No Ordinary Disruption: It’s time to reset intuitions

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 5.54.29 PM

I was given a review copy of No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, which I read over the weekend. The authors are Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel — all directors at the McKinsey Global Institute.

Readers of this blog are not going to be surprised by some of the disruptions highlighted by this book, namely the enormous impact that emerging economies are having on global brands (and future global brands). In fact, I doubt readers will find any of these four disruptive forces to be unique.

But what’s unique is how the book ties these four major forces together in a book that’s packed with insights and anecdotes while remaining free of management-speak.

First, here are the four disruptive forces:

  1. The age of urbanization, creating massive new cities in emerging economies. By 2025, 48 of the largest 200 cities will be in China. This is resulting in a shift in the earth’s economic “center of gravity” back towards Asia. The center of gravity used to be centered over India and China and now it’s headed back again.
  2. Accelerating technological change. It used to take a very long time for a technology to reach “scale” — but now, driven in large part by mobile penetration of smartphones, an application can go from one to 500 million users in less than a year.
  3. Aging populations, placing a greater economic burden on fewer workers. China is a lot like the US in facing a future with fewer workers relative to the number of elderly.
  4. Greater (and more complex) interconnectedness. We’re all more tightly connected than ever before, which is nice if you want to sell your product anywhere in the world, but uncomfortable when you realize anyone else in the world is now a potential competitor.

Don’t expect this book to give you any concrete secrets about how to successfully navigate these forces — the authors rightfully point out that there are just too many variables at play to know exactly what this future world will look like.

What this book excels at is quickly summarizing these forces and the challenges they pose to businesses and policy makers. And using real-world examples to illustrate these forces.

I enjoyed the many visuals included in the book, such as this one, illustrating this shifting of the economic center of gravity:

ScreenHunter_01-Dec.-18-12.15

From a web globalization perspective, a few parts of the book jumped out at me, such as:

  • China’s ecommerce market is now the world’s largest. But this is just one country — globally, well more than a billion people will be joining the “consumer class” over the next decade. And they won’t be based in developed markets.
  • The rise of emerging-market competitors are going to keep legacy multinationals on their toes. I would place Xiaomi in this group — a fast-moving Chinese company with global ambitions.
  • When going global, you should focus on cities and urban centers, not regions or countries. I found this point to be among the most important takeaways for those managing web and product localization. If you consider just how complicated it is to market a product across the United States, with all the many ethnic groups, economic classes, geographic regions, age groups, etc. it’s only logical that you need to think similarly about other countries.

The authors want this book to help you “reset your intuitions” about the world as you know it. For instance, we can’t think of China as a country with two large cities. It’s a country with numerous cities that rival many European countries in population. And we need to be on the lookout for opportunities (and threats) in countries that we may have overlooked in years past. There are a number of African countries, for example, that Chinese companies are now heavily invested in. And companies are learning that products and distribution strategies that succeed in emerging economies often have little in common with what works in more developed economies. These lessons are important to learn earlier than later!

Perhaps the most important message the authors deliver is one of staying curious and adaptable.

These are traits that make successful managers of global websites. After all, we can’t know what’s around the corner with any degree of certainty. But by keeping a curious and open mind you will be prepared to ride these waves as they come along.

Questions to ask before entering an emerging market

Here’s my latest post for client Pitney Bowes:

For companies in search of global growth, emerging markets are hard to resist. But like the California gold fields of the 1850s, the promise of riches doesn’t always result in riches. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have an emerging market strategy — you absolutely should. But set your expectations accordingly.

Begin by understanding that “emerging market” can apply to diverse range of countries, cultures, governments, and growth rates. China, for example, is considered an emerging market even though its economy is more than ten times the size of Turkey — another emerging market.

And China, despite its massive size, may for some companies be a more challenging market to succeed in than other markets. For example, a number of American multinationals, most notably Facebook and Google, have been humbled by China’s “great firewall,” which has often left their websites blocked to hundreds of millions of Internet users. Meanwhile, Facebook has been surprisingly successful in Indonesia — another emerging market that often gets overlooked by companies rushing headfirst into China.

