Stand on the right. Thongs aren’t thongs. Don’t live in Acton.
Moving here in 2007, I soon realised that vital intelligence was missing from my trusty copy of The Newcomer’s Handbook to London – the things you can’t quite put your finger on until you live here.
Because, when it comes to putting down roots in a new place, there’s no substitute for getting out there, asking lots of questions, and seeing how the locals do it.
It’s not about losing sight of who you are, or where you come from. It’s more about becoming a localised version of yourself.
It’s the same for businesses, too
Take our friends at Bluebeam. Their flagship product, Revu, is hugely dominant in the US architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. In fact, it’s used by 94% of major contractors and 86% of top design firms.
Bluebeam wanted to replicate that success in the UK. But instead of diving straight in, they decided to get a local’s perspective first.
And that’s where we came in.
Ask a local
We kicked off the project with a tried-and-tested-approach: asking lots of questions.
In this case, we spoke to people connected to the UK AEC industry: software resellers, industry professionals, and early adopters of Revu in the UK.
We researched whether the UK’s AEC industry was as digitally savvy as the US (no). If the market was ready to change (yes, but they weren’t sure how). What messages would hit home (that bit’s a secret).
These findings helped shape our messaging strategy and brand voice for Bluebeam in the UK. They’re the same down-to-earth industry partner they’ve always been. Just with a local twist.
Best of all, Bluebeam has the practical guidance to make sure their messaging sticks in the minds of their UK audiences.
Bunnings, Australia’s leading DIY retailer, acquired Homebase in 2016. The brand is hugely popular in Australia, so Bunnings cooked up a plan: to bring their stripped-back, big-box DIY megastores across to conquer the UK.
Of all the complicated reasons why, one stands out.
Unlike Bluebeam, Bunnings didn’t adapt to the local market. Instead, they cut and pasted their winning Australian formula over here.
There are loads of similarities between Australia and the UK, but sadly, weather isn’t one of them. Overstocked with barbecues, yet lacking in radiators, Bunnings got their offer spectacularly wrong – and quit the UK market in 2018.
What it all means
For anyone new to a country – whether they’re visiting on holiday, settling in for the long term, or growing their business in a new market – getting to grips with the ins-and-outs of local attitudes is vital.
For me, it was the difference between standing on the right, or being hissed at every time I used an escalator on the Underground.
And for businesses, it’s the difference between being Bunnings, or being Bluebeam.