“The most inclusive opening ceremony in my lifetime, down to the lighting of the flame”

(Online blog response to the Olympic opening ceremony, 28/07/12)

For me, last night’s Olympic opening ceremony succeeded by being unapologetically British in tone and content.  Over the coming two weeks this country plays host to the greatest show on earth, and it seems clear that we’re going to do it our way.

Is there a lesson here for British exporters? While it’s crucial to tailor your message to an  audience, it’s also important to trumpet the qualities that make your product distinctive.

At Wolfestone we believe the surest way to preserve the unique selling points of your service in an unfamiliar arena is to translate and localise your message for each target market.  Is your website localised?  Are your marketing material and your technical specifications targeted to your new audience? Having invested time and money perfecting your product and identifying a suitable new market, have you taken that crucial final step to make sure your message is conveyed as effectively as possible?

We find that our clients take personal and national pride in their work, and so they should.  Our pharmaceutical clients, for example, are responsible for products that preserve and prolong life in all corners of the globe, and our partners in the food and beverage sector fill the world’s plates and glasses in style. Scotland, for example, has a hugely successful product that’s uncompromisingly branded and is identifiable globally by a single syllable. In 2011 the Scotch Whisky Association recorded exports of £4 billion, showing a year on year increase of 23%. New consumers in Asia and South America are flocking to the product, and the increase in demand has brought a recent £1 billion investment in distillery production from Diageo.

Nationalistic pride is by no means the sole preserve of the British, of course. Target consumers in emerging economies have reasons of their own to wave the flag. China, our immediate predecessors as Olympic hosts, experienced a wave of patriotic fervour only last month due to scientific explorations stretching from the heavens to the depths of the sea.  While a  Chinese deep sea expedition was setting a new national record of 6,965 meters for a dive, astronauts were completing the country’s first-ever manned space docking procedure.  Some cultural commentators noted that these achievements echoed a famous quote by Mao Zedong in the 1960s: “We can clasp the moon in the ninth heaven and seize turtles deep down in the five seas.”

Perhaps we can’t compete with modern day China’s vaulting economic progress, and perhaps we can’t compete with their feats of exploration.  And perhaps we shouldn’t try to. Britain is in no position to “clasp the moon in the ninth heaven” but as last night’s vibrant ceremony showed, when a country plays unashamedly to its strengths, it will find an audience.

It can also find a legacy. Children played a pivotal role in the London ceremony, and for the first time in Olympic history the stadium flame was lit not by one celebrated individual but by a group of promising youths with their lives and careers ahead of them. The symbolism was potent, and for Wolfestone the image of young people being trusted with and prepared for the future struck a particular chord.  Our corporate social responsibility programme takes us into numerous local schools, where we offer employment coaching to young people as they contemplate the job market. Many of the schoolchildren we meet are motivated to learn a second language. We believe passionately in the power of communication, and nothing gives us greater pleasure than to see new generations learning skills that will make the world more interesting and more accessible to them.

This is a legacy and a message that we can all be proud of. Proud to be British and proud to go global.

DAVID JONES

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  • Adele Marinescu

    I agree that domestic products should show their distinctiveness, not only for British manufacturers but for any country. The best export opportunity is to make a product of quality and individuality which becomes the choice of the choosy consumer. Also I like your perspective of a legacy for children. Perhaps an exporter can hope for the same legacy, with a successful economic venture making a better future for the next generation.

  • Paul Chammings

    Your fundamental case is sound but it’s more straightforward and less risky to “be yourself” at a party you’re hosting than it is to do it when you’re pitching to a new customer in a competitive situation. You’re right about the distinctiveness of products such as Scotch, though, and I have to agree that a balance between promoting the USP and respecting the cultural distinctiveness of your target market is a sensible way forward. Welcome back, David.

  • Gary Callow

    Yes, we should celebrate our goods and services in all their individuality, but wouldn’t you agree that the economics of national pride tend to work better when you’re playing to a domestic audience?

  • Amita Sharma

    I thought the ceremony was very good and Danny Boyle was a good choice to represent multicultural britain after his embracing of Indian culture in Slumdog Millionare. I think the economics of national pride are more effective to a domestic audience if you are appealing to the lower senses of your people, the inclination to look inward and not respect other cultures – do I dare to say xenophobia? I think the export of good produce requires the opposite, appealing to the higher senses of these same people, saying “our work is good and we want to share it with the world”. Also then appealing to the higher senses of your audience and asking them to accept your good work on its merits. This is entirely a good thing.