Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Globalization of Marketing?

Since at least 10 years you hear a lot about Globalization, about the shrinking physical and mental distances between countries. Thomas Friedman calls is the “Flattening of our world”, other describe it as the “Globe as our village” phenomena. Is the same happening in our beloved marketing field?

There are probably four different marketing constituents that need to be considered if one analyzes the extent of the globalization of marketing: The Consumer, Brands, the community of marketers, and the academic field of marketing. Let’s review each one separately:

The Consumer – There is no doubt that today’s consumers are much more globally oriented than ever before. The internet makes physical boundaries seem obsolete, the exchange of ideas and communication appear more borderless. But, but most consumers, especially in the US, still spend most of their discretionary income on US brands, on products and goods that are sold (definitely not manufactured) in the United States. There is only a very limited global sourcing and purchasing behavior of consumers. This is very different from businesses which are getting used to buy goods and services from anywhere. Still, the US consumer is used to shop non US brands, and thinks more and more beyond physical country boundaries but there are only a few (very rich) truly global consumers.

Brands – The number of truly global brands (e.g. Apple, Nokia, Hugo Boss) have increased over the last decade. One just needs to look at Toyota and their increasing leadership in the automotive industry on a global level. One can imagine that the world of brands morph into two extremes, of very global and very local brands. Brands will have to decide if they want to focus primarily on their local or their local identity.

Marketers – It’s still pretty rare to find really global marketers in the CMO’s position of Fortune 2,000 Firms. It’s much more common for CEO’s to have the global work experience with stints on multiple continents. CMOs still seem to follow the old rule of originating from a brand’s motherland. While this is partly understandable (you first need to understand the consumer’s mindset of the brand’s mother or fatherland), CMO’s need to become much more global players. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a growing community of global marketers, not even within the big marketing services firms, that actively promote the global CMO.

Academics – The biggest lack of globalization resides within the academic community. Most US marketing academics are too busy enough in reinforcing their own US superiority while non US academics don’t like to rely heavily on the US marketing leadership. Just recently I asked US academics about their favorite non US marketing personality or stimulating book. I did the same with some of their European counterparts and inquired about their favorite US marketing academic or book. In both cases I only received blank stares and uncomfortable silence.

This brief assessment of the globalization degree along the key marketing constituents shows that leading brands behave and think much more global than the practicing or the academic oriented marketer. We Marketers have to be careful that we don’t fall further back but instead keep up with the speed of globalization. Currently it’s more driven by brands and opinion leading consumers instead of a community of global marketers. Let’s change it.

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