May 1, 2010

KNOW YOUR MARKETS, WILL YOU?

The verdict on Subway for Germany is in. It's a total clusterfuck bomb. Not only are they apparently fucking up the license agreements, resulting in numerous class action lawsuits against them, not only are the extremely expensive..

(tell a student to buy "our" awesome sub for € 3.99 to € 5.99 when that same student can get a freshly made baguette with salami, cheese, salad etc for € 1.30 at the bakery roughly 25 yards away as it is the case in my hometown)

... nope, in the typical "whatever works in America you have to adapt to, motherfuckers" attitude, things like meatballs or BBQ have to be part of the sortiment. Only they are expensive to make/buy, and they hold no interest to the German taste. No, seriously. You ask a German, any German if he would put meatballs on a sandwich, and he'd go "ewwwww!" The German market is much more like France.

Cheese. Smoked sausage. Proscuitto. Well, not really Proscuitto, we have an enormous variety of smoked ham of our own, like the Black Forest ham, and that's what people eat on a baguette. Or, e.g. a soft pretzel with brie (I practically had one of those every day when in Nuremberg, sometimes simply a soft pretzel with butter, and our pretzels aren't like yours over there, they may look similar, but the taste is very different).

And what Germans demand in a sandwich shop is a) the ability to sit down and not feel rushed or feel like they are in a plastic fantastic factory and b) a wide variety of coffee and tea to choose from.

Especially since we have decent coffee shops and bakeries all around the towns and cities, family run. And they offer all that.

Subway doesn't.

It's hilarious to me, since they are making the exact same mistakes as Starbucks did a few years ago. They also came to Germany, with that fucking arrogance of "you have never had coffee this good before, that is why we charge € 5 for them!". And the Germans looked at them, thought "kids, do you know who invented the coffee shops? That's right, assholes. It was the Austrians, and they brought it to Germany... a fucking long time ago. And you come here and tell US how to do coffee? And sell us overpriced high-fructose laced blueberry-chocolate-muffin-frappucino bullshit that pretends to be a coffee?"

I saw the Starbucks in Nuremberg open to big fanfare in 2003, huge building... surrounded by – I counted them – 17 family-run coffee shops that had been in the city for decades. Guess the only people who went to Starbucks? That's right. American tourists.

The ignorant arrogance of Anglo-Saxon companies and their cultural imperialism is so mind-boggling to me.

Wal-Mart came to Germany in 2002 as well. They also made a big hooplah. "You never shopped like this before!" And Germans went into those mega-stores, looked around and went, "isn't this just like every other store we've had for the past 30 years? Only worse? With worse products?" It took Wal-Mart only two years to get killed. For they brought not only their shitty concept from America, no, they also brought their company policies. One of them was that having a dating relationship between two employees was grounds for immediate dismissal.

Want to know what happened? Not only did it result in a major PR catastrophe...

("Who the fuck do they think they are?" was the tenor in the public. "Telling individuals that they are not allowed to date?")

... they also got slammed by none other than the German Supreme Court for constitutional infringement on personal liberties. They got slammed, clusterfucked and judged.

Want to know where Wal-Mart is today?

Not in Germany anymore. People stopped buying there after that court case, and it wasn't like they had been buying there a lot prior to it.

When I worked for Future Publishing (just to make the point it's not just American companies), we had all these "consultants" come in to tell us how to do our magazine covers, and they brought all these English market covers in, and they told us in no uncertain terms that "this is how a good cover has to look like".

And don't get me wrong. They were good covers. I liked those covers.

But... they were designed for the UK-model of a newsstand.

Want to know how they look? And here's why details are so vital, and why no idiot anywhere in an office should make these decisions, ever.

In the UK magazines are displayed with their full cover out front. Which means you have the full cover to work with, since the potential customer sees all of it. The magazines are also often bagged and have some kind of silly goodie inside. That is how they sell their magazines over there.

On a German newsstand, the magazines are spread in such a way that the different magazines overlap. So you will see maybe a fourth or a third of that magazine's cover. In order to make the customer see that there is a new issue, you essentially have to design a cover that consists of two distinct cover areas, the majority of important info must be visible on that fourth or third of the overall cover.

So, as I was the only one who lived in the UK as well as in America as well as in Germany...

... I said to these consultants, "You're idiots."

There was a moment of shocked silence.

And then I explained to them what I just explained to you, and I got angrier by the minute.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" I asked them. "Have you done even a little bit of cultural research? Have you been to a German newsstand or bookstore? Have you looked at how things are sold? How they are displayed? How it differs from the UK? No! You simply took up what you knew worked within the parameters of your country and made it absolute. Then you hopped on your plane, with that smug arrogance, and now you stand here and tell us in absolute terms what works and what doesn't. Without ever once having looked at the actual market. And don't give me that shit. I lived and worked in the UK! I know what the differences are. Because as opposed to you I'm not arrogant enough to simply assume. As opposed to you I did my homework. But you didn't need to! Because you are so fabulous! So awesome! And you come here... and you have the gall to put together a workshop for editors on cover design here? To simply vomit out your standard shit that you do over there in London? Here's a thought. Do your fucking research first before you come to another country, assess the market, look at what works and what doesn't. And sometimes it is as fucking as easy as going into the nearest fucking newsstand at the airport and simply look."

"Well," one of their consultant said, "we didn't think..."

"That's fucking right," I cut him off. "You didn't."