Waves Without Sounds

When things come crashing on the shores of the mind.

Category: International Affairs

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité: Examining the Hexagon’s Marketing Success


Alberto Mondi in the Korean comedy show 'Abnormal Summit'

Alberto Mondi in the Korean comedy show ‘Abnormal Summit’

Some time ago, a friend of mine convinced me to watch a Korean TV programme entitled ‘Abnormal Summit’. Eleven ‘abnormal’ representatives from different countries, excluding that of Korea, discuss agendas that vary per episode to decide on the ‘abnormality’ of the agenda presented. On the fourth episode of the programme, the topic about which fashion is better was brought up between the representatives of France and Italy. The Italian representative, Alberto Mondi, argued that Italy has better wine and fashion, and that French companies are buying out Italian brands. However, Alberto admitted to one strength that the French has over the Italians, and that is marketing. This got me curious, is French marketing really that good? If so, what makes them good?

To assess the efficiency of French marketing, let us first of all look into the existing rules important to marketing and advertising in France. One of those rules is on the language. French must be used for all advertisements. Other languages can only be used with accompanying French translations. This is the most important and established rule in French advertising. The establishment of one and only one language for advertisement within a country is very important in reaching out to the target market and creating brand awareness. The existence of this rule also ensures that everyone understands and are made aware of the brand. Another rule–not exclusive to France–that affects French marketing is cultural and political sensitivity. France is notorious for rather extreme demonstrations which reflects the sensitivity of French people to sociopolitical issues. As in other countries, advertisements deemed offensive may be taken down in France. Another important thing to note as rule of thumb in French marketing is that word-of-mouth is more revered by French consumers, and this is the most uncontrollable aspect of marketing in France.

A Louis Vuitton store in communist Ho Chi Minh City

A Louis Vuitton store in communist Ho Chi Minh City

Having presented rules to remember in French marketing, it is time to examine the characteristics of French marketing itself. According to Simon Silvester, the French are natural marketers even before the term ‘marketing’ was coined. To the French, marketing is a conceptual art, and like how they treat any form of art, French people put great value in its authenticity. Their brands, such as Champagne and Roquefort, do not seem like brands at all. Unlike that of American brands that use catchy–and even funny–names for their brands, the French stick to how the product has been called upon its creation. This gives French products history and origin to attest to its authenticity, which, in turn, leads to the people treating these brands as premium. Another thing we might notice about famous French products is that most of them are feminine. This is because French marketers acknowledge the fact that 80% of brand consumers are women and that the ones who love shopping are the gatherers–not the hunters. As a part of the female population, I would not deny my craving for a bottle of Dior, nor would my mother hold back in spending thousands for a Louis Vuitton. The secret to the female rave on French brands is how French marketers are so much in touch with their feminine side. Despite all these, French marketers take lots of risk. They are not hindered by populism and the fear of their brands being seen as elitist. This results to extravagant brand values and highly committed customers which now characterize many French brands. Another thing French marketers are not afraid of is irrationality. French marketers knew that their consumers dream, and thus marketed these dreams. They chose to focus on the wants instead of the needs of their customers, and listened to the wishes like “I want to look younger” from their customers instead of telling them “you need to look younger”. Nationalism also plays a major role in French Marketing–they knew being French alone is already marketable. As how Simon Silvester put it, “France is the biggest showroom in the world”. France herself is already known for her rich culture and history, and the luxury goods she provides the world. Also, the French protect their intellectual property well. You cannot call it Champagne if it’s not from Champagne, you cannot call it Roquefort if it’s not from Roquefort. The police will reprimand you if the bag you own imitations of French brands.

Going back to the ‘Abnormal Summit’, Alberto Mondi was right in saying that the French are good in marketing. However, it is not only marketing that the French are good at. Upon examining French marketing, it is revealed that France is good in many other fields which they utilized to succeed in marketing. To be honest, I was surprised at how marketing styles actually differ among countries. Indeed, there is much to learn from examining cultures that are foreign to ours. I believe that the Philippines has great potential in marketing–that I will repeatedly say. I wish Filipino marketers would learn from the ways, not just of French marketers, but also of marketers from other cultures. However, I am not urging Filipino marketers to copy foreign styles, on the contrary, I wish to see the day that Filipino marketing has its own mark and identity that the whole world recognizes.






Organizational Communication Board Examinations?


As an Organizational Communication student, I am well aware that not many people are familiar with my major. To put it simply, the focus of Organizational Communication is on the internal and external communications of organizations. The subjects we take include but are not limited to technical writing, organizational processes and structures, public relations, interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, group discussion and conference leadership, and several units of foreign language. Unlike most majors, though, the Philippines holds no board examination for Organizational Communication. However, one of my professors–an OrCom graduate herself–presented us with an examination that could take the place of OrCom board examination, the Foreign Service Officer (FSO) Examination offered by our country’s Department of Foreign Affairs.

