Case Rip Cord:

“Globalization of Markets”: In his seminal 1983 Harvard Business Review article, retired HBS Marketing Professor Theodore Levitt argues that consumers in markets worldwide crave premium products that mulitnational corporations produce in their home countries. When these mulitnationals expand globally, Levitt says they should avoid the push by marketing departments to customize their products for the culture in the target international markets. Providing an example in both the high end fashion and arms industries, Levitt asks, “Who can forget the televised scenes during the 1979 Iranian uprisings of young men in fashionable French-cut trousers and silky body shirts thirsting for blood with raised modern weapons in the name of Islamic fundamentalism?” Probably not many current HBS-ers. In the military fashion industry today, each nation customizes its camouflage uniforms according to its local landscape. Would Professor Levitt use Osama bin Laden as an example if his article were written today? The terrorist leader seems to favor the American woodlands style Battle Dress Uniform.

Henkel KGaA: Building on that comment, the German consumer products giant is deciding whether to continue using local detergent brands in Italy, or to insert their standardized German brand. In the case, Henkel seems to have stumbled upon a lesson from one of the most recognizable songs in Italian opera, “La Donna E Mobile” from Rigoletto. Now one would think the title of this song, which translates to “The Woman is Fickle,” would be outdated in modern society, but Henkel found “few consumers stick to one brand,” and “consumers in Italy…try different brands.” Maybe Giuseppe Verdi was on to something?

The Virgin Group: Oh, there were many interesting comments while the class tried to determine the commonalities among four of Richard Branson’s Virgin companies: Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Direct Bank, Virgin Trains, and Virgin Cola. The latter product comes in the “Pammy” bottle, designed to be extra curvy like Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson. Additionally, one of their most profitable businesses helps customers plan weddings, and it’s called Virgin Bride. Don’t get caught surfing this part of the site at work. In class, one student reportedly “had a bad Virgin experience” with the company’s trains. Another thought the cola business was a marketing ploy meant to put Branson “in the minds and mouths” of his customers. The class ended up deciding that Branson enters industries in which the current competitors are screwing the customers. Virgin competes by providing better service. Perhaps their motto should be, “We’re Virgin-we won’t screw you.”

Sony Corporation: Car Navigation Systems: “Among [consumers] aware [of vehicle navigation systems], most could recall the system’s purpose and basic features, but relatively few understood what `GPS’ meant.” Apparently neither did the casewriter, who defined the acronym as “Global Position Satellite” early in the case, when the “S” is really for “System.” Not that Uncle Jordy’s bitter or anything. By the way, I haven’t been able to ask my favorite question since passing the Intraview torch on to AuntieGoldie: Have you gotten lost driving in Boston lately? What’s the market for car-mounted GPS receivers in the Boston metro area in the next ten years?

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