Of Coke, Japan and Coffee in a Can

I’ve spent the past week in Japan and have had such a great time watching how US-based companies market products in this country. One company that has spent a great deal of time in this market is Coca-Cola. But it is only relatively recently that Coke has developed products specifically for the country, focusing heavily on the types of drinks that the Japanese want rather than trying to push additional cases of soda.

Japanese are not soda freaks like Americans, but they do have an affinity for coffee in a can. Enter a product from Coke called Georgia.

georgia1.jpg

Now, if you don’t know that Coke is based out of Georgia, you have to look pretty close to tell that this can of coffee is part of Coke’s global empire. Here is the Coca-Cola logo, in 7-point type:

georgia2.jpg

The majority of vending machines that I’ve seen in Tokyo and Kyoto feature Georgia products (there is an entire product line around this brand) and few vending machines feature Coca-Cola.

Speaking of coffee, Starbucks seems to be everywhere. I’ve spotted four in Kyoto already (more on this later)…

Lenovo Outsources Management And Celebrates Birthdays

Interesting article in the NYTimes on Lenovo outsourcing management to the folks at IBM (despite the fact that the division lost a few billion dollars in recent years.

The beginning of the article pretty much sums up the challenges that any company faces when expanding into new markets:

    “Inside the shimmering headquarters of the Lenovo Group, China’s largest computer maker, workers are carting birthday cakes over to three office cubicles.

    These days, every employee here gets a birthday gift, something a multinational company might be expected to do in this age of feel-good corporate management.

    The problem is that people in China do not traditionally celebrate birthdays. (NOTE: This is incorrect; see below)

    But that is changing. And so is Lenovo. It is trying to become a global company with its purchase of I.B.M’s personal computer business for $1.75 billion, and handing out birthday cakes is just part of the process of evolving into a multinational corporation.”

UPDATE: The NY Times Article is wrong
First of all, the Chinese do celebrate birthdays. I had given the article the benefit of the doubt by assuming the reporter was only referring to the lack of birthday celebrations within offices. However, that is a mistake as well. I just received an email from a former Lenovo employee who says that the company regularly celebrated birthdays in the office with birthday cakes. This was standard operating procedure long before IBM ever entered the picture.

English Gains in Chile

According to The Wall Street Journal:

When Swedish air-traffic controllers speak to Italian pilots they speak English. When Dutch importers do business with Chinese manufacturers, they use English. Ditto for Russians trading with Indians and Taiwanese selling in Bangladesh.

Now Chile has begun a nationwide educational program to ensure that all graduating high school students are fluent in the globe’s international language. “We know our lives are linked more than ever to an international presence, and if you can’t speak English, you can’t sell and you can’t learn,” Chile’s minister of education told the New York Times this week.