From an inter cultural communication perspective, Indonesia can be categorized as a country with high-context communication pattern. We tend to communicate implicitly, not explicitly. We rely on context, our shared experiences and expectations to add meaning to our communication activities.
Moreover, Indonesia adopts a feminine communication style where relationship between communicators is often valued more than the objective of the communication activity itself. This is different than most Western cultures with masculine communication style where people tend to be more dominant, assertive in communicating with each other, placing objective over relationship between communicators.
The previous concepts help explain why we, Indonesians, are quite reluctant to say things directly to the person we communicate to, especially when it comes to things that are negative or critical in nature. This remains to be true beyond personal communication, all the way up to mass communication level.
Here in Indonesia, we don’t see advertisement of a brand with direct mention or comparison to other competing brands. I don’t know if there is a specific broadcasting regulation that governs this, but I do know that this issue is discussed and frowned upon in the Indonesian advertising ethics (please correct me if I am wrong by commenting below).
Somewhat similar concept is also practiced in Indonesian public relations (PR). We don’t directly and negatively mention our competitors in press materials (except in several commonly accepted instances, such as in litigation PR). No matter how tempting it is to step on another brand’s head while it’s drowning, we just don’t do that. It isn’t right. That is not how we roll. I thought all of us in Indonesian PR live by the same set of codes. I mean, who would do something like that?
Well, Lenovo Indonesia would, and did.
We learned a few days ago (22/4) that Lenovo Indonesia and/or its PR agency sent out a press release to update media members on its recent flash-sale at Lazada.co.id. In a weak attempt to make an argument using outdated data to create a favorable comparison, the release included a direct mention of Xiaomi, its competitor, and also our client. Don’t ask how I get it (you know we have the connects), but copied below is what Lenovo shared in its original press release:
Dalam Flash Sale Lenovo A6000 yang berlangsung jam 11WIB hari ini, 12,000 unit A6000 ludes terjual dalam waktu 20 menit saja. Padahal sebelumnya, flash sale 5000 unit Xiaomi Redmi 1 baru sold out setelah 49 menit!
Mmm…..first thing first, Xiaomi never had a product named Redmi 1. If you really insist on using head-to-head comparison mentioning another brand in your press release, at least get the name of the brand/product right. Anyhow, we did help Xiaomi launch its first official product in Indonesia, Redmi 1S, back in August 2014. Let me repeat, August 2014, and this leads to my second issue.
I am no master of argumentation, although I did take a course on that subject back in college. Among the few things that I picked up from that course are understanding and identifying different forms of fallacy, which is an incorrect argument in logic and rhetoric that undermines an argument’s logical validity or more generally an argument’s logical soundness.
And purposely using old data to leverage an argument can be considered as cherry picking, leading to faulty generalization. Yes, I wrote purposely because I find it hard to believe that Lenovo Indonesia and its PR agency missed the fact that there have been plenty of other Xiaomi flash-sales since that first one for Redmi 1S back in August 2014. Why not use a more recent number from the Redmi 2 flash-sale a couple of weeks back that sold 40,000 units in less than 50 minutes? The Redmi 2 event alone has generated more than 100 news stories to date. I don’t see how you can miss all that media coverage and say that you are working in the industry.
In the end, I really don’t have any beef against Lenovo or its PR agency here in Indonesia. We are the same. Well, not entirely the same (unless you missed the whole point of this post), but somewhat similar. We wake up everyday, go to work, try to figure out how to get positive media coverage, promote our or our client’s brand. We all have mouths to feed. It’s not personal, it’s just business. I get it. But, at least, when you decide to break our codes of ethic, abandon our traditions, norms, and values by making a direct comparison against another brand in your press release, make sure you get your facts straight and your argument fallacy-free. Hence, if you want to do something wrong, do it right!C’mon, even Joey knows this.