International marketing: An Imperative for Southeast Europe

Prof. Dr. Michael Czinkota, Georgetown University

Prof. Dr. Valbona Zeneli, Marshall Center

The science of international marketing is new to Southeast Europe (SEE), though this year marks the 75th anniversary of the nascence of this academic field. Marketing has shifted over time from a strictly domestic focus to globalization, linking all the markets together. Recent crises and recessions in the world have slowed down the very fast pace of globalization of the recent two decades and has also reduced the global penetration of international investment. Most crucial at this time is the fact that reductions in trade and investment flows are not just a matter of money and finance, but rather of policy and trust.

Under the aegis of industrial policies, a growing number of countries have introduced new non-tariff barriers and hidden restrictions to trade and investments, adding an actual interventionist approach to globalization, and leading — directly or indirectly– to inhibitions in internationalization and a rise in protectionism.

Policy makers, non-governmental organizations, businesses and consumers have become more selective about whom they trade with or buy from, how much access they want to give to foreign investors, and what sort of capital they invest and admit.

One needs to acknowledge that only two decades ago, today’s new reality was not addressed or even anticipated by most market forces or marketing sages. Today, we are again in a similar position: There is now a newly emerging direction of marketing focused on restoring trust and coaxing development through new tools synchronized with international economic health. Drawing lessons from the crises early in this new century, the new generation of marketers, whether in their old market places or in the era and areas of new opportunities, should address the necessity of overall welfare and inclusive development.  International economic cooperation and integration have become imperative, if one is to meet the new global challenges.

Why international marketing in Southeast Europe (SEE)?

In the small region of SEE, marketing is mainly seen to be about the domestic market, and only for business executives. It is not even considered an important part of government strategy for development. However, we believe that a small market size requires both firms and governments to stride beyond their traditional confines, giving them new perspectives, and new forms of doing business.   Hence, international marketing is important for businesses and governments and individuals.

Similarly, inbound international marketers have shown little interest in this small region. SEE has therefore arrived at an image characterized by a history of conflicts, wars, regional disputes and mistrust among neighbors, accompanied by high levels of organized crime and corruption. Though Southeast Europe offers unique opportunities in terms of strategic position, natural resources, relatively cheap labor, and youth of population, it still attracts very little serious foreign direct investment (FDI). In light of recent economic crises which have re-boosted the role of the governments in the economy,  it is time for the governments of SEE to understand the benefits coming from international marketing and make the activity a top priority.


International marketing is a notion of freedom, which removes boundaries between nations and grants more choices to citizens. It offers broad opportunities. The notion of freedom is particularly important for the former socialist countries of SEE. After their market conversion all regional countries embraced free trade regimes, liberalized their economies, and took on  membership in the WTO. However, the culture of international economic cooperation and the linkage effects of interdependence are new phenomena for these economies.

Opportunity and contentment

International marketing is the best way to increase national strength and status for  nations of limited territory and resources. This key activity strengthens both individuals and nations. The countries of SEE are small and inexperienced in international business competition. They lack resources: financial, technological, and knowhow and products. Only by engaging in the international market, will companies gain the necessary skills still amiss. Also, when decisions are made on a one country one vote basis, as in the World Trade Organization every country is somewhat the same size.

Prosperity and Innovation

International marketing rewards excellence. It augurs more quality and enhances standards of living. Due to international marketing, many countries have, within the last two decades, significantly increased their standards of living and wealth. Market allocations typically result in more options and a better utilization of skills than was achieved through government fiat, leveraging a nation’s capabilities and resources which already exist and offering more opportunities to improve.

International marketing gives hope by offering better job prospects and improved skills. Hence, governments should engage in creating a business environment friendly to quality FDI in strategic sectors and repugnant of rampant corruption.  It is the quality and performance of institutions what worries investors the most when they consider entering a new foreign market.


International marketing helps us to better understand our fellow human beings. It will be easier to accept cultural differences, adapt (to) them, and benefit from a much broader perspective. In SEE this is particularly important, considering the cultural diversity of the Balkan region and the historically difficult relations between countries.

Markets themselves are a form of democracy. Corporate networks and multinational firms develop also efficiency based frameworks. Among the indirect positive effects of FDI in the host market are the organization’s behavior and the adherence to corporate responsibility standards. To obtain the benefits of international marketing, political stability and economic reforms are crucial.

Way ahead for Southeast Europe

By adopting an international marketing perspective, SEE will also need to make choices regarding the four critical pillars whose use and acceptance lead to globalization success. These are competition, risk, profit, and retention of ownership. In today’s diverse societies, there is no uniformity of thought regarding the steps acceptable for success in the international market. The business world today recognizes the precariousness of its victory of economic progress. The vanquishment of others does not assure their acceptance of one’s own fundamental tenets. There can be resentment, envy and even expectations of free resources, all accompanied by very little willingness to engage oneself. It is therefore not just altruism but also a quite enlightened self interest which lets nations at a high level of economic performance encourage and support the acceptance of international marketing by nations of less wealth. Such acceptance helps not only create a buffer zone against economic adversaries, but also encourages global support for existing business practices. However, time is of essence.

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