Religions, Christmas and International Marketing

Historically, the religious tradition in the United States, based on Christianity and Judaism, has emphasized hard work, thrift, and a simple lifestyle. These religious values have certainly evolved over time; many of our modern marketing activities would not exist if these older values had persisted. Thrift, for instance, presumes that a person will save hard-earned wages and use these savings for purchases later on. Today, Americans take full advantage of the ample credit facilities that are available to them. The credit card is such a vital part of the American lifestyle that saving before buying seems archaic. Most Americans feel no guilt in driving a big SUV or generously heating a large house.

Christmas is one Christian tradition that remains an important event for many consumer goods industries in all Christian countries. Retailers have their largest sales around that time. However, Christmas is a good illustration of the substantial differences that still exist among even predominantly Christian societies. A large U.S.-based retailer of consumer electronics discovered these differences the hard way when it opened its first retail outlet in the Netherlands. The company planned the opening to coincide with the start of the Christmas selling season and bought advertising space accordingly for late November and December, as retailers do in the United States. The results proved less than satisfactory. Major gift giving in Holland takes place not around December 25, Christmas Day, but on St. Nicholas Day, December 6. Therefore, the opening of the company’s retail operation was late and missed the major buying season.

From a marketing point of view, Christmas has increasingly become a global phenomenon. For many young Chinese, Christmas is not regarded as a religious holiday but simply represents “fun.” Fashionable bars charge up to $25 for entrance on Christmas Eve, and hotel restaurants charge $180 for a Christmas Eve function. The week around Christmas is the top grossing week for movie theaters in China, as young Chinese head out to theaters together instead of watching pirated DVDs at home. Santa Claus is increasing in popularity in the predominantly Sunni Muslim country of Turkey. In Istanbul shopping centers, children stand in line to sit on Santa’s lap and ask for gifts. Stores sell Santa suits and statues.

With billions of people celebrating Christmas and exchanging wishes of peace, perhaps we will see at least some of the inspired and faithful take personal steps which reduce the barbarities which humanity commits against itself in the many ongoing wars. Also, a time of remembrance of the difficult travels of Joseph and Mary, with Jesus soon to be born, might help us soften our stance against refugees and migrants in the world. Remember, we all – but for the mercy of God- could be the ones looking for succor and support.
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MERRY CHRISTMAS
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Michael R. Czinkota

The Growth in World Trade

International Marketing 10th edition, Michael R. CzinkotaIlkka A. Ronkainen, 2012.

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After its stock market crash of 1929, the United States turned its back on free trade. Fearing losses of jobs at home, this country tried to assist local industries by sharply increasing taxes on imports from other countries. Unfortunately, other countries retaliated with similar measures. In less than a year, world trade collapsed, sending the world into a global depression. Two hard-hit countries were Germany and Japan. Many believe that this severe economic downturn encouraged the militaristic regimes that precipitated World War II. After the war, the United States and other industrialized nations were eager for world trade to be promoted and to expand.

Their vision has certainly come to pass. World trade has increased over 22-fold since 1950, far outstripping the growth in world GDP. This growth has been fueled by the continued opening of markets around the world. The Bretton Woods conference of world leaders in 1944 led to the establishment of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which we will discuss in detail later. GATT, and subsequently the World Trade Organization (WTO), helped to reduce import tariffs from 40 percent in 1947 to an estimated 4 percent today. The principle of free trade has led to the building of market interdependencies. International trade has grown much more rapidly than world GDP output, demonstrating that national economies are becoming much more closely linked and interdependent via their exports and imports. This interdependence has created many opportunities for international marketers but has made world trade more vulnerable to global recessions. The WTO predicted a 9 percent drop in world trade as a result of collapsing global demand in 2009.3

Foreign direct investment, another indication of global integration, increased over 100 percent in a single decade, and services are an important and growing part of the world’s economy. Industries such as banking, telecommunications, insurance, construction, transportation, tourism, and consulting make up over half the national income of many rich economies. A country’s invisible exports include services, transfers from workers abroad, and income earned on overseas investments.

What do you think about global trade trends today? (Share your point of view in comments)

This is an excerpt from Dr. Czinkota’s book International Marketing 10th edition, co-authored by Dr. Ilkka Ronkainen.

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