How exploration, spending time abroad and learning about new cultures help us achieve our one team approach

The Market Activation team for Malibu and Kahlúa works together with around 30 different markets, involving hundreds of people around the globe. Naturally, being part of such a global and decentralized organization comes with challenges. Differences in culture, language and values can easily lead to unexpected misunderstandings and – worst case – disharmony. 

However, the Malibu and Kahlúa Market Activation team is bridging this gap by exploring the different mindsets and perspectives that come with living in a totally different region. We sat down with Danielle Lalin and Niklas Milesi from the Market Activation team to learn more about their approach and why it’s so important to work together as one team.

Danielle, you’ve now headed the Global M&K Market Activation team for almost two years. What have you learned so far?

I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that you need people to work with you, not against you. By letting people being part of the discussion, and by being curious about someone else’s version of “your” reality you foster curiosity, and collaboration. ‘Go explore’ is the mantra we use to in order to see things from a different perspective – someone else’s perspective.

Niklas, what’s your experience with this new approach?

Since Danielle joined our team, she has been challenging us to look at our relationship with colleagues in other markets. Her view has been that by being curious, interested and understanding different needs, we can build trust and long-lasting collaboration across borders. With this approach, we have established relationships that go beyond just business relationships.

Danielle, your team talks a lot about the importance of having a “one team approach”. How do you, as a brand owner, work together with the local markets to bridge the gaps?

We have a lot of functional differences, for example they focus on the whole portfolio while our focus is naturally on managing our two brands. We both have a long-term perspective, but the local markets focus heavily on delivering value within the short-term perspective as well.

We all have the same basic needs. We want to be seen and heard, feel appreciated for what we do and see that we contribute to the bigger picture.

But to be honest, I don’t think we’re that different after all. We all have the same basic needs. We want to be seen and heard, feel appreciated for what we do and see that we contribute to the bigger picture.

Niklas, you recently spent four months in Sydney to establish a closer connection and explore different perspectives. Did that experience give you new insights into how you work within the team?

It really did! A big part of my job here at The Absolut Company is to work in close cohesion with our local markets, helping them to develop the strategy and the sales of Malibu & Kahlúa locally and basically being a business partner to the local markets.

We take much pride in how we work together as a team, so I realized that I must keep exploring, stay curious and look beyond the regular patterns of my own work routine. It’s crucial to see the perspectives of other people – not only within the global team, but also from a consumer standpoint. We all have cultural differences, which you can only experience by being there.

So why Australia?

It came naturally to me. Not just because of the good weather, but because it’s grown into a key market for Kahlúa, with a very rich coffee culture and a booming Espresso Martini trend. We’ve had some really good momentum in Australia over the past few years, so I was eager to build on that for the future.

What did working on a day-to-day basis in another culture and market teach you?

It was a great opportunity for me to learn more about how things work in a completely different country. I also learned to step outside my own comfort zone, break routines and take in completely new perspectives.

In relation to my work, the ‘Go Explore’ mantra we use has been much about confronting a reality outside my regular work place. Being that far from home really forces you to challenge your way of thinking and doing things.

Did you learn something new about yourself as a person?

Yes, definitely. Since I returned I have promised myself to be more spontaneous. Because in general, I would say that Australians have a more relaxed approach to everything outside work, which suits me perfectly. And I’m not saying Swedes are boring or introvert – but if you ask a Swede to go for drinks on laundry day, there’s a high likelihood you’re going alone.

I guess the four months you spent with your colleagues in Sydney brought you closer together as a team. How is that recognized in your daily work?

The fact that I have spent time with everyone in Sydney makes our daily correspondence so much easier. Now I know who the person behind the name is; I know how they speak, what sense of humor they have and what makes them tick. Work is so much smoother when you have a relationship that stretches beyond the strictly professional. Note: Since this interview, Danielle Lalin has moved on to new adventures within the company, heading the role as Director of Brand Advocacy at Absolut.