What the Shape of Europe is according to
Melinda Miklós
– Aspen Young Leaders

Melinda Miklós

CEO, WeAreOpen
Aspen Young Leaders Program Alumna

Looking good?

Recently, several internationally active businesses, working in the Central and Eastern European region, have come to me with a challenge they are facing time and again: they “weren’t looking good enough on the international market”.

This was not mentioned, however, as any sort of derogatory comment as far as their quality of service was concerned, but rather in the most literal sense of the word. The problem was their poor marketing strategy which damaged the image of their brand – and with it also the image of their corporate culture – that has placed them at a disadvantage in terms of international competition.

Pretty girls smiling in product photos. “Sex sells”, marketing experts have been telling us for decades. It appears, however, that sexism is – thankfully – less and less able to achieve the same result. When companies tried to enter the international market with the “sex sells” attitude, they found themselves facing a challenge which they had perhaps not even thought about.

It’s important to note that this is not a matter of taste: in the age of social media, consumer expectations have changed, and people want more honest and realistic images. Communication gestures that bombard the audience with highly stereotypical content are less and less effective. Thankfully, I might add. Credible communication, which goes against stereotypes, requires that the culture of the company be also open, diverse and inclusive.

Positive change in this area would result in benefits. Business, economic and social aspects must be taken into consideration. Some creative professionals in the United States have noticed that while women are the primary shoppers in nearly every product category – i.e. they are the ones making a decision of what product to buy -, 97% of creative directors in the advertising market are men. It has been proven, however, that when a team is composed of people sharing very similar backgrounds, the chances of producing non-stereotypical, novel solutions that respond to the market are lower. This may harm business results – and it also has an impact on society: advertisements are more likely to remain on the same, stereotypical track. And by this, they confirm prejudices already present in society.

Living in Central Europe, when we ponder the state of our region, we should also consider how we look from the outside. This image – to simplify things greatly – should change and show the diversity you encounter in person, walking down the street.

The text was created on the occasion of the Aspen Annual Conference “The Shape of Central Europe 2019”. Short Aspen Young Leaders’ insights on the current situation in Central Europe were published in the conference book.

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