According to Maignan and Ferrell (2004), whether a firm markets its services or goods internationally or domestically, the definition of marketing still holds. Nevertheless, its scope is expanded when the firm decides to engage into selling its products across international boundaries. As such, it is important to revisit the general definition of marketing before defining international marketing, which is in question. According to Montiel and Ramus (2005), marketing refers to a process of communicating the value of service or product to consumers. This definition has not considered the geographical aspects of the activities of marketing. Some authors have also defined marketing as an art of selling products. However, sales are only a portion of marketing. Therefore, international marketing simply refers to communicating the values of a product or a service to consumers beyond the political boundaries of a country. From a societal point of view, marketing refers to the link between the material requirements of a society and its economic patterns. The latter definition involves the society and the marketing actions of an organization. This is crucial, as will be observed later, when dealing with corporate social responsibility in international marketing. In this regard, this paper discusses the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ethical behavior of organizations in the international context.
Corporate Social Responsibility
International marketing is a crucial aspect of business. Marketing alone ensures that customers are aware of the services or products and the brand of the company. Effective communications of this information to customer is primary to effective international marketing. Many organizations talk about their environmental and social initiatives and incorporate them into their message in order to improve the image of the brand and attract new customers to purchase socially and environmentally beneficial products and services. However, a few international organizations seem to incorporate effectively their social and environmental initiatives in the message. This implies that some organizations communicate effectively to their customers that brings another issue of corporate social responsibility.
According to Nagra (2010), corporate social responsibility or corporate conscience refers to a form of corporate self-regulation incorporated into the business model. It acts as an inbuilt self-regulating mechanism where an organization ensures its compliance with the law, ethical standards and most importantly international norms. Since 1950s, corporate social responsibility, together with associated notions of corporate social performance, has been the issue of conceptualizations emanating from literature of management. There are various concepts of CSR as discussed below.
The first concept is CSR as a social obligation. Oliver (2000) once defined CSR as the obligation of a firm to pursue policies and make decisions that are desirable in terms of values and objectives of the society. The concept of CSR has been advocated in many marketing studies. As identified by Ozaki and Pickett-Baker (2008), various forms of social obligations can be distinguished: legal and ethical obligations, philanthropic obligations and economic obligations. Economic obligations ensure that the organization is productive and economically viable. Legal and ethical obligations ensure that the organization conforms to the law and the accepted norms and values of the country in which it operates. Lastly, philanthropic obligations ensure that the organization proactively gives back to the society or the country in which it operates. International marketing will require many organizations to participate in fulfilling these obligations in order to increase their profitability.
The second concept is CSR as stakeholder obligation. From the mid-90s, various scholars have agreed that the concept of social obligation is too wide to enable efficient management. To be specific, the society is at an analysis level, which is more inclusive and ambiguous than the organization itself. Paswan (2006) claimed that organizations are not responsible for the society as a whole. However, they are responsible for those who directly or indirectly affect its activities. The different actors are what Prajogo (2007) refers to as stakeholders and can be categorized into four primary groups: organizations, community, regulatory and media stakeholders. International marketing requires the organizations to fulfill the obligations to these stakeholders.
The third concept of CSR is CSR as ethics driven. The concepts of corporate social responsibility as either stakeholder or social obligation mean that CSR activities are motivated by self-interests. CSR practices enable organizations to establish legitimacy among the constituents. However, such approaches are not responsible for the positive commitment to the society, which disregards consequences and self-interest. Additionally, the CSR concept, as a duty, does not offer the normative criteria to analyze the level to which organizational practices can or cannot be regarded as socially responsible. With employee-friendly policies and philanthropic donations to the society, an organization might just adhere to the social values and norms. However, these initiatives might also be a paternalistic portrayal of corporate power. Based on this criticism, some authors propose an ethic-based view of CSR, which affirms that, the wrongness or righteousness of certain corporate activity is independent of any stakeholder or social obligation.
Another concept is CSR as managerial processes. Various researchers have viewed CSR based on concrete organizational processes that are frequently examined under the label of corporate social responsiveness. For instance, Rainbird and Walters (2004) highlighted the significant activities that are a representative of corporate social responsiveness. These activities include monitoring and examining environmental conditions, designing policies and plans targeting at improving the positive effects of the company, and dealing with stakeholder demands. Likewise, Ramirez (2012) suggested that issues of environmental and management assessment comprised of two sets of managerial processes useful in achieving an active position of social responsibility.
Given the above mentioned various concepts, it is apparent that a single viewpoint of CSR has not dominated the past studies. The integration and comparison of past definitions is particularly difficult. This is because scholars might have considered CSR of various conceptual identities.
Organizations are obliged to preserve the environment and avoid using environmentally unfriendly methods of production. As such, many organizations have adopted “green production and marketing.” Rivera-Camino (2007) defined green marketing as the marketing of products, which are assumed to be environmentally safe. Therefore, green marketing integrates a wide range of activities such as product modifications, packaging changes, modifying advertising, and production process changes . However, defining green marketing is not a simple assignment especially where various implications contrast and intersect each other. An instance of this is the existence of different environmental, social and retail definitions associated with green marketing. Other terms used to refer to green marketing include ecological and environmental marketing.
