Worldly Lessons on International Marketing

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NEW YORK -- If you want to be an international direct marketer, you need determination, conviction and you must not give up too quickly.

However, if you are in a hole, give up and stop digging.

This was the advice from the keynote address at yesterday's Direct Marketing Association International Day 2006 by Jacques Blain, executive vice president, 3 Suisses International Group, a French catalog company.

But even in a hole, there is hope, he said.

"The only way to get out of that hole is to [learn] what the customer wants and follow that," he said.

Mr. Blain began his career at Unilever, where he mastered the techniques of marketing consumer goods internationally and reached top management swiftly. In 1996, Mr. Blain joined 3 Suisses. He has a unique perspective on reaching international consumers because before joining Unilever, Mr. Blain had worked in Canada, Australia, Great Britain and Singapore.

A good way to "see clearly where you are and where to go is to just close your eyes," he said. "Today, people are over-relying on research. Sometimes it is better to just close your eyes and think."

Mr. Blain also offered the following:

· Look outside your country for ideas: He discussed a fabric softener he launched in France called Cajoline, which basically means "soft" or "snuggle" in French, and which became the basis for the Snuggle brand in the United States and other countries. Cajoline is the No. 2 softener brand worldwide, but the name was based on a German softener product.

· Think local: Mr. Blain discussed a catalog the 3 Suisses launched in China. Though it included "a unique French fashion proposition, it had a local Chinese customer appeal," he said.

· Adapt to the customer: He discussed how he marketed a Lipton-branded ice tea product in France. Unilever (Lipton is a Unilever brand) wanted to position the product to reach a wider, younger audience, so Mr. Blain said he carbonated the product and called it Liptonic.

"This took the concept of tea away from something that older ladies drink inside," he said.

The event, sponsored by the DMA International Council, was held at The Harvard Club.

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