Time to Limit the Payoff for Terrorists

Valbona Zeneli, Marshall Center, Germany

Michael R. Czinkota , Georgetown University USA and University of Kent, UK

Gary Knight, Willamette University, USA

Terrorists want more “bang for their buck” by undertaking high-impact events, choosing high visibility targets and directing their violence at less well-guarded “soft targets” such as transportation systems, business and private facilities.

Terrorism in the firm’s external environment is designed to create organizational confusion and contextual volatility, which refers to discontinous changes and requires firms to make frequent, abrupt, unexpected, and untested adjustments to their business strategies and operations. There also tends to be a perhaps misleading belief that terrorism responsive decisions must always be made swiftly.

Terrorists deliberately target non-combatants and insufficiently protected physical facilities. The globalization of commerce, travel, and information flows have enhanced the ease with which terrorism can be carried out, and increased the visibility and availability of potential terrorist targets. Port facilities, industrial clusters, shopping centers and financial districts are among numerous assets susceptible to terrorism via low-tech approaches. The threat is especially salient to firms with business facilities and infrastructure in multiple and diverse locations abroad, each one of which may need tailor-made protective measures. When evil doers make multiple-tap asynchronous attacks, losses can exceed worst-case scenario planning. Institutions and firms of industrialized nations are most vulnerable when they operate in emerging countries. MNE supply chains are vulnerable to potential long-term harm, particularly with firms whose first and second tier suppliers stretch around the world, in and out of risky environments. Any physical movement of goods introduces risk, disruptions and delays, but in developing nations more so.

Perceptions of threats from terrorism reduce the likelihood that firms will expend assets abroad, particularly in emerging economies that might become terrorism-prone areas in future. Companies spend billions annually to manage terrorism-induced risk and comply with terrorism-related government procedures and regulations.

Uncertainty is an attribute of marketing environments, particularly in international markets. Marketing activity is vulnerable to terrorism through disrupted international logistics, supply chain and distribution activities, insufficient information flows, and growing global demand for industrial and consumer goods. The complexity formed by linkages among terrorists, producers, buyers, and public actors reflects how with only 3-4 alternatives for each option, terrorism quickly represents hard to control and large number of scenarios. Furthermore, terrorism can trigger imposition of new regulations and procedures, which can hamper corporate activities. Security can reduce but not eliminate terrorism or fully insulate the firm from attacks. Government regulations aimed at preventing terrorism generate delays and increase the cost of business transactions, affecting company competitiveness.

The marketing organization comprises a bundle of strategic resources. Abundant material and effective alternative capabilities are traditionally associated with superior performance in international marketing ventures. The payoff from strategic resource stock piles is only realized when management activates situation specific organizational responses and behaviors, aligning them with clear and present changes in the corporate environment, not before.

The resource-based view (RBV) helps explain how firms develop and leverage organizational capabilities. Management structures, bundles, and leveraged resources determine the efficiency and effectiveness of company operations and organizational performance and robustness. The allocation of available marketing resources and the creation of new types of marketing tools are fundamental to the creation and maintenance of sustainable competitive advantages. Our research has found that many firms remain ill prepared to cope with terrorism, especially those operating in emerging markets. Firms often still respond passively or only reactively to the outslaught of terrorism. By contrast, we encourage firms to create proactive and innovative solutions for the management of terrorism threat.  This is what corporate innovation should be all about.

Such innovation must permeate organizational culture and be supported by new knowledge and technology enabling responsiveness to new, outwardly unexpected capabilities. Indeed, strongly innovative firms have highly developed and elaborated knowledge-creation routines and learning regimes.  A strong innovative culture supports the firm in developing responses tailor made for rapid deployment with new organizational capabilities. Rather than pursue just unidimensional thinking, ready for one action, firms need to deploy ambidextrous strategies and reinvent the situation specificity of their operations. Thus, management, which possesses a strong innovative culture and substantive awareness of even marginal threats of terrorism, might emerge less scathed from attack from that firms which are focused but limited in their outlook.

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).