According to Rivera-Camino (2007), eco-marketing and green marketing are a constituent of the marketing methods that do not adjust, refocus or improve the present practice and thinking but also see to challenge other approaches and offers significant perspectives related to CSR. According to Welsch and Wilkinson (2002), eco-marketing and green marketing comprise of a group of marketing approaches that seek to deal with the imbalance between marketing, as it is presently practiced, and social and ecological realities of the broader international marketing environment. The constitutional insinuations of marketing claims need to be taken cautiously. Overstated and misleading claims can result in civil or regulatory challenges that affect international marketing.
According to Welsch and Wilkinson (2002), the emerging greenhouse gas reduction marketing can possibly encourage projects with significant quality-of-life and economic benefits. For instance, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol allows trading between developing and developed nations by offering a framework that can lead to environmentally friendly development activities.
Challenges of International Marketing
Many organizations have identified potential markets abroad for their services and products. Most of the identified are big in terms of the population. Some of the potential markets include India and China. The business and consumer’s purchasing power in various countries is sufficient for firms to have a desire to compete in the newly identified markets. Nevertheless, international marketing comes along with various pitfalls. Some companies have already committed mistakes by failing to research adequately these markets before investing their capital.
The first challenge posed by international marketing is the identification of the true need of these markets. The way to success in any business is providing commodities that are required by consumers. According to Shrivastava (2008), customers have a problem which has to be dealt with by providing them with the service or product. Identifying the ultimate needs of huge population in oversea countries is not a simple task. Having not lived in this foreign culture experienced by these foreign people, an executive can commit a mistake by presuming that these populations’ need is similar to his or her needs.
The second challenge is the brand name and power dilution. Because of movies, internet and other entertainment forms, the cultures of some countries like the US and the UK have become very popular across the world. However, it does not imply that American or UK companies and their products are popular in other nations. Knowing about a brand is similar to preferring it. According to Sheehan (2009), it can be expensive and long process to acquire the consumers’ trust that have recognized their local companies for many years or generations. As such, American or UK companies may be viewed as trying to position that has been held for long by the local companies. This causes resentment.
The third challenges associated to international marketing are nuance of culture. Consumers buy products or services by marketing messages sent via media like magazines. It is worth mentioning that humor is frequently deployed in the commercial messages and targeted at getting the attention of consumers. However, it is very intriguing that a culture may be viewed as insulting or confusing in another culture. In order to produce efficient advertising, an organization requires to accurately translate the message. Effective advertising needs proper comprehension of the custom, culture, religious and morals views that prevail in an oversea country. Things that encourage or persuade consumers to purchase a product or a service differ from one nation to another, which implies that an organization should be flexible in communicating with different people with different cultures across the globe.
Another challenge is communication style. Executives from other countries face different obstacles to effective communication apart from the obvious differences in language. According to Ozaki and Pickett-Baker (2008), the traditional speed of negotiations regarding business may be extremely different. For instance, American might hurry their negotiations, while other nations emphasize on building relations prior to considering a deal. Business executives from Asia, for example, might highly value facial expressions rather than the words being said.
Green Marketing as a Business Strategy in IM
The concept of green marketing is common in the UK and other nations. However, international business environment does not have a worldwide meaning. Other nations such as the US use the term environmental marketing. Presently, the natural environment is a significant area for competition and economy. Environmental issues concerning natural resources, energy, waste and pollution provide both competitive constraints and opportunities so that they are transforming the competitive landscape in various industries.
Integrating the concept of green and environmental care was done without the objective of creating growth but ensuring environment conservation. However, when many organizations began implementing green marketing and production, they aimed at gaining competitive advantage from their consumers. For instance, some organizations claim that their commodities are less damaging to the environment than those of their competitors. According to Prajogo (2007), this behavior is ore strategic than implementing real changes oriented towards improving the environment.
With the increasing environmental awareness, some non-environmental firms implemented green communication concerning their commodities without green characteristics. According to Oliver (2000), these organizations are realizing green washing. Montiel and Ramus (2005) pointed out that green marketing defines activities of a firm that are linking sustainable development with the growth opportunities of the firm. Companies that are capable to market their products without damaging the environment have a competitive advantage over those that harm the environment. Similarly, many governments across the world have put in place legal regulations to prevent harming the environment. As such, companies that do not conform to these legal regulations cannot operate there. Marketing practice that conforms environmental regulations across the country is a competitive advantage that many organizations want to have.
Marketing refers to the process of communicating the value of service or product to consumers. Marketing alone ensures that customers are aware of the services or products and the company brand. Effective communication of this information to customers is primary to effective international marketing. Corporate social responsibility or corporate conscience refers to a form of self-regulation incorporated into the business model. It acts as an inbuilt self-regulating mechanism where an organization ensures its compliance with the law, ethical standards and most importantly international norms. International marketing comes along with various pitfalls. With the increasing environmental awareness, some non-environmental firms implemented a green communication concerning their commodities without green characteristics.