People understand humour very differently in the Baltic countries

August 13, 2015

Interview with Tomas Burovas, Marketing Director of Tele2 Lithuania.

Where exactly does Tele2 stand when it comes to a regional pan-Baltic approach? What are the things that you do regionally in marketing and communication and what are the things you do locally?

Due to the fact that we represent a telecommunications industry, which is one of the most dynamic industries in terms of marketing and communication, the Tele2 company has organized its structure so that each market – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia, etc – they all are working on the country level only. So Tele2 Lithuania is basically doing only Lithuanian communication and marketing and is responsible for only one end market. We don’t have pan-Baltic approach like some companies do. I’d say that this is due to one very simple thing – due to intensity. Because, for example in Tele2 Lithuania alone, we are doing approximately 40 campaigns every year. And managing 40 campaigns is already quite a lot for our rather small marketing team. So this is why we are really focussing on the end market level.

However, we do have a central organization in Sweden, but they are not so much in charge of the end market marketing and communication strategy. They mostly take care of the CIDs, i.e. the corporate identity side.

What we do across Baltics is that we are changing experiences. And I would say that our communication concepts are quite similar. They are not exactly the same, but the main idea of the concept is more or less the same. For example, we are using TV series platform in all three Baltic countries. But how it is exactly implemented, this depends country by country.

So in the Balticbest panel discussion I will be the guy saying that even though it is possible to use the same agencies and to have the same creative team, it is not always possible to have the same communication platform in each country. Even if Baltic countires seem similar at first, they are in reality very different in cultural perspective. And you need to know what works locally. The one-for-all concept does not fit. At least in Tele2 we cannot apply the same concept.

Actually, we have tried – there was a discussion to run the same communication concept and to use the same TV series in all three countries, but after the first round of research we understood that it is not possible and this will not work.

Why? What are main differences?

The difference is in the culture and also in understanding jokes. People understand humour very differently in all three markets. And this is even influenced by the population of Russians, for example. It’s different in all countries – in Latvia we have the biggest population of Russians, then Estonia and Lithuania is the last one.

One thing which is in common for all three markets, is that we are using humour and jokes in all our communication. We are trying to make our products attractive through humour. And I can bring some examples how humour is very different in all three countries. For example, in Lithuania we have a concept called „rich people also save“ which is built on the cliche of a very old soap opera „Santa Barbara“. View: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA9Kuh_WsRI. With this concept we are even today scoring ’number one’ and ’the best’ in ad likeability and in terms of all other ad parameters. Everybody loves it and they watch it as a TV series, not like a commercial. They wait to see the next episode.

But when we did a research in Latvia, the result was quite different. About 1,5 year ago they were looking for a new concept in Latvia and we thought that maybe they could use the same Lithuanian concept. It would have been so easy and cost-effective to implement it. So we made a couple of focus groups and it was absolutely rejected by the customers. They said it is so old fashioned, not cool at all and they didn’t understand the humour of this kind of TV serial. They wanted to see normal people, and the 80s atmosphere, but instead 2010s or even 2020s. That’s how we could immediately see that there’s a very different mentality, even in countries that are so small and so close to each other. The level of humour is absolutely different.

The only thing what could work is a very generic thing – for example if you show sun shining, seaside, nice people, dancing, music, etc. Then it’s ok. This kind of communication can work all across the region. But you can’t do that if you have 30-40 campaigns per year. Then you need to have something different every three weeks. And this is a very clear indication that you need to do it locally, according to the local needs.

Interviewed by Hando Sinisalu, Best Marketing International