I don't know the rules of grammar. If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.

- David Ogilvy -

David Mackenzie Ogilvy, the British entrepreneur often regarded as “the Father of Advertising”, the man who former chairman and chief executive of BBDO Worldwide Allen Rosenshine referred to as “ a bible of what constitutes good and bad advertising[1], believed in market research, in brands studying their consumers in details. “ Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals[2], he once stated.

Similarly to Ogilvy, advertising pioneer Claude Hopkins - who used to sustain that since customers are “selfish” in their intention to exchange their money for the best products and services available on the market, it would be advisable for any brand to align with the customers’ perceived best interest (“ Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising. Ads say in effect, "Buy my brand. Give me the trade you give to others. Let me have the money." That is not a popular appeal. The best ads ask no one to buy. That is useless. Often they do not quote a price. They do not say that dealers handle the product. The ads are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information. They site advantages to users. Perhaps they offer a sample, or to buy the first package, or to send something on approval, so the customer may prove the claims without any cost or risks. Some of these ads seem altruistic. But they are based on the knowledge of human nature”) - , believed in “scientific advertising”.

His approach and business philosophy revolved around the importance of measurable data on users’ behaviour, in the benefits of sampling and testing, in the value of psychology and observable patterns [3].

While there seems to be no universal agreement on the relevance of market research for advertising purposes (“ If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses .”, Henry Ford; “ People don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page ”, Steve Jobs), disregarding data and trends may lead to concrete possibilities of presenting customers with products and services that may not resonate with their needs, habits, and core values.

After the article about the main challenges Starbucks’ faced in Israel with regard to consumer behaviour, we’re going to talk about an unfortunate episode that involves a different brand and its 2012 “diverse” marketing campaign that targeted members of minority groups.




Hmong community: not lovin’ it

Hmong community: not lovin’ it

( Image source )


The above billboard, that supposedly read “Coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going.” in Hmong , appeared in two different areas of Saint Paul (home to the largest Hmong community in the United States) in September 2012.

The problem with it was, neither English nor Hmong speakers could read it [4].

- “ It sounds weird in Hmong because we don’t really talk like that ,” said Bruce Thao, 28, a St. Paul resident and doctoral candidate in social work. “ Either way, there should definitely be spaces in between those words .”

- “T he text is also wrong, missing key breaks in the language ,” Thai Lee (a former chief resident at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul) said. “ As it stands right now, it doesn’t make sense at all .”

To worsen the situation, the poor translation - an embarrassing mistake that could have easily been prevented by asking a Hmong native speaker to proofread the ad - was not the only issue with the campaign. Did coffee appeal to the majority of the targeted consumer? Apparently not:

Thai Lee points out that coffee is not a traditional staple of the Hmong diet. At the Hmong Village Marketplace in St. Paul, it’s common to see patrons enjoying Vietnamese-style iced coffees, hot teas and cold “bubble tea” with chewy tapioca pearls, but you’d be hard pressed to find a cup of joe .” [5]

While McD’s blunder happened in 2012, it’s worth noting that bubble tea - a Taiwanese drink that became available in the US in the late 1990’s - accounted for more than 57% of the global market by 2016, according to a report published by Allied Market Research [6].

As a Taiwanese-American kid growing up in the early 2000s in the San Gabriel Valley, the concoction was an integral part of my social life. We, after all, were the first boba generation. The beverage became a defining symbol of the SGV, and we cheered, in the form of millions of views, when brothers David and Andrew Fung released a 2012 music video titled Boba Life, perfectly capturing a cross-section of our culture that the mainstream had ignored .”; “ Note that this is a subculture that’s unique to the States, and strongest in Los Angeles” , food journalist Clarissa Wei wrote in 2017 [7].

By failing to conduct a market research to assess the preferences of the local Hmong consumers, the owners of the McDonald’s restaurants within St. Paul and Maplewood completely missed a growing trend among the young generation of Asian-American millennials, the “boba culture”, an important and complicated symbol of the Asian-American diaspora [8].


Upcoming weekly article: “Buyer personas and an introduction to psychographic segmentation”



[1] The New York Times - Online:


[2] Ogilvy, D. (2011). ” Ogilvy on advertising ”. London: Prion

[3] Hopkins, Claude C. (1960). ” Scientific Advertising ”. New York: Bell

[4], [5] Twin Cities Pioneer Press - Online:


[6] Allied Market Research - Online:


[7] LA Weekly - Online:


[8] Eater - Online:



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