Seal of the Department of Foreign Affairs

Seal of the Department of Foreign Affairs

The Eligibility Requirements of the FSO Examination are the following:
1. Application Forms should be printed in 8.5” x 13” bond paper.
2. The applicant should be a natural-born Filipino citizen and must present a copy of his or her valid passport and visa or a valid contract of employment in the host country (if applicable).
3. The applicant should not be more than thirty-five (35) years of age on the day of the Qualifying Test (10 August 2014).
The applicant should have at least a four (4) year bachelor’s degree. (Relevant document required e.g. transcript of records, diploma or certificate of graduation.)
4. The applicant should have undergone employment or undertaken further studies two (2) years after graduating from college or university.
5. If married to a foreigner, the applicant must secure an authority to take the FSO Examination from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, through the Board of Foreign Service Examinations.
6. If the applicant has dual or multiple citizenships, he/she should submit a notarized affidavit stating that upon passing the examinations, he/she intends to renounce his/her allegiance to all other countries of citizenship.
(lifted from http://www.philembassy.no/news-item/announcement-2014-foreign-service-officer-fso-examination)

Foreign Service Officers

Foreign Service Officers

The Philippine FSO Examination is composed of five parts. The first part is the Qualifying Test which covers (1) Verbal Ability; (2) Analytical Ability; (3) Numerical Ability; and (4) Managerial Ability in which a grade of at least 80% must be attained by the applicants to qualify for the next part, the Preliminary Interview. For the Preliminary Interview, a panel of Foreign Service Officers will be interviewing the FSO Examinees to assess their potentials of becoming Foreign Service Officers and future Ambassadors. Unlike the first part, no grade percentage is given for the Preliminary Interview–an overall rating of “PASS” from the FSO panel is required to move on to the third part of the FSO Exam. The third part is the Written Test wherein the examinees must obtain a mark of at least 75% to qualify for the penultimate part. The Written Test covers English (20%), Filipino (5%), Philippine Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Conditions (30%), International Affairs (30%), World History (10%) and Foreign Language (5%). Having passed the third exam, the candidates must undergo Psychological Test. The last part of the FSO Examination, the Oral Test, assesses the candidates’ oral skills, logical thinking, values and attitudes. To pass the Oral Test, a transmuted score of at least 80% is necessary. To pass the entire FSO Exam, an examinee must attain a composite rating of 80% or above in the Written Test and Oral Test. (All according to http://www.dfa.gov.ph/index.php/fsoexams/2483-announcement-on-the-2014-foreign-service-officer-fso-examination)

In addition to what was previously mentioned, my professor–having passed the FSO Examination before–said that the examination in her time included a group discussion among the examinees which Foreign Service Officers observed, and there was also a cocktail party wherein the examinees must mingle with people role-playing as high-ranking officers from different countries.

Considering those, can it be said that the FSO Examination is adequate to measure the skills acquired from studying Organizational Communication? For the most part, I could say yes. Embassies, the government, and international unions are all organizations. Aside from the exam, many of the things we learn from Organizational Communication are highly applicable in performing the duties of a Foreign Service Officer. We have technical writing for writing diplomatic correspondence, briefing papers and foreign policies. We have organizational processes and structures to understand the workings of foreign governments. We have public relations and marketing to help us promote our country. Foreign language, interpersonal communication and intercultural communication are highly utilized when interacting with people in foreign countries. I believe Organizational Communication graduates can efficiently represent the Philippines in international fora. We are taught to represent organizations, and to prioritize the welfare of the organizations we work for including the people of whom it is comprised. We can do very much the same–or even more–for our own country.

Photo taken from the tumblr of Erica Roberta.

Photo taken from the tumblr of Erica Roberta.

To ultimately say that the FSO Examination is the board exam of Organizational Communication is an error, though. It is better to say that the FSO Examination may take the place of an Organizational Communication board exam. To say that one is an Organizational Communicologist if and only if one passed the FSO Examination is wrong, being an Organizational Communicologist takes proper practice whatever the workplace setting is–whether it’s a government or private organization. Personally, I do not advocate the implementation of a board examination for Organizational Communication. As what they told us upon entering the world of Organizational Communication, those who take up this path are trained to be “jack of all trades, master of none”. We are shaped by Organizational Communication to be well-rounded people who can function efficiently wherever we are put–to bind us with one test to measure all that we are capable of would be unjust. One of the reasons why Organizational Communication is an inconspicuous course may be because it has a wide reach–like thinly spread jam on a slice of bread. There are few Organizational Communication majors, but we work in diverse fields. It gives off a sense of exclusivity and pride. Our exposure to many different disciplines gives us an edge in the workforce. As what one of our university’s OrCom shirt design says, “keep calm and let OrCom handle it.”

The Organizational Communication degree program of the University of the Philippines Manila celebrates its 30th anniversary this year (2014).

The Organizational Communication degree program of the University of the Philippines Manila celebrates its 30th anniversary this year (2014). Happy anniversary!