An introductory note: Over the coming weeks, we will post a series of Prof. Czinkota’s work with Prof. Valbona Zeneli, from the Marshall Center in Germany and Prof. Gary Knight, of Willamette University, USA. The work presented here is based on the research titled “Terrorism, Competitiveness and International Marketing: An Empirical Investigation” which was published in the International Journal of Emerging Markets, 2018.  We thank Ms. Niparat Pitchayanonnetr our departmental assistant for her editorial contributions. The series presents insights into what has been labelled a key challenge to the global business world today.
Here is our first post in the series which, together with future postings, you can freely distribute with proper credit to the authors and source.

Valbona Zeneli, Marshall Center, Germany

Michael R. Czinkota , Georgetown University USA and University of Kent, UK

Gary Knight, Willamette University, USA

Terrorism refers to the risk or actual encounter of violent acts designed to cause fear and intimidation.  Despite posing an important threat to internationally-active firms, there is a paucity of empirical research that addresses the distinctive challenges that terrorism poses to the international marketing activities of firms.  Here we first provide a theoretical background on terrorism and its effects on international marketing in emerging markets.  We then relate terrorism to operational costs, marketing planning, supply chain management and distribution activities in the multinational enterprise (MNE).  We recognize significant costs in the international marketing budget of MNEs. Firms with substantial resources and international experience appear to have more alternatives, which allow them to cope better with the effects of terrorism than their less endowed peers.

Terrorism is a salient threat to organizational competitiveness in international marketing. It is the premeditated use or threat to use violence by individuals or subnational groups to obtain a political or social objective through the intimidation of a large audience beyond that of the immediate non-combatant victims.

For terrorists, perception matters! Terrorist attacks around the world have increased greatly in the past decades, spanning 92 countries and over 28,000 fatalities in 2015 alone. Most attacks are directed at civilians, businesses, and business-related infrastructure. The five countries most exposed to terrorist attacks in recent years are Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.

Emerging markets are particularly affected by terrorism since their businesses and citizens have less of an opportunity to protect themselves. Among the possible environmental contingencies that can affect marketing organizations – such as weak economic conditions, rising energy prices, financial crises – terrorism is identified as potentially the most serious threat. Since terrorists select their targets with high flexibility, intensity and precision, international firms seek competitive advantage through the expansion of production, distribution, and the marketing of products and services across multiple national boundaries. Terrorism sharply reduces corporate enthusiasm to expand. Measures to counter terrorism in turn are based of restricted freedom of movement and increased government regulation, both of which impair global commerce. The border-crossing effect of terrorism creates slowdowns for international transactions reaching 2.5% of merchandise value, which is comparable to the average level of global tariffs.

International trade depends on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of global transportation systems. Terrorism increases the transaction costs of international commerce and delays global supply chains and distribution channels. Terrorism’s main impact reaches far beyond its immediate and direct effects. Key are the long term results from the indirect effects that occur in national and global economies. These include widespread anxiety and uncertainty that affect buyer demand, shifts or interruptions in the supply of needed inputs, new government regulations and procedures enacted to deal with terrorism, and longer-term perceptions that alter patterns of global trade and investment. Terrorism can also affect managerial attitudes towards risk, shift the risk absorption capacity of firms, and reduce the likelihood of embarking on international ventures or new investments abroad.

Our Google search of the NGram viewer system analyzed the extent of terrorism-related writings, and checked for correlations with the key terms ‘trade,’ ‘investment’ and ‘risk’. The results indicate a rapid increase of concern about terrorism since 1998. This development serves as an indicator of the growing preoccupation (in the English-speaking literature at least) with terrorism. Concurrently, and as expected in terms of theory-based postulations, actual risk increased while trade and investment interests declined.

We believe that terrorism will continue to be a significant factor in international marketing for decades to come. The rise of terrorism signals a new type of threat relevant to both developed and emerging economies. As governments increase security of public facilities, the likelihood of attacks against the softer targets of firms’ international operations is likely to increase.  Emerging economies need to find ways to increase their security in order to retain their attractiveness for foreign sourcing and investments. Corporate preparedness for the unexpected is a vital task. Innovative managers develop appropriate resources, and undertake planning and strategies to accommodate dislocations and sudden shocks. Terrorism represents an organizational crisis whose ultimate effects may be unexpected and unknown, posing a significant threat to the survival or performance of the firm.  Terrorism presents the firm with a dilemma that requires new decision-making and behaviors that will result in organizational change.  Firms that neglect to devote resources and capabilities to respond flexibly to terrorist triggered disruptions, risk sudden, sometimes even, total loss of competitive advantage. We follow the thinking of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who stated: “There are known knowns, which are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns, these are things we don’t know we don’t know”. The goal should be to analyze the role of terrorism under all three conditions.

