Wednesday, December 18, 2013

She Loves America… but America doesn't Love Her.

This was, albeit the short form, the sentiment that I heard from a blogger colleague of mine referring to the recently appointed replacement coming to "save" the North American subsidiary of "brand x".

I've written on this topic before, but with the inevitable annual "house cleaning" session that we are about to witness, it seemed like a pertinent topic again.  Please indulge me while I revisit the ongoing challenge faced by the watch industry in the US and Canada.  So basically, brand x is in Switzerland.  They have tried several different solutions, that like death can be broken down into specific stages:

1.  Go with a distributor for about 10 years.
Everything seemed to be going okay.  Sales were very, very strong.  But then they started to hear rumblings.  Their watches were showing up in many places that were not exactly "official retail partners" which is a polite way of saying "grey market".  How did that happen?  Simple, the distributor wrote very large orders to stores and store owners who in fact were doing massive amounts of trans-shipping.  In other words, although some of the watches were in the "front area", the majority of the watches were being sold out the back door before they even made it into the store's safe.  So a change had to be made.

2.  Hosanna!  We have the solution!  A young Swiss sales manager saddles-up and heads across the water to "take the situation in hand".  And like any great television sitcom, hilarity ensues!  Language and cultural miscommunication leads to acrimonious feelings between the "natives" and the "over lord".

Sounds pretty harsh?  Trust me, I've heard worse from both sides.  This situation is destined to fail for a number of reasons, but essentially what resonates is that:

To the parent company - The North American team sucks.  They are little children that clearly can't handle the job, and we have to "keep an eye" on them.

To the "home team" - Oh great, another "idiot son" sent to "train for the future" by running the North American subsidiary.  This genius can't even figure out where the toilet is!

Needless to say, things don't work out.  A year to three is about how long this usually runs.

3.  Okay,  let's hire someone to run our subsidiary.  And while everyone may love this person, they stand about the same chances as any new restaurant opening.  Because at this point, the feeling is that things better go right.  This person will usually be given about half the time to fix or establish the brand.    Very few people can do it, and those who can't?  Well don't worry, you'll see them working for a different brand inside of 6 months.

So what am I trying to say here?  PATIENCE needs to be the policy.  Your brand didn't go bad overnight, it was a slow, but steady process.  You will not be able to "fix" your brand overnight either.  Be realistic, and unless your Brand Manager gets caught with a dead body and a bath tub full of cocaine, give them a bit more time - good things, some times take time.

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