The last major Client profile is the Marketing Director in a large family owned company.
To fully understand this Client we need to first understand the company. While it can be found in the USA, it is very prevalent in Latin America and Asia, and in many countries in Europe. It has quite a few interesting and important quirks.
The family name is often the company name. Even if this is not the case, the owners of the company tend to be very wealthy, and their relationship with the company is well known. Therefore, the company’s reputation will be closely monitored by the family-it is after all their reputation.
The family Patriarch generally runs the company. Family members hold most of the key positions. It is run for the benefit of the family. Younger members of the family may work in lower and middle management but it is understood that they are in training and will soon move on to very senior jobs, and one of them will succeed the Patriarch.
Management talent from outside the family is there mainly to make sure the operation is run smoothly and that the family directions are followed and family interests are protected. In exchange for this loyalty, managers are often paid very well and offered excellent benefits. But there is a clear understanding of the glass ceiling. The most senior posts are reserved for the family.
The company will almost always reflect the values of the Patriarch, and this is not up for discussion. The best way to illustrate this is with a couple of examples of companies that operate in México.
One of them is a very large beer company. It is large enough to be on the Fortune 500 and has operations around the world. In the year 2000, the Patriarch was a 75 year old gentleman who was born and spent his early years in a village in Spain. When he became Chairman he decreed that no one in the company could use the word “antro” which translates to “dive”. This was very unusual since the young Mexican consumer uses that same word to describe the cool hangouts where he consumes this company’s beer. The reason for the prohibition is that in 1930’s Spain, the word “antro” meant “brothel”. And the Patriarch, using his absolute authority, banned the word.
Another very large Mexican company controls about 75% of the market for the baked goods it sells. One of its most famous brands is named after the founders favorite daughter. The family that owns it has very close links to the most conservative wing of the Catholic Church. Therefore, the company avoids hiring people who are divorced. It is well known that if, as an employee, you decide to seek a divorce, your upward progress in the company will be affected and you may find yourself without a job.
The point of these two examples is not to argue whether this is right or wrong. Rather, it is to show that the owners of these companies have very particular points of view. Employees are made aware of the views. If they wish to work in the company they must conform. Otherwise they will have no future.
So, how best can you sell your work to the Marketing Client in this type of company?
The key is in understanding what is considered acceptable and what is out of bounds for the Patriarch. Your Client will have to seek approval for airing the work from the Boss. He was hired to make sure the owners vision is executed and will put his career in jeopardy if he crosses any red line. Challenging the Patriarch is a great way to end his career. And before he goes, he will make sure the Agency goes.
Always show your Client how the work is consistent with the explicit and implicit guidelines that exist in the company. Give him the arguments to show the Patriarch how the work fits with his vision and you will be in good shape.