Commentary / World

Effects of Sept. 11 on marketing policy

WASHINGTON — The terror of Sept. 11 is a key fissure in American lives. At Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, we investigated the repercussions of the terror on international marketing policy and corporate practices. We found a new era of common sense characterized by five key dimensions.

The first is a common sense of vulnerability. What happened in New York and Washington, D.C., can occur in any location around the globe.

There is a common sense of outrage — no moral ambivalence here. These attacks touch individuals like a cold wind that makes sweat-beaded skin shiver.

There is a renewed global common sense of collaboration. The past decade has seen a reluctance of nations to support joint direction, which has led to international policy stalemates. Today, a new understanding of a common future requires us to rely on each other.

There are new politics of common sense, best seen by the new round of trade talks. Important concessions were required from everyone in Doha, but Sept. 11 helped to place highly controversial issues — such as agricultural subsidies, dumping regulations, property rights and investment rules — on the table. Although trade negotiations will not be easy, the road toward progress has been opened.

There is a new sense of what we have in common. For too long, global discussions where dominated by all the things that make us different. Now there is more thinking of those issues that bring us together.

On the corporate side, we found important changes in the areas of customer management, people management, production management and logistics.

Managers now consider the development of customer trade portfolios more carefully. Dependence on any region or customer are limited to reduce a firm’s exposure in case of conflict; systematic market development can then balance existing exposure.

Corporations have become more sensitive to the possibility of misuse of their exports. There is more intensive scrutiny of orders received, of customers and of product use before an order is shipped.

Heightened scrutiny also extends to employees. Firms take a closer look at credentials and claims. The issue of culture and diversity has taken on greater importance. Managers who had previously only focused on the bottom line now develop a greater appreciation for differences among employees. As one executive put it, “We look at each other much more closely and that makes you understand things better.”

Members of the supply chain want to identify and manage their dependence on international inputs. Industrial customers are often seen as pushing for United States-based sourcing to avoid interruptions. Customers feel better when their goods are produced in West Virginia or Kentucky than when their shipments come from Argentina or Greece.

Companies have accepted that the international pipeline has slowed down. Firms with international just-in-time delivery systems are still being affected months later due to increased security measures. Some are thinking about replacing international shipments with domestic ones, where local trucking would replace transborder movement and eliminate the use of vulnerable ports. Hub-and-spoke distributors now discover how transshipments add to time delays. Plans for fewer hubs and more direct connections may lead to higher prices but more consistent shipments within a shorter time.

Sept. 11 is a shared experience that has strengthened U.S. resolve, affirmed U.S. global leadership and opened new strategic dimensions in policy and corporate thinking.

There is an increased desire for collaboration. Higher efficiency and success are likely if the U.S. and its firms further refine their ability to form partnerships. International networks will become much more pronounced. Becoming part of them will be a key challenge for the international marketer.

There is a greater need for trust as a key component of an international marketing relationship, both on the customer and the supplier side. The ability to engender such trust may well become decisive to international marketing success. Firms are more willing to make a commitment to their partners, which implies a longer-term time frame and allows for a thrust to continue even after the glue of its initial impetus has become brittle.

A recent Washington Post survey reports that most respondents feel that the attacks have permanently changed the U.S. for the better. In the international marketing field, we clearly see a new willingness to stand together, to join forces, face down adversity and persist in one’s goals. Standing together improves America’s outlook on the future and also offers global progress toward a better quality of life.

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