Thursday, February 4, 2010


Congratulations to the 2009 Internationalists of the Year!


Nine international marketing executives have been named Internationalists of the Year by The Internationalist magazine.  These individuals are truly the people behind today’s outstanding cross-border campaigns.



This year marks The Internationalist’s sixth annual profile section that honors industry nominees who "break the mold" with their multinational brand communications.  Their marketing campaigns stand out from the crowd and from other brands in their categories. This year may have been challenging; however, these honorees took the kind of marketing risks in the international marketplace that are now producing results.


Despite the variety of fields they represent, their diversity of location and varying years in the profession, all take the role of  international brand champion to heart.  If one word could summarize their commitment in this era of change, it would be “passion.”  Without their extraordinary efforts, inspiration and energy in the midst of 2009’s economic situation, many multinational programs  simply would not have left the drawing board.








Len Blaifeder

Vice President/ Director of Advertising and Direct Marketing, BNY Mellon


Len Blaifeder is the consummate New Yorker—right down to his roots at New York University, Queens College and Stuyvesant High School.
And like most New York iconoclasts, he is known for his quips and easy ability to inject humor into just about any situation.  (His Linked-in profile gets lots of double-takes; he describes himself as “Karaoke King, Raconteur, Dad, & Weekday Marketing Stud.”  No one forgets Len Blaifeder.)
He jokes that as a tried and true New Yorker, it’s appropriate that he works for a company with NY in its name.  For the past 20 years, he’s held various marketing positions with BNY Mellon and the earlier Bank of New York side of the company.   Today, the South Bronx native works with a global organization that does business in over 100 countries through 34 offices around the world.
Blaifeder describes his marketing role with characteristic verve: “Whether in person, by email, or on phone calls that have me trying to sound intelligent and coherent at 3AM, I work with our business managers and country managers to develop campaigns that respond to their needs while remaining steadfastly dedicated to the disciplined message that defines our brand.”
He’s also candid.   “I never would have thought that I could be content spending so long a time in one job. However, everything surrounding the position has changed at a very rapid pace. My advertising career at BNY Mellon has evolved from a position supporting checking account sales for 300 branches in the tri-state area to a focus on institutional businesses such as Asset Management and Custody, to an increasing focus on our overseas growth. New clients, new lines of business to learn, new media, new measures for success, and now … new cultures have kept me motivated and enthusiastic and happy to come to work.”
BNY Mellon has only recently begun to focus and develop marketing resources in support of  aggressive revenue goals around the world.  Blaifeder admits, “I think many of my colleagues would agree that taking a global brand and making it relevant in every country in which you do business is one of the dominant challenges that they face every day.
When you factor into the equation, the uniqueness of each country in terms of their media, their regulatory environment, the latest marketing technologies and of course, the cultural differences, you appreciate the fact that success internationally is not achieved by simply adapting programs from one country into another. Each market is a new discovery and a new set of challenges. The ultimate challenge is not to get complacent as you move from one market to another.”
Although Len Blaifeder admits that always sleeping with his BlackBerry can be a challenge, he also explains why he’s passionate about international marketing.  “If I had to sum it up, it would be the newness of every situation. And I'm not just talking about learning new things. But rather re-examining those things that I thought I knew and flipping it on its side to apply it to a different culture.

I've gained new perspective on what makes advertising successful in Asia vs. Europe. And just when I was feeling somewhat enlightened I was exposed to the nuances between Japan and Korea. The new things you come away with are never ending, and I am truly grateful to be in the field where I can continue to grow and to do so with a smile.”


