It turns out that body language is a part of culture as well, according to my key learnings from international trips over the years.

  • Different cultures, different body language:

People from different cultures use different body language which can cause conflicts, tensions and misunderstandings in the workplace. For example, in some cultures, the physical distance between two individuals is small when they are having a conversation. Yet in other cultures, the physical distance between two people is much bigger when they are talking to each other. If two staff members are from two very different cultures in which body language is also different, they might feel uncomfortable in the workplace, too. Another example is shaking one’s head actually means yes in India; however, in other countries, it means no. This often causes tensions and misunderstandings when individuals from other cultures are doing business with people in India. Thus, when an international hotel enters the Indian market, they would be well-advised to learn more about these very subtle differences and avoid conflicts from the beginning. Another example is shaking hands: in China and most Asian countries, a standard handshake is very weak, and while shaking hands, two individuals do not really maintain eye contact as eye contact can be seen as rude behavior in China. In contrast, a standard handshake is very firm and strong in Australia, and when two Australians are shaking hands, they are supposed to maintain eye contact so as to show respect. This can be a culture shock in a business / professional setting. Yet international hotels could organize induction sessions to help their staff members when it is necessary. Truthfully, etiquette is of great importance in the hospitality industry; thus, understanding different body language and knowing different cultures are so key in this sector, particularly in international hotels which run businesses around the world (Smith 2011).

Therefore, international hotels that are looking to build a positive corporate culture should focus on dealing with tensions and conflicts in the workplace properly. More specifically, building a team that is characterized by a positive attitude towards training and professional development is the key to success in this aspect. Education is always the ideal method of eliminating unnecessary difficulties at work; therefore, ongoing education should be offered regularly. Further, because localization is necessary if an international hotel would like to be successful in an overseas market, adjusting certain practices in the workplace is paramount, which probably requires many staff members to get used to a different culture and get along well with new staff members in the local culture. Overall, international hotels must have a good understanding of the differences between a high-context culture and a low-context culture if these businesses want to be successful in a sustainable, professional and respectful manner.

  • How international businesses such as Converse uses their understanding of cultures to become winners (key learning from international trips):

Recommendation 1: to introduce limited-time and limited-edition.

So far, Converse has a series of similar styles, which is obviously a weakness. Therefore, Converse would be well-advised to create planned obsolescence, i.e. intentionally shortening the life-cycle of its products so that customers will need to buy more. That is to say, Converse should introduce variations or new products when it is necessary (Kotler & Keller 2015).

In addition, sometimes a successful limited edition can become a standard offering later on. That means when Converse introduces a limited-edition product, it is an effective way to test the target market’s reaction. If consumers like it and the demand is tremendous, this limited-edition product can probably become a standard offering in the future. In this way, Converse is able to kill two birds with one stone: 1) intentionally shortening the life-cycle of products and making consumers need to buy more; 2) testing a new product and see if the target audience likes it or not, which may help Converse to develop a long-term strategy.

Note that the first recommendation is not about line extensions.

Recommendation 2: to end line extensions.

According to international travel experts and marketing coaches, line extensions almost never work. Yet unfortunately, when a business becomes successful, it plants the seeds for its potential problems in the future, including the irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand, i.e. line extension. Now Converse has different names for its different line extensions; however, this does not help the brand to succeed in the long term. If a company would like to be wildly successful in a sustainable way, it must narrow the focus so as to build a position in the prospect’s mind. Indeed, marketing is actually a battle of perception, not product. Right now, Converse does not really have a unique selling point due to its line extensions.

When a company is spread thin over a lot of products, it tends to lose money. In reality, the leader in any category is usually the brand which is not line extended. Many marketers would disagree with this idea; nonetheless, in fact, although line extension could be a winner in the short term, it is oftentimes a loser in the long run.

Recommendation 3: to use quality signaling and maximize the profit.

Converse shoes are relatively affordable compared to its competitors such as Puma and Reebok. Nevertheless, the same target audience are already buying shoes from Puma and Reebok simply because they think Puma and Reebok possibly offer better products (those shoes are more expensive, which means they should be better – that is the average customer’s perception). In other words, the affordable price has made Converse look low-value, even though its products are high-quality products.

Therefore, a relevant strategy is to use quality signaling and increase the profit (Kotler & Keller 2015). For example, some of Converse’s high-end shoes which cost about AU$120 per pair can have a special label that indicates its high quality.

“Basically, a lower price also implies lower value, and that is not the right perception in the regular consumer’s mind.”