Do you know the old Indian story of the four blind men and the elephant?
The blind men had to feel the elephant and guess what it was. Each of them felt a different part of the elephant and guessed it to be a pillar, a rope, a tree trunk and a wall.
Quite like that, in a large Multinational, each ‘local’ part of the company perceives the company narrowly and differently from one and another, as they rarely get to see the big picture – the Jumbo picture – like the elephant in the above story and picture below
A typical Multinational company has such a huge network of offices, staff and worldwide operations that it can be equated with a two ton pachyderm for its mammoth size. With a corporate presence in far flung cities, countries and cultures such companies are both MultiNational and MultiLocal at the same time.
It is common in companies of such size and reach that the individual parts operate in many ways like distinct islands, interested in sustaining their own local ecosystem and profits. While these islands do connect, meet and interact with the mainland and other islands (i.e., the company’s HQ and other regional operations) they often have no opportunity to observe and interact with the ‘whole’ company. This is true not just for the employees of the company but also its customers, business partners, Industry groups and so on.
This is only because there aren’t too many venues in the real world where the ‘whole’ company – its people, products and services – can physically come together and communicate along the entire value chain of the company.
Except that is in a trade show.
You might be quick to argue that a company’s website provides an overview of the company, and paints the big picture for employees and customers alike. True, it does paint that big picture -with colorful photographs of models posing in different situations in the local offices, in a choice of multiple regional languages. But you would agree that a few static and some more interactive pages on the World Wide Web don’t facilitate real time dialogue – an important aspect of engaging qualified visitors to further business goals.
Social media allows for a close to instant, real time dialogue but it hardly measures up when it comes to presenting the big picture.
-Unlike other popular traditional marketing and communication media, a trade show offers a MNC a chance to present a united multinational front end in the real world – a front end, like a large showroom, facilitating dialogue with partners, customers, potential customers, industry groups and consumers simultaneously (especially in this case, as qualified visitors are assured in such a forum!)
-The physical space in a trade show allows products, services, machinery and most importantly representatives from different parts of the company to be pieced/brought together (I don’t mean that every single person in the company’s pay roll be booked and flown in to engage visitors) so as to be seen, perceived and understood in a holistic way
Besides the big image agenda, a company could claim and communicate an adjective to enhance this big image. Something like ‘Innovative’ Market Leader ( Innovative Jumbo, so to say) or ‘Reliable’ Worldwide partner, ‘Experienced’ Value chain partner. This is achieved by the individual content (presentations, exhibits, applications, videos) and the format for the content. Together they serve as building blocks not just for the holistic image, but for the targeted adjective.
In the same stage, if you can show that Jumbo can also dance, you would have impressed everyone in the value chain!
(The above blog is written based on my work experience as a part of a team that met a Multinational’s objective in an international trade show)