Geert van Kuyck

Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Royal Philips Electronics, Amsterdam


Few people link “passion” and “branding” as much as Geert van Kuyck. He is credited as the driving force behind Philips’ successful “sense and simplicity” brand promise, while also strengthening the company’s customer-centric ethos and drive for innovation. Yet, Van Kuyck would be first to admit that “a brand promise is not straightforward.”  He understands that “passion is what brings a brand to life.”
Passion may best be defined for Geert van Kuyck as the drive to “get it right for the customer.”  He sees a company’s essential responsibility as being accountable to adding value to that product purchaser--whether in the consumer or business-to-business space--in any of the company’s healthcare, lighting and consumer life-style divisions. Customers now have come to expect such virtues from the Philips brand, and van Kuyck believes that the support, needs and ideas of impassioned consumers engender strong, useful companies.
At Philips, “sense and simplicity” is more than a marketing mantra; it is the guiding ideal behind how the company does business in every division and every department.  It has now become so infused throughout the culture that employees take it to heart.  He says, “Great people are attracted to things that trigger passion.  Few are interested in just another job.  They ask, ‘How can I use my time meaningfully?’ And they want to make a meaningful difference-- despite the economy.  This brings people to Philips.  Our simple effort to underscore how light bulbs can factor into the climate change discussion has attracted countless young people to the company. Passion from people matters.”
For van Kuyck, “the essence of a global brand is that it is shepherded by a passionate and obsessed owner;” he cites iconic companies with strong leaders like Apple and Starbucks as examples.  He also believes that global marketing today has much in common with understanding “the role of the Constitution versus the Rule of Law.”  A multinational giant like Philips with a clear message that resonates in over 60 countries needs a marketing constitution with standards and procedures that live up to its brand promise.
“A Brand Constitution focuses on the essentials and is durable over time.  A much more flexible Rule of Law allows local markets-- infused with passion for the brand’s promise-- to apply these constitutional principles to offer local solutions, just like a local judge would.  In practicing locally, they literally protect the constitution and make it relevant in a local environment. Importantly, without local application, a global brand often becomes a stale, irrelevant ivory tower brand over time… which obviously cannot build or support business.”
Additionally, he believes that a CMO today has a huge responsibility in regard to shepherding the constitution of what shapes the brand. And a strong constitution becomes even more critical in light of today’s industry trends of short CMO tenures.  “A brand promise and a brand executed effectively transcend so many activities.”
An advocate for the role of marketing within the corporation, Geert van Kuyck believes that strategic market entry decisions are as much branding decisions as they are economic and general business ones. “For example, if a company wants to enter a market, but the benefit needed does not connect with the brand promise, then one should not play in that arena.”

Despite such extraordinary re-shifting with so huge a corporation, Geert van Kuyck has only been with Philips for just over 4 years and was named CMO in January 2008.  A native of Belgium, his prior career includes a role as Vice President of Marketing for EMEA at Starbucks and 14 years at Procter & Gamble with various positions in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and the USA.


Joe Bihlmier

Vice President/Global Media — AMERICAN EXPRESS


Joe Bihlmier may have begun his career on the agency side with stints at McCann Erickson, Y&R and Mediaedge, but now after a decade with American Express, he is changing how the company uses media.
He has made a strong commitment to digital media with nearly one-third of the international marketing budget moving in the direction of new online experiences from social media to new content opportunities — whether it’s a Facebook app or a YouTube project in Mexico with user generated video awards in the market.  This kind of thinking is causing American Express to take the marketing lead in the financial services space.
Over the last 18 months Bihlmier has been responsible for developing Internet strategies for brand building and business initiatives on external web sites. His primary focus continues to be driving innovative internet media plans, partnerships and web development, while he manages the relationships with AmEx’s interactive agencies around the globe.
His role comes at an interesting time in the company’s evolution as newer campaigns are targeting audiences that are younger than those with which American Express is traditionally associated.  The marketing also underscores the varied role that American Express can play in a modern lifestyle — beyond being simply a payment card.
The third quarter of 2009 also demonstrated that American Express was willing to invest in its brand in key markets to communicate a fresh expression of its products. “Realize the Potential” was introduced in Canada, Mexico, the UK and Australia with a 360-degree marketing effort.  The tagline refers to both the potential to enjoy rewarding lives and the potential of the American Express card in providing services than can enhance that lifestyle.
“Realize the Potential” also takes a risk.  The campaign invites consumers to re-evaluate their perspective of American Express, particularly the position it plays in supporting and augmenting their lives. (The card offers exclusive member services ranging from travel advantages to purchase insurance to advanced ticket access to concerts, shows, film festivals and certain sporting events, as well as worldwide customer service.) As a result, a large portion of the media budget was dedicated to creating a digital brand presence across entertainment, travel and lifestyle sites.

