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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Gail Galuppo, CMO at Western Union

Gail GaluppoMy CMO 2.0 Conversation with Gail Galuppo, the CMO at Western Union was both fun and refreshing. Talk about the challenge of being in charge of a legacy brand that totally had to transform itself, with the added complexity of serving 15,000 distinct customer communities. Not an easy task, for sure, but one that Gail and her team seem to enjoy thoroughly.

As usual we started off with Gail giving us some context by describing her background. In her case, she learned to put the customer at the center of all decision making while being trained on Six Sigma at GE Capital. She then had a career that took her from financial services to retail and back into financial services and which allowed her to experience various places worldwide. At Western Union, she deals with offices in 202 countries and 400,000 retail locations – six times as many retail locations as McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Citibank combined. Talk about a challenging footprint to deliver a consistent brand experience worldwide. As mentioned earlier, they serve 15,000 distinct customer communities, who behave very differently from one another – from Ghanaians in France, to Kenyans in the UK, Filipinos in Dubai and Guatemalans in the US – just to name a few. Their customers are work emigrants who send money back home.

The first marketing challenge we talked about was that of international marketing – how to operate as a global brand, while being relevant to your local communities. The job gets further complicated by the fact that even within their distinct customer communities, there are fundamental differences in needs, expectations, and lifestyles. A migrant from Puerto Rico who immigrated to the US 30 years ago has a very different lifestyle and other needs than one who’s in the country for 3 months or 3 years. And if you thought that was it – think again. They also need to appeal to both senders and receivers of money. With this many permutations and message requirements, nobody could blame you for having a marketing conniption. The way they resolve this seemingly insurmountable and massively expensive problem is in two ways – through a hyper-national brand campaign based on common consumer tribe attributes for all immigrants worldwide combined with a hyper-local set of programs focused on the separate customer communities within each country. Worldwide, their research found that the common attributes that binds all immigrant customer tribes together are pride, sacrifice, adventurism, dreams for their family members, positivity and can-do spirit. Based on that they created the Yes! campaign, the first global brand campaign for Western Union. At the same time they also continue to celebrate the differences between their consumer tribes by having hyper-local programs (like concerts with bands from their native country) that are led by people from those consumer communities – so for example, they have Chinese, Kenyan, and Togolese employees leading the local marketing efforts for those groups in France.

It would be interesting to see if you could harness this consumer tribal behavior into a true global online community. Members would be attracted to the community by what unites them worldwide and would remain in the community by what makes their own tribes unique. They could hang out in sub-communities with their own people and help one another get adjusted. Western Union could strengthen the relationship with their customers by recommending community-specific products, and services, and by providing advice. From a technology enablement perspective it certainly would work as 90% of their customers have cell phones and are over-indexed on the Internet – the community would have to have a strong SMS component to it.

Another interesting aspect of the Yes! campaign is that the primary audience for the campaign was not the actual customers, but the employees and the Western Union partners who operate the storefronts.The effort, called “Project Galvanize,” was actually meant to change the culture from one where people were thinking of customers in terms of transactions into a much more customer-centric culture. When you have 400,000 customer touch-points worldwide, it’s hard to deliver a consistent brand experience if you focus on the transactions rather than the humans and their motivations.

We also talked about the role of social media in the marketing mix. While Western Union is in the early stages of leveraging social media and communities as part of their marketing – they do have a initiative on FaceBook called World In Motion – they definitely intend on expanding that. They are monitoring what is being said about them in social media, but here too they want to take this to the next level.

Lastly we talked about growth – and whether they focus on expanding the array of services for existing customers, or look for new markets first. The answer for Western Union is both. They are coming out with a series of new mobile applications for existing customers and are also getting into the small business market – not just the generic small business market, but that part of the small business market operated by immigrants. A new consumer tribe that probably would thrive online as well.

I can totally see how Gail thinks she has the best job in the world.

Other things that we talked about include:

  • The details of the Yes! campaign and how they measured progress and success
  • The importance of a values-based system in managing all the possible agent scenarios worldwide
  • The role of customer analytics in marketing
  • The importance of integrating marketing with customer service
  • The challenges related to recruiting a true diverse workforce worldwide

As usual, you can listen to the podcast on the CMO 2.0 site.

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