Monthly Archives: January 2014

Don’t Let Homogenization Lead to Cookie Cutter Geographic Expansion


Geographic Expansion

With 400 locations, Giraffas® is the second largest chain of restaurants in Brazil. In 2011, Giraffas® executives concluded that it was time to expand into the United States. They didn’t want to compete head on with McDonald’s. Even though their menu includes hamburgers, they went with a “fast casual” concept instead of just “fast food.” They don’t have waitresses, but guests can buy steak, salmon, specialty sandwiches or fancy Brazilian specialties in addition to burgers. They are currently getting ready to launch their 8th US location (in Florida). Giraffas® is an example of adapting a model when the growth strategy involves geographic expansion. They could see the need to adapt when looking at the USA from BRAZIL. They have started in Florida. Let’s hope they know that Florida can feel like its own country when compared to Texas or Minnesota.

Many of the chains that use a nationwide menu need to localize their marketing. Applebee’s has one menu, but the walls of each restaurant have posters, news clippings, banners and photos of local sports teams. They want you and me to think in terms of “your neighborhood Applebee’s.” When you Google “Applebee’s” and click through to their website, the home page features the address and information about the special events at the location near you. They know where you live!

As our consulting firm expanded from the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States into the southeastern and Midwestern regions, we needed to add a reasonable number of employees who didn’t talk so fast and were comfortable with words/phrases like “y’all,” “you take care now, ya’ hear?” and “have a blessed day.” Also, it was more than that. Embracing differences in time management, family values and the open discussion of religion, etc. helped.

Our expansion into Europe involved hiring local “pathfinders” who knew the countries, local customs, politicians, educators and business leaders. It also involved language lessons, legal fees and tailored marketing campaigns.

When you travel to most locations in the United States now, the strip malls look the same. The condominium communities look alike. Chain restaurants can be found everywhere. If you base your geographic expansion on what you see, you can make some expensive errors. Things seem to be fairly homogeneous across this country…until you relocate (live) in a different region for an extended period of time. You cannot convince me that a marketing campaign that was tailored to the people who live in BANGOR (Maine) will be as effective for people in BROOKLYN (New York) or BOISE (Idaho).


The Pros and Cons of Gamification

02A11B2GIn your life, perhaps you could depend on your brother for corny jokes or your best friend to be there in a pinch. I knew that my father could clearly explain confusing mathematics concepts like asymptotic lines. In my family, we learned to play to win and play by the rules. No cheating was an absolute rule. I could count on that.

These days, playing by the rules can seem to others as being naïve.

To win some online games, players must find ways around the rules and obvious premises. In many movies, shrewd detectives find ways to surface evidence no matter what it takes. Search warrants are often portrayed as a nuisance. For a while, the public seemed to be accepting drug enhanced performance of top athletes. Corporations can beat out the competition by tying one another up in court fighting over patent and trademark infringement. Pirates of intellectual property (IP) win. Even if the court case doesn’t go their way, they can afford to pay the fine because they have sold so many products in the meantime…at a higher net profit because they didn’t have to invest in expensive R&D. This presents a huge challenge to organizations like the International Trade Council (ITC).

Gamification is now being touted as the primary way corporations can engage their millennial generation workforce. What was the highest score last month on the major game being played? How can you beat your highest score? On the surface that sounds exciting, competitive and motivating. But what are the rules, and do the rules matter?

I’ve seen more and more trusted vendors become frustrated by the gamification mentality over the past few years. If their customers expect that you must “beat your highest score” over and over again, how much is enough? Those customers are never satisfied. It can also be demotivating to millennial employees. They initially like the game, but they tend to withdraw if they don’t continue to get praise and appreciation or if it feels like the expectations keep going up and up and up with too little reward. We all know young adults who have opted out of the careers for which they earned higher education degrees. Instead of being a math teacher, one of my nephews has chosen to work at McDonalds.

If your company is considering gamification as a strategic direction…corporate culture, be prepared to look at the concepts of rules, beating your previous high score and the pros and cons of ever-increasing expectations. What will customers be able to count on from you if/when it becomes a game?

Growth Strategy Tip


Over the 21 years that I’ve been in business, I’ve worked with several individuals and organizations that professed to have the skills, knowledge, and insight that would make my business strive. None performed like or better than Aldonna Ambler.

Greg Williams
The Master Negotiator

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