INSEAD dean: Market Europe just like Coca-Cola

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To forge a real sense of ownership and belonging, EU leaders and politicians should better market the European project, said the Indian dean of French business school INSEAD, Dipak C. Jain, in a recent interview with EURACTIV.

Dipak C. Jain  is the current dean of leading world business school INSEAD and the former dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the United States.

He was speaking to Daniela Vincenti-Mitchener on the margins of a conference on 'Revitalising the European Dream' organised by INSEAD and the European Executive Council (EEC), representing CEOs and top executives.

To read a shortened version of this interview, please click here.

From the report INSEAD has published it seems companies and corporate leaders have a positive image of Europe. Yet, we perceive across Europe a sense of 'European fatigue'. How do you think possible this gap between corporate Europe and public opinion?

The difference is inside versus outside perceptions. Years ago, I went to the US to follow the American Dream and lived in Chicago for 25 years and now I felt I needed to come to Europe to be a part of the European Dream. People from outside Europe are much more positive about Europe then what you just described as the perception of people within the continent.

Given this gap, there is a need for better marketing, but that can only be solved if we market ourselves well and communicate to the citizens, to the people within Europe. I think that would reduce that feeling and the gap.

That is to me the fundamental reason. I believe in it. I can speak on behalf of Indian companies and Indians, and I am sure the Chinese would say the same thing. If you ask them: What is their ideal environment? They would all like to be like Europe.

Does Europe need better marketing? Do you think our leaders have failed to market the EU?

No, I don't think they have failed. They haven't targeted this as a priority. I don't think they have failed, not at all.

But we need to make it a priority. I don't like just using the word marketing. We need to communicate better to our people the positive environment.

People in Europe should believe in Europe. We should tell them E.U.R.O.P.E. stands for Education, Unified vision, Roots, Openness, Positive attitude and Environment.

Let me explain. 'E' stands for education and education stands excellence. Europe has a history of having excellent education systems. We have to really focus on [and] we should not forget that Europe is still the place where many people from all over the world would like to get educated.

'U' stands for "unified vision". We need unity. It has to be a collective effort. Today, it is time for us to think of Europe as one unified vision. If we have created a European Union the union needs to have a unified vision.

The third is 'R' and it stands for roots. For example, we have built INSEAD on European roots as the leading business school of Europe. We may have other campuses but the core values stem from Europe. This is a matter of pride. People in Europe should be very proud of what they have achieved and what the world really thinks of them.

'O' is openness. We have to believe in openness. It means open trade, open policies, open procedures, and this would really invite a lot of companies to come here and this would really create employment. A transparent and open Europe would be welcoming.

And I tell you that was the strength I saw in the US, very open, you can come with nothing there and create a life. This openness can also promote entrepreneurship. Good entrepreneurs don't have much resources to work around the system. So if the procedures and policies are very clear then they can say 'OK let's start a company here'.

'P' is a positive attitude, with pragmatism. We have to also be realistic.

And 'E' is environment. Europe is the leader in the world today for sustainability and I think the rest of the world benchmarks itself against Europe. The US has not taken the lead on the environment and Europe is ahead of the others. And this can be a very good role model to market the world.

Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing said that Europe is not communicating well to its citizens and that the area of peace and security does not appeal to them any more: they need more to accept the Union.

He also made a very good point: Europe has lost its dominant position and is today like any other country. When do you lose your dominance? When you stop communicating properly.

Look, Coke and Pepsi, everyone in the world knows Coke and Pepsi, but every day they are still advertising. Somebody would ask that question: Why should Coke and Pepsi advertise? They are so well-known. Why should McDonald's advertise?

But every day you still see their ads because that is the measure of communicating of creating a sense of freshness. That new bottle, the new packaging, something is happening there. You need to communicate it, otherwise you become dormant.

True. But isn't there a risk that if the EU communicates too much it falls into propaganda? How can Brussels communicate in such a way that citizens don't perceive it as propaganda?

Let me tell you my view on that. A brand is not the promise, but the delivery of the promise. I'm not a big believer in any propaganda because citizens would like to see whether their leaders can deliver on their promises. If you can deliver what you are promise, you create the branding Europeans need.

I am the last person to suggest making a big PR event or propaganda.

Let me give you a simple example on a small scale. We at INSEAD send out a short and nice email to various stakeholders every time that alumni achieve something or some student gets an award. There is nothing wrong in doing this. It is not propaganda. They get a feeling of what's happening at INSEAD and it creates a bond between them and the school.

The same thing should happen with the European Union. If I can make it happen at the unit level, we should be able to make it happen there.

Now, President Giscard d’Estaing also made a very important point which I think we have completely lost. It is the importance of arts and culture in this region, the best museums of the world, the cultural heritage of Europe.

Suppose we made a marketing campaign on this? Millions of tourists would come. Europe would become the world's cultural and arts centre…

These are kind of things we need to think about. What's unique about us? We have to pick and target a few things where we know this is true, and then invest in those efforts: a world-class centre on fine arts and cultural heritage for our children, the children of the future:  they need to know what is in Europe, not only Facebook!

