Global Marketer – local culture and history

A globally aware person has knowledge about culture and history. Knowledge of cultures is important in understanding behavior in the marketplace or in the boardroom. Knowledge of history is important because the way people think and act is influenced by their history.

Global awareness also involves knowledge of world market potentials and global economic, social, and political trends. Over the next few decades enormous changes will take place in market potentials in almost every region of the world, all of which a globally aware person must continuously monitor. Finally, a globally aware person will keep abreast of the global economic, social, and political trends because a country’s prospects can change as these trends shift direction or accelerate. The former republics of the Soviet Union, along with Russia, Eastern Europe, China, India, Africa and Latin America, are undergoing economic, social, and political changes that have already altered the course of trade and defined new economic powers. The knowledgeable marketer will identify opportunity long before it becomes evident to others.

Opportunities in global business abound for those who are prepared to confront myriad obstacles with optimism and a willingness to continue learning new ways. The successful business person in the 21st century will have global awareness and a frame of reference that goes beyond a region or even a country and encompasses the world. To be globally aware is to have knowledge of cultures, history, world market potential, and economic, social and political trends.

To be globally aware is to have tolerance for cultural differences. Tolerance is understanding cultural differences and accepting and working with others whose behaviors may be different. For example, the fact that punctuality is less important in some cultures does not make them less productive, only different. The tolerant person understands the differences that may exist between cultures and uses that knowledge to relate effectively.

Selling  apples  in Japan, whether  they  are edible or the computer  variety can be a bruising  business. In  both  cases, designing  effective  and  competitive marketing strategies requires a deep knowledge of buyer  behavior that may be distinctly different from that which marketers encounter in the United  States.

Washington  State apple growers needed 24  years to get their fruit past customs inspectors in Japan. The door finally opened to Red and Golden delicious apples in 1995,  and  Japanese consumers immediately gobbled  up  nearly 8,500  tons. The slide  in sales can be attributed in part to the fact that US apple growers did not anticipate the strength of Japanese consumers’ seasonal preferences; Americans buy and eat apples year around, but Japanese consumers do not. The growers also did not anticipate the lasting effects of nationalism among many Japanese. As one older Japanese woman wrote to her sister in the United States, younger Japanese people simply do not have any respect. They just buy those American apples with no shame. They do not have any loyalty to the Japanese farmers. All they care about is the lower price.

As for apples of the computer variety, Apple computers traditionally had been a greater success in Japan than in the States. Its market share in Japan has jumped to nearly 8 per cent and it hopes to maintain its industry leading growth rate well into the 21st Century. Apple continues to have mixed results at home and the losses in market share and reputation in the United States certainly affected buyers’ perceptions in Japan in the past. Now Apple PC sales are outpacing the competition worldwide once again with a recovering Japanese market leading the way.

Moreover, the Japanese PC market works differently than in the United States. Japanese businesses have been relatively slow paced and managers prefer to network in face to face settings rather than via electronic hookups. Additionally, Japan has fewer information professionals than the United States. Such circumstances suggest that the rate of adoption of PCs in the Japanese workplace will not parallel that in the United States, meaning Apple has a smaller market in which to operate. Indeed, its most recent success in Japan has been in the consumer market, where its bright colors make a fashion statement.

Global awareness can and should be built in organizations using approaches. The obvious strategy is to select individual managers specifically for their demonstrated global awareness. Global awareness can also be obtained through personal relationships in other countries. Indeed, market entry is very often facilitated through previously established social ties. Certainly, successful long term business relationships with foreign customers often result in an organizational global awareness based on the series of interactions required by commerce. Foreign agents and partners can also help directly in this regard. But perhaps the most effective approach is to have a culturally diverse senior executive staff or Board of Directors. Unfortunately, American managers seem to see relatively less value in this last approach than managers in most other countries.

The late 1990s recession in Asia also hurt sales of Washington apples. More recently a World Trade Organization ruling pried open the Japanese apple market to new varieties – Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith and Jona Gold. However, the American apples have continued to move slower than anticipated  due to lower prices  on domestic varieties, competition from Tasmania, and most recently a new quarantine because of fire blight.

Selling either kind of apples in Japan will require the best marketing research efforts of US firms.  The basis of a marketing budget is the all important demand, which requires statistical analysis and macroeconomic data from Japan. But before those data are collected consumer focus groups surveys must be conducted, US marketers must also travel across the Pacific or visits to grocery stores, consumers’ homes or office buildings to see these evolving markets first hand at their cores.