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE)


Counterfeiting, Software Piracy, and Terrorism

Counterfeiting is a common form of corruption and cost businesses well over US $1 trillion in 2008. One of the most highly scrutinized areas of counterfeiting in today’s business world is the theft of intellectual property. Intellectual property is the ownership of ideas, as well as the control over the tangible or virtual representation of those ideas. The piracy of this intellectual property has become a major form of illegal business.

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9/11 In remembrance: Terrorism and International Business


Michael R. Czinkota, Gary Knight, Gabriele Suder.

The airplanes of 9/11 forced countless multinational corporations (MNCs) to update their strategic planning.  Our work with executives at more than 150 MNCs shows that more than ten years later, companies are still grappling with how best to manage the terrorist threat.

In the two decades before 2001, the rate at which firms launched international ventures was growing rapidly. After 9/11, foreign direct investment fell dramatically as firms withdrew to their home markets. The popularity of international-sounding company and brand names decreased appreciably as managers now emphasize domestic and local affiliations.

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Even Old Lambs Come Home to Roost

History may not repeat itself very often, but when parallels are witnessed, the effects can be major and gruesome. These are tough times for many. There is the ubiquitous occurrence of major terrorism, bringing insecurity to airplanes and airports, train stations, entertainment clubs and schools. There is growing wealth concentration for few, and low income for many others. We now witness the breakups of coalitions thought to be stable, for which the British exit (BREXIT) from EU is only one major signal.

A little more than a century ago the world climate was benign and secure for many, globalization was high. National conflict seemed unlikely to emerge between the cousins who ruled England, Russia and Germany. Yet, within only a few years, World War I had led to millions of casualties and major devastations of factories and cities. What are we to do now to demonstrate our strong dedication and willingness to sacrifice in order to avoid a dramatic overall deterioration in global civility, security, and economy?

There are many tinderboxes that cause ongoing flames. In order to guarantee spheres of influence the British/French Sykes-Picot agreement signed on May 16, 1916 drew hasty and culturally poorly conceived borders for the Middle East. The accord achieved the termination of the Ottoman Empire but has provided the world with a century of acerbic and painful conflict in the Middle East. Even today, the ongoing conflicts and assassinations in Turkey are just one reflection of disharmony, augmented by religious disagreements, blood feuds, political shortfalls and economic blight.

Groups who suffer from deprivations attack others to share their pain. As governments learn to protect possible targets better, terrorists seek and find softer, less protected and less expected targets. In consequence, poor governments, poor companies and poor citizens are the ones least able to protect themselves against attacks. An uncertain environment then leads to less local investment and even more poverty. There must be new steps to mitigate the causes of terrorism.

It is ironic and sad to now see a self-inflicted British exit from the EU, which does not better the world, but rather carries the virus for conflict. Large flows of immigrants still need destinies and require support. Britain’s move triggers and encourages other nations to also demand a special lightening of their obligations. But who will be the beast of burden and at what price? Already forward-looking countries find their own solution, often ahead of the more slowly reacting larger powers. Hungary’s early efforts to measure and control immigration was such a step. But in light of disagreements with major players, the nation found itself derided and penalized.

Progress in terms of global tranquillity and cohesion needs to be renewed.  Confrontations between friends and adversaries need do not require winners and losers. All need to be willing to learn from each other, acknowledge and respect special needs and make allowances for the human dimension in conflict. With all the resources now available, there must be an ongoing search for and support of the soul of relationships and individuals. Forgiveness can well become a new objective. We all must contribute conscientiously to finding ways to help others by sharing their burden as well as encouraging them to share ours. Those who now sit at the table must let others approach. Dropping crumbs may be biblical, but is perhaps an insufficient reward for a better world.