Selling Germany

I had a client in Germany who could not work out why all of his export managers sold so many products (in a technical market) while his sales were stagnating or in decline.

To make things worse, he had to think up clever marketing strategies and expensive selling materials while his export colleagues did nothing more than turn up at clients with cheap black and white print-outs of product lists.

We hit on the reason for him. The company’s foreign customers didn’t need anything more than a black and white print-out. The fact that the products came from Germany was a selling story in itself.

As an expat working in Germany I am amazed at how negative Germans can be about their country and in particular how they underestimate their reputation for world-class engineering excellence. OK, they score badly on being brusque and impolite, the words sorry or please don’t feature much in their small talk, but does a buyer of a BMW think about that when they’re shifting gear?

German products are rated among the best in the world.

So if you had to sell “Germany” as a product to the rest of the world, or leverage the image of Germany to sell your products, it would probably make sense to play to its engineering strength. Or is it obvious? Why mention what is implicitly already there?

Does Germany need injecting with ‘sexiness’? Or ‘fun’? Or ‘innovative flair’? (the last one’s tricky – the Germans do register lots of patents, but they’re not known for their creative thinking. One advertising exec I met said, “little wonder, how can you expect a country that defines DIN standards to be creative”.)

Well, while the spotlight was on Germany in 2006 for the World Cup, the government decided to start a marketing campaign. People I met in Stuttgart told me

* what a warm welcome they’d received from locals
* how clean and pretty the towns are
* how beautiful the countryside is (they’d expected nothing but heavy industry here)
* what a fantastic climate (ok, they were comparing to England ;-)

So I was keen to see what the German government’s campaign would be in England. Here it is, a high-profile campaign from the London underground …


Hhmm. Not sure I get it.

Comments welcome.

Alex Woodruff

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