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The best how-to for global marketing

Donald De Palma’s Business without Borders is the ideal post-dot-com title about modern international marketing

Jack Yan1

IF Donald De Palma had released Business without Borders: a Strategic Guide to Global Marketing during the dot-com boom, he might have used another name. While it's not a book about the internet, Dr De Palma is one of the first authors to integrate successfully its possibilities in a strategic marketing fashion. Global marketing, the author surmises, is not about being a huge multinational corporation with billions locked up in plant and retail outlets, but about being any size of firm that accommodates the fact that the planet is no longer about disparate local markets. Any firm—though admittedly Business without Borders is better embraced by the marketing director of a company with 50 employees and upward—can succeed at global marketing, leveraging their brands and aligning their strategies to the post-dot-com era.
   It is a strategic guide but there are plenty of how-tos on getting an organization to market globally. De Palma generously breaks down the steps in 10 chapters, beginning with the general and moving "chronologically": in other words, a reader can literally go through Business without Borders chapter by chapter and implement the new strategy, even alongside the existing marketing and branding philosophies.
   Refreshingly, too, De Palma has not offered us yet another US-centric book, but instead brings his experience from across the Atlantic and combines it with American sensibilities. This is not another title that points out all that is great about American dot-com practice and why everyone else should follow. Every step is given authoritatively because De Palma believes it and because the rationale is clearly stated before the advice is offered, just as you would expect from any good doctor.
   But it would be foolish to term it an operational guide, as each chapter could lead on to a book of its own, for example, De Palma's coverage of product strategy or geopolitical issues.
   De Palma takes the tack that the organization can save money by having, for example, a global look-and-feel for its web site, and uses the web as a central tool for aligning various marketing efforts, including branding and brand enhancement. This company agrees with that, because it is what we, too, have advised clients, though it is not to say that more disparate sites do not have value because of differing æsthetics between markets. For example, Wolff Olins's revamp of Preem's identity in Sweden was not liked by all, even though to the author, an international visitor, the brand expression is global and clever. Vogue has made it a point to offer very different web sites in each nation where it is published, even between France and Germany. However, in general we agree with De Palma, particularly as tastes become harmonized. He does leave room for the customization of individual market content.
   While his fictional example of a chief marketing officer taking her organization global can be a little contrived at times, the examples serve as a useful checklist of what the reader might have done or missed.
   We award top marks to De Palma for currency, breadth of coverage and for flagging all the necessary issues. There's seldom one missed. Particularly strong are his introductory and his budgetary sections, as is his advice on translation and staffing a global team. He even provides information about a chief global officer's potential showcase to illustrate how an online branding effort might be launched and communicated internally. Logically, this provides buy-in as well as a foundation for further efforts; without this crucial part, which some authors miss, any globalizing would lead to failure.
   The danger is that a reader not already predisposed of using the web to leverage brands will see Business without Borders as an internet book. But De Palma is a realist, not a dot-com romantic. Any globalizing effort will require the web, almost as the first tool. Marketers with any level of cross-border activity ignore the web, and De Palma's book, at their own risk. • Jack Yan