It’s not personal. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, it is often said. But in international marketing, distance can also mean abdication of responsibility. Marketers sometimes clearly demonstrate their desire not to know—for example, by appointing a middleman about whose behavior one can later on be suitably astonished, surprised and mortified. As developing nations develop greater expectations of corporate social responsibility and create new legal requirements, irresponsible marketers may encounter a less tolerant face in host countries. Though the chairman of the multinational corporation may feel suitably removed from local issues, be assured that the locals take all of the firm’s actions very personally.
Whose idea is it anyway? As international marketers voraciously pursue opportunity, they will also encounter fierce local competition and instant copying of good ideas. Intellectual property rights violations, including counterfeiting, piracy and copyrights violations, are rampant in many parts of the developing world. These not only harm the international marketer but also the consumers who purchase defective products. Think of the consumer who needs treatment for a critical illness and receives a fake drug. Or consider the situation of Chinese passengers after the crash of high-speed trains, which were manufactured by Chinese companies with technology incompetently copied from Western companies. The government policy of “technology importation, digestive absorption, independent re-innovation and localization” rings hollow to the grieving families of crash victims.
We can use Janus as a god of contradictions and transitions, but we can not turn to him for guidance in morality, ethics or even law. International marketers will confront dilemmas and challenges. How well they pursue the conjunction of highly effective marketing and ethical practices will inevitably be reflected in the loyalty of customers and the judgment of host governments.
About the Authors
Michael Czinkota researches international marketing issues at Georgetown University and the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. He served in trade policy positions in the George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations, and currently collaborates in a national export certification effort. Visit his blog at michaelczinkota.com . Charles Skuba teaches international business and marketing at Georgetown University. He served in the George W. Bush Administration in trade policy positions in the U.S. Department of Commerce. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .