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Last Sector Post for Prague

June 4, 2010

I really can’t believe this is my last day in Prague/Europe. Feels like just yesterday we got to London.

The whole group just met to wrap up our impressions of Czech ads. The adjectives/phrases we came up with were

  • Lots of “brand speakers” or mascots
  • Lots of copy on the ads
  • Humor is based on irony, laughing at people in unfortunate situations
  • Indirect – it’s not the norm to say “this is the best beer” like it is in America
  • Humble, playful, less politically correct

Fashion is a lot different here. We’ve really gotten a good grip on how Czech people perceive shopping, fashion, and brands. The past few days we went to two agencies and did a lot of extra ethnographic research to attempt to sum it all up.

Leagas Delaney

Leagas Delaney is a huge international agency with offices in London, Hamburg, Milan, Rome, Prague, Paris, and Shanghai. They manage a number of big-name brands and work by the motto “Substance in the Age of the 1 Second Ad.” The rep from this agency talked extensively about the struggles/obstacles/benefits of marketing to a number of different countries. Not only are there language barriers, but troubles with meaning-translation, humor, and cultural norms/taboos/values. I thought it was interesting that certain countries would want Leagas Delaney to change an ad based on someone’s physical appearance or tone of voice because it would not apply to their culture. Didn’t really learn anything specifically applicable to fashion, but it was still a really interesting agency visit.

Ogilvy

This agency is fairly new. It specializes in analyzing people’s shopping behaviors and habits and then customizing campaigns to fit to the consumers’ mindsets. The reps from Ogilvy talked for a while about the agency, but then gave us time to ask questions regarding our sectors. I got a lot of fashion information from this meeting.

First of all, the rep was clear in saying that “Prague is not the Czech Republic,” meaning that whatever we see around our hotel is not necessarily how Czech people act as a whole. People in Prague do not dress the same as the rest of the country because it’s a big, busy city and most Czech people live in diverse, small areas. A big trend is shopping in mountaineering stores. Going on weekend excursions is popular – a lot of people have cottages – so quality, rugged, durable clothing is popular.

Another big theme here is quality/price. Czech people are extremely concerned with getting as much “bang for their buck” as possible. When my group first started brainstorming about what the culture code for shopping is here, we circled around the term “price sensitive.” While this is true, there is another dimension as to how they are price sensitive. Czech people are willing to buy expensive things (if they can afford them), but what they are “sensitive” about is whether or not the price matches the quality of the clothing.

The rep at Ogilvy laughed when we kept drilling him with fashion questions. “I’m a guy! I hate shopping!” He said that deals/discounts/markdown prices are big and always attract a lot of customers. This goes along with the quality vs. price fixation. He also said, almost as a disclaimer, that Czech people are not very fashionable. It just simply isn’t a concern here. Huge difference from London and America where brand names are so important. According to the rep, Czech people look poorer than they actually are because they do not feel the need to wear extremely expensive clothing. The standard is low here, and men especially do not care about how they look. In fact, if a man here looks perfect – perfect suit, perfect hair, manicured nails, expensive jewelry – he’s going to be perceived as outside the norm.

Basically, fashion isn’t as prominent/vital in the Czech Republic as it is in other countries. Men don’t wear nice jackets and shirts unless they’re going to a funeral or wedding. It’s not practical or necessary to dress up unless there’s a reason to. Price, value, and functionality is what fashion’s all about here.

Palladium

Yesterday, a few of us went to a 200-store mega-mall called the Palladium. Besides the traditional Czech meal that we got there (probably our ninety-eighth chicken schnitzle and potato dumpling meal of the trip), my experience in the Palladium completely transported me back to my hometown mall in Chicago. American music was blasting throughout the speakers, the stores were all stores that I shop at regularly, and there was a lot of American being spoken. This is what all the agencies were talking about when they compared old-fashioned Czech markets to the new-age hypermarket culture. It was busy, crowded, loud, and hurried. The shoppers in H&M were bustling around a lot more than the shoppers I saw at the markets. It was mostly girls and women shopping, usually with a friend or two. There weren’t a lot of people in the dressing rooms. I felt almost at home in the Palladium because it felt so familiar, but at the same time I was surprised at how different the new-shopping vs old-shopping cultures are in Prague.

Firsthand Experience

The representatives from Garp took the entire group to two pubs the other night. Besides it being a great time – after the beer tasting, I’m sold on blueberry beer – I learned a lot about fashion on a more personal level by talking to one of the reps named Linda. She gave me two fashion magazines – “lovestar” and “Marianne” – flipped through them with me, and talked to me about the ads, consumer perceptions, and shopping in general.

There’s a big difference between the old generation and new generation here. We’ve heard this time and time again, and it’s definitely obvious. Old markets vs. huge malls. Local shops vs. high-end stores (Pariska street with Louis Vuitton, Prada, etc.) Traditional people vs. trend-setters. The younger generation is slowly becoming more and more interested in fashion. Once a year, there’s a big discount fair that attracts a ton of people. Girls get together with their friends and make a shopping day out of it. The magazine “Marianne” gives out coupons for this event to promote the brand name items. So while the older generation is not really concerned with fashion, the younger crowd is becoming more aware.

Sidenote – Lisa and Linda have been emailing each other pictures of their cats. Just goes to show how friendly and fun the people here have been.

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