Multicultural, Global and Mobile: Western Union

This article originally appeared on MediaPost.

“Multicultural marketing is at the core of Western Union’s business,” said Gail Galuppo, EVP and CMO of Western Union at the ANA’s Multicultural conference recently.  She shared with the attendees how Western Union launched their new “Yes!” campaign in 22 languages across 200 countries with the goal of making a more emotional connection with their consumers. Ms. Galuppo says that “Yes! is a culture, especially among immigrants who hear a lot of “No.”

Who is their target 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 dollars globally in 2008, growing 3x the rate of the global economy.

Our World Is Flat

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

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

Sharing Best Practices Globally

Ms. Galuppo says Western Union is constantly sharing information and best practices among their 7,000 employees across the world, and emphasizes that her marketing department is proficient in more than 70 languages and manages 400,000 different points of distribution.  That surpasses 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, their CRM, brand marketing, WesternUnion.com and their mobile marketing efforts are centralized out of their 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 their 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,” Ms. Galuppo says about how they are 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 phone.  Consumers can use pilot programs in the UK, UAE, Singapore, Hong Kong and US 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?  Ms. Galuppo said smaller companies popping up on web, not MoneyGram, pose a threat to their business, which include regional players like Remit2Home or Remit2India.

Outside of mobile, Ms. Galuppo asked “How can we make life easier for our customers?”  She discussed their new “pre-paid” card helps their 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 card.

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 US. 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.

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