Interestingly, Joe Bihlmier started his educational beginnings in Rome, Georgia at Berry College.  Now his role with one of the world’s most valuable brands and most admired companies that operates in over 130 countries certainly insures that Rome, Italy is also on his map.  (No doubt, the irony isn’t lost at alumni functions!)


Neil McGuinness

Advertising and Marketing Communications Manager (Europe and Middle East), BP Solar


Today’s small world means than a native of Ireland, working for a British company, can wind up in Spain (after an earlier role in Chile) to help develop a fresh international marketing approach for a new energy division.  And now Neil McGuinness, Advertising and Marketing Communications Manager (Europe and Middle East) of BP Solar, is not only at ease having tapas in Madrid’s barrio Salamanca, but he’s working to convert “a world of sunflowers” to a professional business-to-business message about alternatives with the help of their agency, GyroHSR.
McGuinness is an enthusiastic marketer with a dedication to making things happen.  He says, “Being progressive and innovative are a huge part of what BP stands for so it's really exciting knowing you can explore new marketing possibilities.  It's also about drawing on the experience and best practice among your peers, and I'm lucky to be able to share with a fantastic team at BP Solar and at BP Group.”
He also may have the best reason to be passionate about international marketing today. It’s the excitement of learning.  “Everyday's a school day when you're dealing cross border and cross culturally.”
Yet he believes that the risks any marketer takes should be backed by research. “It's not much good basing an investment of a lot of marketing dollars on instinct alone. My geography covers Europe and the Middle East, and right now we're using our stand out value, as well as our excellent track record, to support those markets. Our primary risk is centered around new market launches and the delivery of increased brand awareness during a time of economic uncertainty. It's a risk we're willing to take in order to show our commitment to driving grid parity and setting the base to deliver our business objectives both in 2010 and the future.”
When asked about the challenges of marketing multinationally, Neil McGuinness has a straightforward answer: “Know your market.”  He continues, “It's also about being relevant in an environment that has different behaviors depending on where you play. Balancing your brand globally with your relevancy in local countries requires a lot of insight.  Banking everything on local relevancy could lead to inconsistencies across your global brand.”

A Dubliner turned MadrileƱo, the secret of McGuinness’ success may be in the fact that “I come from stock where people still listen to each other and have time for each other. I try to carry that into my work (despite deadlines!).”

His work history is fascinating in light of where it has taken him.  “Before now I was part of the Investor Comms team for Santander in Chile and also in Marketing Comms at Pioneer Investments. I left the finance world a couple of years ago to work with Terrence Higgins Trust, a health charity in London.  My move to BP Solar was ideal because it brings together the corporate experience I already had and my chance to add value globally to energy diversity.”


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Christine Valls

American Airlines, Manager E-commerce Product Marketing | Latin America and The Caribbean


