When we think of industry leaders in marketing and branding, Disney comes to mind. Geniuses in promoting their brand. Magnificent marketers. Leaders in the theme park industry. Universally recognized brand.
What could possibly go wrong with their expansion into Hong Kong and the Asian-Pacific market? Cultural misunderstanding.
Expansion into international markets and working with other cultures has created unforeseen headaches and problems for Disney once again. Disneyland struggles in Hong Kong
This is not the first time Disney has encountered cultural problems in international projects. EuroDisney also suffered from problems related to culture and customs that were not predicted or not taken seriously.
Disney is not alone. Virtually all organizations seeking to export and participate in international markets face steep learning curves about culture, customs and manners. Mistakes are made, at times very costly mistakes.
The lesson to be learned is to spend the time and money to understand your international markets and the culture where you will be doing business. It’s not enough to understand your brand and current customers. Never underestimate any cultural factor, and never assume that your model, project or way of life will be embraced fully and without reservations.