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.

The top 10 country codes (and the fall of China)

Verisign published its quarterly industry brief a few weeks ago.

In it, the guide includes the top 10 ccTLDs, reprinted below:

There are now more than 81 million registered ccTLD domains, which comprise about 40% of all registered domain names. Verisign says ccTLD registrations increased nearly 8% over last year. This is impressive given that China has really cracked down on .cn registrations over the past two years. For a brief period of time China was the leading country code, though a large percentage of these registrations were squatters. Here are the top 10 ccTLDs in late 2009:

So Germany is now firmly back in first place and China has fallen to fifth place.

But China may actually be in sixth place if you include IDNs.

I don’t believe IDN registrations are included in the ccTLD counts. For most countries, this isn’t a big deal because ccTLDs counts are quite low. But then there is Russia, with more than 800,000 registrations for .РФ. If you were to bundle IDN and ccTLD counts together, then Russia would surpass China and squeeze into fifth place.

 

World 3.0: Making Sense of a Semi-Global Planet

I received an advance review copy of Pankaj Ghemeawat’s new book World 3.0: Global Prosperity and How to Achieve It.

I greatly enjoyed his previous book, Redefining Global Strategy, calling it a valuable counterpoint to Tom Friedman’s book The World is Flat.

In his newest book, Pankaj sets out to chart a course forward that balances global integration (globalization) with regulation.

In light of the global recession, Pankaj does not want to see countries revert to an all-or-nothing approach to globalization — either embracing globalization with no checks or balances or completely closing the door to trade, immigrants, ideas, etc.

Of course, charting such a course requires making sense of a world that cannot be easily summarized in sound bites — something most American politicians seem unable or unwilling to do. The fact is, the globalization “train” has long ago left the station. We’re all connected, whether we like it or not. We can either choose to create relationships that benefit everyone or we can live with the outdated mindset that some countries must win at the expense of others. What I really appreciate about Pankaj’s writing is that he believes that globalization (properly regulated) can benefit everyone and he backs up these beliefs with plenty of data and recommendations for politicians, business leaders, and ordinary folks like myself.

What I most liked about this book was how Pankaj debunks popular misconceptions about globalization, which he calls “globaloney.” For example:

  • We have vastly overestimated how global we think we are. At best, Pankaj writes, we are semi-global. According to Panjak, global exports account for just 20% of global GDP. Cross-border Internet traffic accounts for about 20% of all traffic. And about 20% of VC money is deployed outside of that VC’s borders. And from where I sit, as one who studies web globalization, most companies are still very much in the early stages of figuring out how to expand globally.
  • Globalization has not, in fact, resulted in less diversity of brands, but greater diversity. He cites the auto industry, which is more diverse today than it was forty years ago. He stresses that globalization is not a one-way street towards homogenization.While there are Starbucks and McDonald’s seemingly everywhere, the US has seen its fair of share of international retailers set up shop here as well — from IKEA to Uniqlo. But more important, Pankaj illustrates how global brands are effectively localized to such a degree that they are just as local as they are global.
  • Successful global trade depends heavily on trust. And it’s easier to trust someone who shares your language, culture, and time zone. Pankaj cites data to show how trade levels drop the further two countries are from each other. He devotes quite a bit of ink to just how little trade is conducted between the US and Canada, despite our shared language, time zones, and cultures. Why is that? He cites obstacles like lack of harmonized rules and regulations, customs nightmares that hold up goods, and other seemingly minor details that, in total, give companies reason to rethink expanding beyond borders.

However, I think Pankaj does a bit too much debunking at times. Pankaj says that the “race to the bottom” of countries focusing on low costs at the expense of the environment, human rights, etc. simply does not exist. I disagree. He focuses on pollution largely but there are so many other issues that should be addressed.

For instance, factory farming is, in my view, an absolute atrocity and it is now being exported around the world via US trade agreements. That is, when the US exports meat that has been produced cheaply via factory farming, local farmers in other countries are forced to embrace factory farming to remain competitive or go out of business. A number of Korean family farmers committed suicide in protest of the recent trade agreement between South Korea and the US. Pankaj vastly trivializes these so-called “externalities” and, in doing so, overlooks what is one of the great (and growing) forces mobilizing against globalization.

That said, I recommend this book. Pankaj is one of a handful of writers who are tackling globalization, warts and all, in a thoughtful manner. Globalization is not a black and white argument; there are many shades of gray and this book does a very good job of shedding light on them.