Flying Blue. For several years, training courses have included a cultural component raising awareness of the specificities of each country with the ultimate aim of having a linguistic advisor for each language.

 

Ensuring the success of this approach even starts upstream, at the hiring phase with the identification of future employees possessing people skills more than know-how. Attention is also paid to Cultural Intelligence (CQ), that is, the ability to use your intelligence in a foreign cultural context.

 

Another project with a multi-brand and multi-sector approach aims to define a customer profile by market and give rise to Dos and don’ts, all summarised in a fact sheet. This tells us, for example, that the Japanese expect us to spend time with them and to say goodbye several times at the end of the conversation while Koreans just want to get straight to the point. Moreover, it would be pointless leaving a voice message for a Spaniard at the risk of irritating them because using voicemail attracts a charge in Spain. Awareness of these cultural particularities can be a real advantage when interacting with customers!

 

As part of the delivery of a monitoring unit concerning the Customer Experience on the luxury goods sector on behalf of an haute couture client, a pilot initiative was conducted on the US & Europe market. The deliverable was in part based on a study that defined 7 profiles of customers of luxury goods, in terms of purchasing behaviour. What was the objective? To determine the prevailing profiles by market and establish appropriate relationship postures. The findings revealed a clear difference between the dominant profiles in Europe and the US.

 

It is worth mentioning another project that stands as a perfect counter-example concerning a French start-up specialised in acoustic engineering. An intrinsically transgressive brand, it chose to apply a relational reference system aligned with its disruptive values to all its customer profiles. Like the American care culture, it considers its customer as being part of its tribe where familiarity emerges naturally. Feedback from different countries and particularly Asian ones are carefully monitored. While so many other brands seek to adapt to cultural specificities, the latter, in test and learn mode, does away with the differences. A deliberate and explosive practice that sheds new light on the question of Culture to Culture.

 

Other upcoming projects will explore even finer levels of granularity, dissociating individual and cultural behaviour and revealing the influence of culture in the relationship.

 

With the rise of digital technology, the world has become interconnected, cross-functional and rapid. With it, new codes, languages, and postures are emerging.

 

In the relationship with its customers, the brand will no longer be able to ignore this new, additional dimension which is digital culture.