The Oxford University Press defines global marketing as “marketing on a worldwide scale reconciling or taking commercial advantage of global operational differences, similarities and opportunities in order to meet global objectives.” Oxford University Press’ Glossary of Marketing Terms.
Evolution to global marketing
Global marketing is not a revolutionary shift, it is an evolutionary process. While the following does not apply to all companies, it does apply to most companies that begin as domestic-only companies. The five stages outlined below are explored in depth in the textbook Global Marketing Management.
A company marketing only within its national boundaries only has to consider domestic competition. Even if that competition includes companies from foreign markets, it still only has to focus on the competition that exists in its home market. Products and services are developed for customers in the home market without thought of how the product or service could be used in other markets. All marketing decisions are made at headquarters.
The biggest obstacle these marketers face is being blindsided by emerging global marketers. Because domestic marketers do not generally focus on the changes in the global marketplace, they may not be aware of a potential competitor who is a market leader on three continents until they simultaneously open 20 stores in the Northeastern U.S. These marketers can be considered ethnocentric as they are most concerned with how they are perceived in their home country. (Kotabe & Helsen, pp.13, 15)
Generally, companies began exporting, reluctantly, to the occasional foreign customer who sought them out. At the beginning of this stage, filling these orders was considered a burden, not an opportunity. If there was enough interest, some companies became passive or secondary exporters by hiring an export management company to deal with all the customs paperwork and language barriers. Others became direct exporters, creating exporting departments at headquarters. Product development at this stage is still focused on the needs of domestic customers. Thus, these marketers are also considered ethnocentric. (Kotabe & Helsen, pp.15-16)
If the exporting departments are becoming successful but the costs of doing business from headquarters plus time differences, language barriers, and cultural ignorance are hindering the company’s competitiveness in the foreign market, then offices could be built in the foreign countries. Sometimes companies buy firms in the foreign countries to take advantage of relationships, storefronts, factories, and personnel already in place. These offices still report to headquarters in the home market but most of the marketing mix decisions are made in the individual countries since that staff is the most knowledgeable about the target markets. Local product development is based on the needs of local customers. These marketers are considered polycentric because they acknowledge that each market/country has different needs.
The “Four P’s” of marketing: product, price, placement, and promotion are all affected as a company moves through the five evolutionary phases to become a global company. Ultimately, at the global marketing level, a company trying to speak with one voice is faced with many challenges when creating a worldwide marketing plan. Unless a company holds the same position against its competition in all markets (market leader, low cost, etc.) it is impossible to launch identical marketing plans worldwide.
This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Marketing Strategy. The Official Guide to Marketing Strategy is Samantha Hartley. Samantha Hartley of Enlightened Marketing works with successful socially responsible business owners who still struggle with peaks and valleys in their businesses. She helps them to increase sales without selling out.
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