Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. It used to be that U.S. multinationa
Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
It used to be that U.S. multinational corporations believed everything could be done the American way.
Simply take the formula, insert it in, say, Poland and hey, an easy way to make money.
As someone who was in Poland on the receiving end of some of these corporations, it could be very humorous.
In the mid-1990s, some executives from our American parent ad agency flew over to instruct us on the future of mobile phones.
In a meeting, they held up these vast Iridium devices that looked like they were hewn from the walls of a brownstone.
We’d never seen anything like it. We tried to suppress our giggles.
So we grabbed our little Nokia cellphones — they didn’t exist in the U.S. at the time — and texted each other: “Are these people blind? Or merely insane?”
The corporations have learned that local culture and local tastes matter.
Yes, you might be an American colossus, but you have to talk to different countries in different ways.
McDonald’s, for example, sometimes launches American-style burgers in Europe, ones that it doesn’t sell in the U.S.
When it advertises these burgers, it tries to appeal to local feelings about Americans.
Which, it pains me to say, aren’t universally positive.
The latest example is the burger chain launching the Kansas City Stack burger in the U.K.
In order to excite Brits about it, McDonald’s presents a somewhat, well, cliched version of an alleged resident of Kansas City bemoaning the fact that the burger isn’t sold there.
Oh, please take a look.
American readers will note that the presenter seems to hail from somewhere nearer the Kansas Method Acting School of Athens, Georgia.
They might also observe that the shoot may not have occurred anywhere resembling Kansas City. Or even Missouri.
Now, few in the U.K. might care. But in Kansas City they’re wondering what has possessed McDonald’s. If not demons.
Local TV station FOX 4 insists that Kansas Citians are laughing.
But hark the words of local Becky de Wit, who sounds entirely unamused:
Maybe they got it right for England. I would try it, sure, just to find out how bogus it really is.
I suspect McDonald’s got it very right for England, with a presenter who seems just the sort of American shrill and huffy Brits might expect.
One observer on YouTube grasped this quickly:
To them we all sound like that.
Another even questioned the whole premise:
Known for our steak sauce?
Still, many in Kansas City were very miffed, including the mayor, Sly James:
Sometimes, it’s better to ignore how one’s culture is presented in other countries.
Having grown up in the U.K., I confess to having smirked more than twice at some Americans’ impressions of the Disunited Kingdom.
Just as, now a U.S. citizen, I marvel at some of the peculiar views Brits have of the U.S.
Americans think British teeth are terrible, while Brits can’t believe how artificially white American teeth are.
Americans think Brits all eat bangers and mash, while Brits think Americans will eat anything, as long as the portion is too big.
It is, in fact, an exceptional feat of marketing — and sheer financial power — that some U.S. brands have managed to infiltrate foreign cultures and been (somewhat) accepted. And even, occasionally, loved.
Sometimes, it takes perverting your own reality in order to satisfy someone else’s.
But, should you live in Kansas City and want to feel superior to a nation that has often traded in its (self-delusional) superiority, hark the words of Kansas Citian Deron Brown:
They want to emulate us, so this is how they’re doing it.
I can think of a couple of other ways they’re doing it too.
The caustically concerned might even observe: “Have you heard of Boris Johnson?”
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
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