Rugyendo: Why I Like a Career in International Marketing

In my 15-year career as a Journalist and Marketing Director at Uganda’s leading daily Tabloid (The Red Pepper- http://www.redpepper.co.ug), two books have shaped my strategic thinking- and they are neither about journalism nor marketing.

President Museveni meeting with Media Gurus. Red Pepper's Arinaitwe Rugyendo is standing with Ipad
President Museveni meeting with Media Gurus. Red Pepper’s Arinaitwe Rugyendo is standing next to Museveni with an Ipad

“This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else,” Journalist Fareed Zakaria begins his 2008 work; ‘The Post American World- The Rise of the Rest,’ on the new era the world had entered into. He argued in this impressive 2008 work that the United States would no longer dominate the global economy, orchestrate geopolitics, or overwhelm cultures. He sees the “rise of the rest” – the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, and many others – as the great story of our time, and one that will reshape the world. Thus, according to Fareed, the tallest buildings, biggest dams, largest-selling movies, and most advanced cell phones were all being built outside the United States, somewhere in China, Brazil, Singapore, United Arab Emirates- essentially in what you would call the emerging markets.

Rugyendo hands over Red Pepper copies to Heineken country manager Juliana Kagwa as the Chief Finance Officer Johnson Byarabaha looks on
Rugyendo hands over Red Pepper copies to Heineken country manager Juliana Kagwa as the Chief Finance Officer Johnson Byarabaha looks on

The second book is from Fareed’s mentor, Thomas Friedman’s 2005 work; The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalized World in the Twenty-first Century.’ Friedman wondered how scholars twenty years from now will be able to tell how the convergence of technology and events allowed India, China, and so many other countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing, creating an explosion of wealth in the middle classes of the world’s two biggest nations, giving them a huge new stake in the success of globalization.

Friedman argues that the world went flat at the dawn of the 20th Century forcing individuals, governments, businesses and societies to adapt. His third edition of this book, ‘The World is Flat 3.0,’ published in 2007, nailed the point further in emphasizing how technology is affecting culture, the economy and influencing world events.

The Case for International Marketing:

International Marketing literally refers to building of markets in many countries that are essentially driven by a polycentric orientation, use of multidomestic marketing techniques to feed customer needs that often different across national markets. What Freedman and Fareed envisaged was the reality of global markets. No wonder the two books are essentially about political economy and globalization- the two critical drivers of international trade in goods and services and therefore an essential guide to understanding why International Marketing is becoming an important area for career development by anyone wishing to be part of the current global trade.

Why is this important?

Let’s answer this by taking a long at the Triad Regions (North America, Western Europe, and Japan) of the world. These collectively produce more than 80% of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The world’s six exporting countries are the United States, China, Germany, Japan, France and Britain, collectively accounting for over 42 percent of global trade.

But it is estimated that in the next ten to twenty years, Emerging Markets (BEMs) – the Chinese Economic Area (CEA: including China, Hong Kong, region, and Taiwan), India, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Poland, Turkey, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN: including Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, will square up-if they haven’t yet- with the triad regions to provide more opportunities for global business.

And this is not new. For centuries on, products and services have crisscrossed borders with the best example being the historic ‘Silk Road’ that linked China to what we now know as ‘the West.’ The ‘Silk Road’ was not the only ‘international trade’ then. There was also the ‘Spice Trade’, which linked Africa to the Asian nations, and the Arabian peninsular many centuries ago. This democratization of international trade is worth the attention of international marketers for the following reasons:

One: The emerging markets are a cause for concern for the industrialized nations. Unlike in the past 20 years, the current situation is a context of fierce competition and the desire to dominate world markets by the industrialized world, creating a good case for International Marketing to bridge the gap and help multinational companies realise growth in domestic and foreign markets.

Two: The rise and spread of the Internet, especially social media, has made it possible for international business to transcend borders and trade without making physical presence in the choice countries.

Companies have been able to open online shops and supply on a 24-hour-seven days- a -week basis to different markets around the world with the aid of a screen and an Internet connection.

A good example is perhaps the world’s top ‘bookshop’ amazon.com and the Chinese online trading shop alibaba.com. Amazon does not need to open physical retail bookshops around the world to sell its books. A click on their website guarantees a cost effective payment system, consumer choice and service delivery anywhere in the world. Companies will increasingly look to marketers with Digital Marketing, Search and Social Media as well as Search Engine Optimisation skills to win clients.

Three: The evolution of marketing along the five key steps, namely; Domestic, Export, International, Multinational and Global Marketing is posing a complex challenge to global business. Companies have to adopt a different stage to fit a specific situational need such as developing country by country-specific approaches in order to cope up with the different market dynamics on the ground.

With the reality of the business world today becoming a globalised economy, this will call for the understanding of the difference between ‘Global Marketing’ and ‘International Marketing’ approaches. I have come to believe that ‘Global Marketing’ emphasizes the building of multi-domestic markets that maybe distinct from each other because of either local orientation or country/ culture-specification. It recognizes that customer needs are differentiated according to economic geography, culture, tastes and preferences. In other words, ‘Global Marketing’ takes a geo centric approach.

On the other hand, ‘International Marketing’ takes a polycentric approach. In order for multinationals to survive, they will have to take a country-by-country, region-by-region approach, adopting specific tactics to fit specific situations. The main idea behind companies undertaking international marketing is ‘localization’ of decision-making and a ‘non-one size-fit-all’ perspective in engaging positions to fit their customers whose tastes are differentiated by culture, geography, language and needs.

It is my view, to lead global branding efforts in a flattened world, multinationals will need to turn to career International Marketers who have the education and experience needed to extend local marketing techniques on a global scale. This is still lacking nearly everywhere. While the world is globalised, marketing is yet to follow suit. What are your views?

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