My friend Priya, who is a director in the training department of my company, told me about this book. She said after reading it she realized why it is so hard to get people to attend a training program. “We do not associate learning with class rooms”, she said. “From childhood all our worthwhile, usable learning has been outside the class room. So most people attend training for other reasons like having fun or networking.” Once she said it, it appeared a pretty obvious conclusion. I thought a book that could provide such interesting insights must be a good one.
According to Rapaille we acquire a silent system of codes as we grow up in a culture and we will reject anything which is in conflicts with this code. He has used this technique to help many big companies to design their branding and Ad campaign. He gives some interesting examples how he used culture codes for this purpose. He was invited by Nestle to help sell instant coffee in Japan. During the course of his research he found that Japanese had extremely strong emotional association with tea but most people had no imprint of coffee at all. Based on this insight, Nestle changed it’s strategy in Japan. They introduced desserts for children with Coffee flavor. The younger generation embraced this dessert. Their first imprint of coffee was very positive. Now Nestle sells half a billion pounds of coffee per year in Japan while in 1970 it was virtually non-existent.
In this book the author deciphers the cultural code for America – on aspects ranging from love, beauty, job, health etc. Some findings are obvious, like that for “job”. It is not merely a means of making money; it is “WHO WE ARE”. Whereas the culture code for perfection is “DEATH”!!
I could make sense of some of my professional experiences from the American cultural code for quality, which is “IT WORKS”. That’s why, I think, it is so easy to work with American clients and tough to work with Europeans. It is so hard to get an American customer to read a quality document. All they care about is whether your product works. I recall a British client, who went through a 400 page KT document 4 times and made me change the tense, the grammar, the verbs and the nouns before she signed off on it.
The author says, American culture is fundamentally an adolescent culture, that’s why they place such a high premium on youth, all their icons are rebels, that’s why they believe in giving second chances to even their presidents.
He concludes with, perhaps the most obvious code, the American Culture Code for America – “DREAM”. In words of Rapaille – “Dreams have driven this country from its earliest days. The dream of explorers discovering new worlds. The dream of the immigrants coming to a land of hope. The dream of entrepreneurs forging the industrial revolution…. We are the product of dream and makers of dreams”. May be, that’s why, not withstanding all the America bashing happening all over the world, everyone wants to be there. After all, who doesn’t want to live a dream!!!