BY Alicia Smith

When we got the call from Jim Haworth, at the time the Chairman of Lotus Stores in China, we wondered how it’d be possible to drive brand strategy and customer understanding in a market where we had no experience and didn’t speak the language. What we learned during the ensuing decade working in Asia Pacific was more powerful than any new linguistic skills or ancient secrets.

We could always count on the first meeting including a briefing on what makes that country’s consumer different. Australians are much more fun loving. The people of India value religion over material wealth. In China, respect for family, especially elders, makes all the difference. And while the differences were often important and true, and the history and heritage rich and deep, what was rarely mentioned was the common ground.

What unites us is much greater than what divides us.

Build your brand and your business on common ground. Before spending money on a segmentation study to further subdivide various markets, invest in the knowledge of what unites your customers. And in the people that can find an idea and an articulation so compelling, everyone thinks it was meant just for them.

For Lotus China, it was about Getting Better Every Day (in Mandarin of course). For Coles Group Australia, it was The Everyday Inspired. Sometimes it is about trust, others it is about gaining the edge. Sometimes we stake a claim to the future, others we anchor the brand in the past. It’s what’s true to you, compelling to customers and an edge on the competition. Often times it is so true to the company and innate to the brands, it has been overlooked.

What you need is a Brand Anthropologist. Fresh eyes, raw curiosity, and the creativity to give the message meaning. Your answer may be in universal truths not segments and silos when you enjoy the view from the higher ground of common ground.