Key Takeaways from YCCI's 2013 Conference "Engaging Consumers in a Complex World"

March 22, 2013

With aspirations to one day become the Chief Marketing Officer of a multinational company, I was deeply interested in the topic of YCCI’s 2013 Conference: Engaging Consumers in a Complex World. Of all the outstanding speakers, I was most inspired by Beth Hirschhorn, Executive Vice President Global Brand, Marketing and Communications, MetLife. Her topic, how MetLife is becoming a global brand that solves local market problems, struck me because the world is not only becoming flatter, but consumers want more locally tailored products. As a first year MBA student at Yale SOM, I am also specifically interested in cross-cultural management and how brands can use a diverse consumer base to their competitive advantage. From Hirschhorn’s presentation, I took away the following key lessons:

(1) Companies must modify competitive strategy from the inside out if they hope to cater to a global consumer that demands local content. Before it changed its external facing message, MetLife focused on its business strategy, switching its operating model from regionally to globally focused. This changed their revenue mix from 88% / 12% in the US and Rest of the World (ROW), respectively, to 60% / 40%, US / ROW. MetLife also shifted their employee benefits from separate US and ROW programs to a regional plus global employee benefits and instituted a global training program.

(2) Develop a single value proposition that can be easily translated and modified in local markets. For a global brand, the tension to have a consistent and identifiable message that is also tailored to local needs is unavoidable. To solve this tension, MetLife came up with the global brand promise ‘enable and embolden’. In Chile, this brand promise translates into ‘MetLife understands me and shows me another way to protect and care for my family.’ In the US, the message is that ‘MetLife breaks down the barrier that prevents me from achieving the financial safety net that I deserve’.

(3) Brand rejectors are just as important as brand loyalists. I found this to be the most important comment. As marketers, we spend a lot of time focused on the needs of our loyalists, looking for new ways to extract value from them. When MetLife listened to the voice of its rejectors and made the suggested changes, then this group shrank by 50% in Japan.

Before Hirschhorn took the stage, Kevin Ryan, Founder and CEO of Gilt Groupe, pointed out that the new age marketer is no longer just the most creative person in the room. She is now better described as a strategic thinker. Without knowing, Ryan was simply describing Hirschhorn. Her work is what I would like to emulate at a multinational. I am also hoping that using Hirschhorn’s insights as foundations for my own will lead me to that sweet CMO role.

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Bukky Olowude