Multicultural, Global And Mobile: Western Union

"Multicultural marketing is at the core of Western Union's business," Gail Galuppo, EVP and CMO of Western Union, told attendees of the Association of National Advertisers' Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference held earlier this month.

She shared how Western Union launched its new "Yes!" campaign in 22 languages across 200 countries with the goal of making a more emotional connection with its consumers. Galuppo says that "Yes! is a culture, especially among immigrants who hear a lot of "No."

Who is Western Union's audience? It is the 200 million international immigrants from markets like Haiti, where remittance services represent 40% of GDP, or Mexico and India, where transfers from the U.S. represent 3-8% of the local economy. In total, remittance services were a $368 billion global business in 2008, growing at three times the rate of the global economy.

Our World Is Flat

"Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat epitomizes Western Union," Galuppo said. "Borders are truly fading. We have to understand consumers around the world." Its numbers reflect that. Western Union had revenue of $5.3 billion from consumers in 15,000 ethnic corridors around the world.

Her background provided the training for her current role. Galuppo was born and grew up on the South Side of Chicago among a diverse community of Polish, Mexican and Puerto Rican immigrants. She has visited 41 countries and, in addition to speaking English, is learning Mandarin.

Sharing Best Practices Globally

Galuppo says Western Union is constantly sharing information and best practices among its 7,000 employees across the world, and emphasizes that her marketing department is proficient in more than 70 languages and manages 400,000 points of distribution. That surpasses by five times the number of retail locations of McDonald's, Starbucks, Citibank and Wal-Mart combined.

Western Union has offices in 65 countries and, while most marketing efforts are extremely decentralized, its customer relationship management, brand marketing, and mobile marketing efforts are centralized out of headquarters in Colorado.

New, Digital Products and Services

Western Union began in 1851 as The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company and in 1871 started offering cross-country money transfers to Americans who had moved out West for the Gold Rush. While its old print ads seem humorous today, especially those for the singing telegram or Candygram, they highlight how all companies, including Western Union, need to evolve with the times.

"Digital is changing Western Union," Galuppo says about how it is entering the mobile money transfer platform. "In markets like the Philippines and Kenya, mobile banking is changing the definition of banking. Where 10% of Kenya was banked before, today mobile transfers can drastically increase that percentage."

For its mobile money transfers, Western Union partners with mobile operators, banks and technology providers so that consumers can send money from their phones. Consumers can use pilot programs in the U.K., UAE, Singapore, Hong Kong and U.S., where they can visit select Western Union locations, give cash to the agent, and by providing a mobile number, the money is delivered to a "mobile wallet" of a Globe GCASH or Smart Money subscriber.

Who is Western Union's competition? Galuppo said smaller online companies like regional players Remit2Home or Remit2India, not MoneyGram, pose a threat to its business.

Outside of mobile, Galuppo asked, "How can we make life easier for our customers?" She discussed its new "pre-paid" card, which helps consumers save time since they don't have to go into a Western Union retail location to pick up money. Instead, the transferred money appears directly on their cards.

And, later this month, Western Union will debut "World in Motion," an online community on Facebook that provides social, practical and emotional support for migrants new to the U.S. This includes information on community events by state (including ethnic events), information on how to get a driver's license, visa or other government paperwork, and how to file taxes.

1 comment about "Multicultural, Global And Mobile: Western Union ".
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  1. Timothy Murphy from Keynote Systems Inc., October 22, 2009 at 6:43 p.m.

    Having lived several years in Mexico and then coming back to work for AT&T Mobility, I can certainly appreciate the importance of international money transfers. Its particularly important when you remember that many people from other countries don't trust brick & mortar banks as we do here in the United States. Cell phone adoption rates are also quite high because landline penetration in homes rates never hit the levels once gained here. People long ago went from being payphone users to mobile phone owners. What's interesting to me is how Western Union is able to able to implement their mobile service in so many diverse markets.

    We at Keynote have seen on behalf of our customers is that managing the global interaction content providers with SMS aggregators, international carriers, and mobile operators can be quite daunting. When there's money on the line, customers can be quite irate if the SMS isn't delivered in a reasonable amount of time. Discovering service outages and keeping mean time to repair down to a minimum is critical if you don't want to see a tidal wave of multi-language calls to customers service. That Western Union has managed to successfully deliver to such a large network of customers is quite statement.

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