As you begin crafting an emerging market strategy, keep your eyes open to all emerging markets, and not just the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China).

And consider the following ten questions.

 

Chevrolet wants a consistent global brand — hopefully a consistent website will follow

Interesting article in the WSJ (sub. required) about Alan Batey, the new global brand chief of Chevrolet.

From the article:

Mr. Batey says he wants to unify the brand’s strategy. “We used to operate regionally with each country or local area doing their own thing,” Mr. Batey said. “That’s over. From now on we will operate as one.”

Among the changes: Mr. Batey this year introduced Chevrolet’s first global advertising slogan “Find New Roads,” due to its ease in translation. The Chevrolet design team, at 10 different studios from around the world, also now meet daily via virtual reality screens and conference calls to shape future Chevrolet vehicles.

While the article is primarily about branding issues globally, I can vouch for the fact that there is little global consistency in the Chevrolet (or GM) websites.

Based on the 2013 Report Card, the Chevrolet website was ranked #89 out of 150 websites, due in large part to lack of any one global design template. And given that Chevrolet supports more than 34 languages, a global template is not only essential to global branding but global efficiency.

Here is the Chevrolet.com home page:

Chevrolet.com US

And the China home page:

Chevrolet China

China is an extreme example.

The European sites are visually more in line with Chevy.com, though the underlying template is  quite a bit different.

Here is Germany:

Chevrolet Germany home page

Global inconsistency is not a challenge unique to Chevy. Most automotive websites struggle with managing local websites effectively, particularly companies like Toyota and Honda. The top three automotive websites — in terms of global consistency — are BMW, Mini, and Audi.

You can read more in our Automotive Report.

Chevy Find New Roads

Regarding the global slogan — Find New Roads — I’m not sure I agree that companies need to select slogans that can be translated easily. After all, Nike’s Just Do It slogan was near-impossible to faithfully translate and that didn’t stop the company from using it globally.

My recommendation is to avoid a global slogan altogether.

What is Starbucks’ global slogan? What is Apple’s global slogan? I don’t believe either company has one.

Let your products and services be your slogan. And put the money saved into that global website redesign.

 

 

BMW: The best global automotive website of 2013

Logo of BMW

We included 14 automotive and supplier websites in the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card.

The Web Globalization Report Card is an annual benchmark of how effectively companies internationalize and localize their websites and applications for the world.

Out of those 14 companies, BMW emerged on top.

Even though BMW won the category, it still ranks #44 out of the 150 websites studied, which means the automotive industry still has a long ways to go in terms of supporting web globalization best practices.

BMW emerged on top this year in part because its investment in languages. BMW supports an impressive 42 languages, behind only Honda  and Toyota. Over the past year, BMW added two additional languages.

BMW also stands apart in its support for local-language social networks. On its Brazil home page, for example, it includes this Facebook widget:

BMW Facebook Brazil

And a link to its Twitter feed:

BMW Twitter Brazil

Many companies have built entire teams around supporting their English-language social network platforms but have completely overlooked the importance of engaging with users in their native languages.

BMW does an above-average job of supporting a global design template. Many automotive companies have yet to embrace global consistency as a means of improving efficiency, global branding, and usability for people who often navigate between the .com and country websites.

BMW is weak in global navigation. In fact, none of the automative websites do a particularly good job of supporting a global gateway.

Here are the 14 automotive and supplier websites included in the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Goodyear
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Lexus
  • Mercedes
  • Michelin
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

Read more in the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card.

Also included: The Automotive Global Benchmark.

Coffee Codes of the World

Coffee Codes of the World by John Yunker

I love coffee. I also love country codes.

So it was just a matter of time before I created something like this (now featured at the FORUM artspace gallery):

Coffee Codes of the World by John Yunker

The country codes are sized roughly in line with the amount of coffee produced by each country. Brazil is the world’s largest producer; I was surprised to find Vietnam in second place. Speaking of Vietnam, Starbucks is opening its first location there this year.

Note that coffee production statistics include both robusta and arabica varieties.

If you’ve in the Cleveland, Ohio area you can see this print up close.

I believe that online purchases will be available soon as well. If you’d like a copy, just let me know.