Dec 18, 2012 Corporate Event Planning: Building a Brand
In the throes of corporate event planning for the Merrill Lynch launch in Jakarta, Indonesia, I found myself searching the skies.
It was monsoon season, and the city in the grip of a storm causing the worst flooding in the history of Jakarta. Rain was a constant drumbeat. Our special event at the National Museum was both indoors and out, and the rain and flooding threatened to seriously dampen the evening.
Our Indonesian caterer had a solution. “You need to hire a rain stopper,” she said. At my puzzled look, she continued. “They go up in the trees, and push the clouds away.”
The rain stopper, I learned, is a dearly held Indonesian tradition. It was certainly dear to our caterer, who I respected tremendously. So through her, we hired one.
I never met the man. Before and throughout the party, he sat high in a tree, praying to the Balinese gods. And as if by magic, just before the event the clouds parted, revealing a full moon. The sky remained clear for the duration.
If you’re thinking this is nuts, so did I at the time.
I hired the rain stopper because traditional knowledge and belief still had its place for our Indonesian stakeholders. It was important for us and for Merrill Lynch to be in tune to the culture, in sync with the audience. If I’d disregarded the rain stopper, it would have been disrespectful to the caterer, who believed she was bringing me someone of great value. This was an early lesson that helped shape the Wilsonwest ethos.
When you’re bringing a brand to a new country or culture, you can easily just roll into town and do things your own way. But local culture shouldn’t be ignored. How do you maintain your brand and corporate standards while being sensitive to the new environment?
Often, it’s not easy. The key is to discover that intersection where your brand shares values with the local society. Merrill Lynch and the Indonesians shared the value of community, and we were sensitive throughout to local customs, always focused on building relationships.
So while you’re in the midst of your next corporate event planning session, you may want to consider two more questions. What values does your brand share with your community? And how can you reflect those in your next corporate event?