Fair enough. But do you really think that this will boost ownership of the European project and possibly increase plunging turnout at the European elections? What kind of tools would you come up with in order to push the citizens to go and vote? More than cultural campaigns, we need political ones.

The way to do that is first to create for them a sense of belonging. I don't think politicians are going to do this part. You need to tell them that that it's their future and they have a chance to influence it. That to me is the strongest message to give to citizens, that it is a time for you to come forward and have a say on your future.

If you don't do it, then somebody else will come forth and that cannot be the best solution for the EU. So people should come forward and help co-create the future. That's one part.

Second, you have to give them a unified vision. What are the things you are planning to do? And you need their help to create this new Europe or new vibrant European Dream.

I think we need to have a very good story which then goes to the citizens of the countries and people to talk about it. And this is not just advertising or promotion. We need to create a document called 'the five-point plan'. These are the five things that we want to do, sustainability being one.

And I tell you why I am saying this. Last week, I was in New York and I met the consul-general of Canada. And he said Canada has come up with what he calls the five priorities for the country. He articulated the priorities and he said 'how can INSEAD help with this?' If Europe had this everyone in the world would know these are the five things for Europe.

Some document has to come and people need to have a unified vision and unified priorities for this thing. I remember once in India a government came up with a five-point plan over a 10-year period. That is something very clear and tangible.

Europe was created as a way of making sure that no war would return to the continent. It has grown on that basis. That basis does not exist any more. So what would be your suggestion for the next vision? What is the next foundation?

I would say Europe can be the leader in global sustainability so that today's actions will not prevent future generations to aspire to a better world. If I waste too much water and create a shortage of it for the next 25 years, then I am depriving the next generations from doing that. This is how Europe is building the future of Europeans for the next 50 years and how the rest of the world should emulate that vision.

I can't help but notice that the people that speak the best about Europe and the European Dream are not Europeans, they are foreigners. Why do you think we are so passive, dormant? Is that because our leadership is so stuck? What would be the best wake-up call? Can the euro crisis fulfil that function?

Crisis is of course the best time to re-energise. They say 'never waste a good crisis' because that is an opportunity to change anything. This time when you change, people will be with you, because they know there is no other alternative.

So the question is: Who becomes your ambassadors to communicate that? And sometimes you need the help of the outsiders. They become the spokespersons for you to say what is great about Europe. We give lectures to 200-300 people at INSEAD, saying that we need to build on the European roots, leverage Paris and use it as a platform for our education to the world.

Everyone is saying, 'why did I not think of this? It makes so much sense'. And the Europeans never thought of this. For 50 years INSEAD has been there but no-one ever thought of it. So one part of the planning process may be to get a few of those spokespersons who really believe in the place and then have them talk about these things in different contexts.

If you look at any country or any region, I believe that for any economy to be strong I always think in terms of the four pillars.

The first important thing is democracy. The second part is diversity. The third is demographics. And the fourth is dynamism. Europe is good at the first two and challenged in the last two. Our demographics are not favourable for the future and dynamism is not there.

India is one country where you have all four: Lots of dynamism, optimism, a young population, diversity and a pure democracy.

I think in Europe we need to think about the demographics part and this is where some foreign talent or very well-crafted immigration can play a role. You can bring lots of entrepreneurs and have them create jobs here.

That's how America did it! They invited lots of immigrants and those immigrant populations are creating the needed dynamism in the country. So if you are saying Europeans are more dormant than others, then you need to inject an immigrant population to create that dynamism. If Americans can do that why can't we do it?

The EU came up with the blue card scheme but restricted the timing of skilled immigration to a couple of years, concerned about the brain drain impact in other parts of the world .…

That is for the other person to decide. If you invite immigrants to come for a few years, let the other person decide whether they want to stay or leave. That's what I mean by an open policy.

Regarding brain drain: in the 1990s, Indians were concerned because young talents were all going to the US. You know what one person replied? He said: 'Brain drain is better than brain in the drain'. At least the person is making use of that brain. If he stays here and not using it he is helping nobody.

I believe not only that you need simple marketing, but also through the creation of a small council of people who will address the things we can do and I would think the prime minister of each country can do that.

One way to solve the problem is also look at Europeans who have been successful elsewhere and bring them once a year back as an alumni reunion.

The European Union should give them the highest civil award for recognition of excellence abroad – they should become your spokespersons. That's the way to solve the problem.

There are lots of successful Europeans in India, in China and other places, and we should reunite them once a year.

Excellence and homecoming! And that eventually should be marketed so well that lots of people from other countries should be invited. In India, the prime minister does that every year on 9 January.

He gives out the highest award you can get in India. It's a very nice two-and-a-half day event. It is a very well-attended event. Some high-powered events could do that. It's not just about Davos and others. We need to create our own event.

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