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Defining international marketing

10 May, 2016 - 10:46

Now that the world has entered the next millennium, we are seeing the emergence of an interdependent global economy that is characterized by faster communication, transportation, and financial flows, all of which are creating new marketing opportunities and challenges. Given these circumstances, it could be argued that companies face a deceptively straightforward and stark choice: they must either respond to the challenges posed by this new environment, or recognize and accept the long-term consequences of failing to do so. This need to respond is not confined to firms of a certain size or particular industries. It is a change that to a greater or lesser extent will ultimately affect companies of all sizes in virtually all markets. The pressures of the international environment are now so great, and the bases of competition within many markets are changing so fundamentally, that the opportunities to survive with a purely domestic strategy are increasingly limited to small-and medium-sized companies in local niche markets.

Perhaps partly because of the rapid evolution of international marketing, a vast array of terms have emerged that suggest various facets of international marketing. Clarification of these terms is a necessary first step before we can discuss this topic more thoroughly.

Let us begin with the assumption that the marketing process outlined and discussed in The business eco-system: Your path to finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!, The mind of the entrepreneur: Your entrepreneurial journey begins by embarking on your own hero’s journey!, Business models and marketing: an overview and How to organize and lead an entrepreneurial venture is just as applicable to domestic marketing as to international marketing. In both markets, we are goal-driven, do necessary marketing research, select target markets, employ the various tools of marketing (i.e. product, pricing, distribution, communication), develop a budget, and check our results. However, the uncontrollable factors such as culture, social, legal, and economic factors, along with the political and competitive environment, all create the need for a myriad of adjustments in the marketing management process.

At its simplest level, international marketing involves the firm in making one or more marketing decisions across national boundaries. At its most complex, it involves the firm in establishing manufacturing and marketing facilities overseas and coordinating marketing strategies across markets. Thus, how international marketing is defined and interpreted depends on the level of involvement of the company in the international marketplace. Therefore, the following possibilities exist:

  • Domestic marketing. This involves the company manipulating a series of controllable variables, such as price, advertising, distribution, and the product, in a largely uncontrollable external environment that is made up of different economic structures, competitors, cultural values, and legal infrastructure within specific political or geographic country boundaries.
  • International marketing. This involves the company operating across several markets in which not only do the uncontrollable variables differ significantly between one market and another, but the controllable factor in the form of cost and price structures, opportunities for advertising, and distributive infrastructure are also likely to differ significantly. Degree of commitment is expressed as follows:
    1. Export marketing. In this case the firm markets its goods and/or services across national/political boundaries.
    2. Multinational marketing. Here the marketing activities of an organization include activities, interests, or operations in more than one country, and where there is some kind of influence or control of marketing activities from outside the country in which the goods or services will actually be sold. Each of these markets is typically perceived to be independent and a profit center in its own right.
    3. Global marketing. The entire organization focuses on the selection and exploration of global marketing opportunities and marshals resources around the globe with the objective of achieving a global competitive advantage. The primary objective of the company is to achieve a synergy in the overall operation, so that by taking advantage of different exchange rates, tax rates, labor rates, skill levels, and market opportunities, the organization as a whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. 1 

Thus Toyota Motors started out as a domestic marketer, eventually exported its cars to a few regional markets, grew to become a multinational marketer, and today is a true global marketer, building manufacturing plants in the foreign country as well as hiring local labor, using local ad agencies, and complying to that country's cultural mores. As it moved from one level to the next, it also revised attitudes toward marketing and the underlying philosophy of business.

Ultimately, the successful marketer is the one who is best able to manipulate the controllable tools of the marketing mix within the uncontrollable environment. The principal reason for failure in international marketing results from a company not conducting the necessary research, and as a consequence, misunderstanding the differences and nuances of the marketing environment within the country that has been targeted.