American Airlines has certainly been in the limelight of late with its  starring role in the film UP IN THE AIR, featuring George Clooney. Christine Valls, American's Manager of E-commerce Product Marketing for Latin America and the Caribbean, is gearing up for the movie's launch in the Latin America on February 22 with more of the marketing, contests and customer outreach that has made the airline a powerhouse in the region.
Valls' role may sound simple: encourage more Latin Americans to buy their American Airlines tickets online.  However, her definition of is 17 Spanish-language sites, 1 Portuguese site, plus the content and enhancements to make international fliers stay loyal. This means easier calculations of the company's fares and schedules matrix, instant access to their Advantage rewards, plus creative, cost-effective marketing of the entire program's benefits.  And she works in a marketplace that still faces major challenges regarding strong distrust of credit usage online, as well as limited Internet bandwidth.
Nonetheless, showed in an increase in online bookings in 2009 due to a number of engaging online campaigns that cleverly encouraged use of the site.  Social media is growing rapidly in the region and programs using facebook have shown strong results.  Valls cites a fun Chilean promotional contest that features a flight attendant, named Danila Bordo, with a facebook page that answers customers' questions. (Chile has Latin America?s highest penetration of internet users; more than Brazil.)
Christine Valls believes that there is a dramatic shift occurring now in airline marketing.  We are living in time when more people simply purchase tickets online.  Future air travel growth is not necessarily about encouraging more people to fly, but rather about creating an online travel management relationship that keeps people coming back. That kind of loyalty is critical to the image and the revenues of an airline.
Not one to evade a challenge, Valls sees opportunities for those multinational companies that are willing to take advantage of today's changing environment.  She asserts, "Global, is no longer a geographical condition.  Customers from all corners of the world live and transact in all the corners of the world.  Consistency in your brand will help you achieve a sense of familiarity with your customer.   The key is to get to know your customer and which medium gets his/her undivided attention.  Small changes to your campaigns that touch on key value differences or interests also intensify that sense of familiarity."

Christine Valls started with American Airlines as an intern 20 years ago, and she remains passionate about the American Airlines company, its people and its brand.  "The E-commerce possibilities in Latin America and the Caribbean are endless.  This region has been the sleeping giant that is now waking up.  We can take risks and try things that have never been tried before.  Our world is colorful and without boundaries.  And for a marketing executive, that is the definition of Paradise."


Celine Del Genes

Reebok Asia Pacific / Head of Marketing


Celine Del Genes has only been in her role at Reebok Asia Pacific for a year,  but in this short period, she has revolutionized Reebok's brand perception and its marketing model in the midst of a more-than-challenging economic climate.  In addition to redirecting her team toward marketing excellence, her contributions have led to growth in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong, while maintaining Reebok's strong position in India as the market leader.  Despite limited resources, she has driven the Reebok brand to a new level of awareness in the region.
In a recent interview, she touched upon Asia's sports market changing since Beijing Olympics to allow consumers be closer to sports.   To Del Genes, this means enabling brands to communicate with customers in a way that was never done before.  She has been proving her point with a number of successful programs targeting women across various Asian markets.
She has capitalized on the Reebok's unique partnership with Cirque du Soleil, JUKARI Fit to Fly fitness program, across key Asian cities to introduce fun in working out. Del Genes says a key part of her marketing leadership role is to best represent Asia Pacific markets in Reebok's global conversations in order to empower local markets to succeed.
In 2009, Reebok launched EasyTone, a footwear technology that uses the concept of balance pods to better tone women's glute muscles and legs.  Del Genes placed her bets on Japan as the top market for the product, and her risk paid off.  Despite many spending cut-backs among female consumers during the economic crisis, Japanese women proved they would still invest on shoes that could help them look fitter.
Celine Del Genes started her career in communications at adidas AG's (the mother company of Reebok International Ltd.) German headquarters a decade ago.  She then moved to Hong Kong in 2005 following a promotion as Brand Marketing Director for adidas Asia Pacific, where she played a significant role in the award-winning adidas Beijing Olympics campaign.

A French native, Celine Del Genes says she thinks more Asian than European now in business conversations.  "It is a rite of passage!  It's from having experienced highly emotional events, from the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics and experiencing the power of this nation, to my first visit to the magnificent Taj Mahal" Despite thinking international, this marketing guru also stays close to her roots, "Part of my Asia Pacific experience also included watching France play the All Blacks in New Zealand, and I sulked when they lost, but perhaps it proves that I may still be French at heart!"