International Marketing Defined

International marketing is the performance of business activities designed to plan, price, promote and direct the flow of a company’s goods and services to consumers or users in more than one nation for a profit. The only difference  between the definitions of domestic marketing and international marketing is that in the latter case marketing activities take place  in more than one country. This apparently minor difference in “more than one country” accounts for the complexity and diversity found in international marketing operations. Marketing concepts, processes and principles are universally applicable and the marketer’s task is the same whether doing business in Cape Town, Texas, or Dar es Salaam, or Tanzania. Business’s goal is to make a profit by promoting, pricing and distributing products for which there is a market. If this is the case, what is the difference, pricing and distributing products for which there is a market? If this is the case, what is the difference between domestic and international marketing?

The answer lies not with different concepts of marketing but with the environment within which marketing plans must be implemented. The difficulty of foreign marketing comes from the range of unfamiliar problems and the variety of strategies necessary to cope with different levels of uncertainty encountered in foreign markets.

Competition, legal restraints, government controls, weather, fickle consumers, and any number of other uncontrollable elements can, and frequently do, affect the profitable outcome of good, sound marketing plans. Generally, speaking the marketer cannot influence these uncontrollable elements, but instead must adjust or adapt to them in a manner consistent with a successful outcome. What makes marketing interesting is the challenge of molding the controllable elements of marketing decisions (product, price, promotion, distribution and research), within the framework of the uncontrollable elements of the marketplace in such a way that marketing objectives are achieved. Even though marketing principles and concepts are universally applicable, the environment within which the marketer must implement marketing plans can change dramatically from country to country or region to region. The difficulties created by different environments are the international marketer’s primary concern.

The international marketer’s task is more complicated than that of the domestic marketer because the international marketer must deal with at least two levels of uncontrollable uncertainty instead of one. Uncertainty is created by the uncontrollable elements of all business environments, but each foreign country in which a company operates adds its own unique set of uncontrollable factors.

Each foreign market in which the company does business can (and usually does) present separate problems involving some or all of the uncontrollable elements. Thus, the more foreign markets in which a company operates, the greater is the possible variety of foreign environmental factors with which to contend. Frequently, a solution to a problem in country market A is not applicable to a problem in country market B.

The successful manager constructs a marketing program designed for optimal adjustment to the uncertainty of the business climate.

Assuming the necessary overall corporate resources the marketing manager blends price, product, promotion, channels of distribution and research activities to capitalize on anticipated demand. The controllable elements can be altered in the long run and usually in the short run to adjust to changing market conditions, consumer tastes, or corporate objectives.


Although the marketer   can blend a marketing mix  from the controllable elements, the uncontrollable factors are precisely that; the marketer  must actively evaluate and, if needed, adapt.

A political decision involving domestic foreign policy can have a direct effect on a firm’s  international marketing success. For example, the US government placed a total ban on trade with Libya to condemn Libyan support for terrorists attacks, imposed restrictions on trade with South Africa to protest apartheid and placed a total ban on trade with Iraq, whose actions constituted a threat to the national security of US and its allies. In each case, the international marketing programs of the US companies has to abide by the government directives.

The US government has the constitutional right to restrict foreign trade when such trade adversely affects the security or economy of the country, or when such trade is in conflict with US foreign policy.

Competition within the home country can also have a profound effect on the international marketer’s task. For more than a century, Eastman Kodak, dominated the US film market and could depend on achieving profit goals that provided capital to invest in foreign market. Without having to worry about the company’s lucrative base, management had the time and resources to devise aggressive international marketing programs. However, the competitive structure changed when Fuji Photo Film became a formidable competitor by lowering film prices in the US, opening a  plant, and gaining 12 per cent  of the US market. Then the acceptance of digital photograph with Canon from Japan leading the market, has further disrupted Kodak’s domestic business. The last are given as examples.