globalEDGE Blog Archive September 2012

In 1983, Professor Theodore "Ted" Levitt of Harvard's Business School announced that globalization had arrived, and before long global companies would be selling products and services in similar ways all over the world. In spite of Levitt's prediction, only a limited amount of truly global brands exist in today's business world, although markets are undeniably in an age of economic globalization. The reason behind this stems from the immense amount of forces that provide challenges to brands wishing to branch into global markets, of which a select number of firms have overcome.

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As businesses continue to expand internationally, it is becoming more important than ever for these companies to adapt their strategies to different cultures in foreign markets.  Companies must extensively analyze the target market and determine whether or not their product or service can be successful in that market.  Often times, cultural differences require changes to be made to a company’s sales and marketing approach and sometimes even the product itself.

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The food and beverage industry covers an assortment of products and companies within.  It happens to include one of the largest commodity markets, coffee.  With its distinctive socio-cultural ties, coffee has been produced, branded, and marketed uniquely in every part of the world.  With any product, various factors must be taken into consideration when developing a brand: consumption patterns, cultural relevance, product expectation, and marketplace competition to name a few.  Branding essentially tries to build an emotional kinship with the consumer that transcends the products actual function.  Brands aspire to create an identity, a lifestyle to live by.

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In a more connected and globalized world, brand recognition across many markets and countries has become extremely important for international business. When a company’s goods or services are not only well-known but popular in many countries all around the world, you know that particular company is doing something right. Global branding is a major aspect of marketing in today’s business environment and is constantly changing as the world moves forward. Not only is global branding evolving, it is changing the way businesses market their products across the globe. This week the globalEDGE blog team will take a deeper look at global branding and its impact on international business operations.

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File under: Global, China, Energy

In today’s world, energy is always in demand and this has led many companies in the energy sector to focus on new renewable forms of energy. Lately renewable energy, specifically solar, has experienced a multitude of issues that threaten many of the companies that specialize in solar power. From the high profile collapse of Solyndra to the free fall of prices around the world, many are left wondering what the future holds for this burgeoning industry.

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The Dreamforce Expo kicked off this week with a rumored 90,000 attendees from 150 countries there. Sponsored by Salesforce.com, the purpose of this expo is to help businesses around the world realize the power of cloud computing. Cloud computing uses the internet to host data and provide information and services effortlessly to consumers.  While cloud computing is not a new idea, the big revelation from Dreamforce is how important social media is going forward.

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The problem of copying and product imitation has pervaded businesses from practically the beginning of time. The age-old debate about the nature of innovation has significant importance in the world of business. Patents were originally designed to help companies protect their intellectual property from competitors to ensure that innovation was rewarded not stolen. However, many have argued that products are never completely original and all creativity comes from some other idea. Albert Einstein said it best himself with the famous quote, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” So what does this patent and creativity debate mean for businesses, and perhaps more importantly for global competitiveness?

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File under: China, Economy, Global Economy

China is currently in an economic slowdown, the causes of which are a great debate in Asia’s largest economy. China, the world’s second largest economy behind the United States, expanded 7.6 % in the second quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace since 2009. While a growth rate above 7% might seem thriving at first glance, you must first consider that China has had an average annual growth rate of nearly 15% since 2000. Many economists believe that their growth will slow further to a rate of around 7.0% for 2012. Is the economy of the most populous nation in the world in trouble?

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The global economy came to a stall earlier this summer with China slowing and the European debt crisis worsening, many investors and business owners were expecting the worst.  The Federal Reserve has already promised to keep short-term interest rates at zero until 2014 and flattened the yield curve through Operation Twist. If that can’t spark any economic growth, then what is there left to do?

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Quite frankly, one involved in business would have to be living in a cave in the middle of nowhere to not be aware of Europe’s debt problems of late. There are numerous theories for how to solve this problem ranging from European Fiscal Unions and bail-out funds to thousands of different austerity measures and the fabled Grexit. Sadly, none of these theoretically viable plans have come to fruition. However, Greece has an idea that is rather unusual but could possibly solve their own debt problems (by far the worse in the EU): unpaid World War II reparations.

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The changing global climate has become increasingly more difficult to ignore due to climbing air and water temperatures, rising sea levels, and melting of polar snow and ice. Recent reports have stated that the area of ice in the arctic has never been smaller, which has recently caught the attention of Asian economists. The opening of the Arctic north promises new trade routes, untapped reserves of oil, and an abundance of minerals to discover.

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After releasing its high IPO on March 18th, 2012, Facebook has fallen over 50% and does not seem to be headed in the right direction anytime soon. The costly mistake in the first day of trade of a computer malfunction placed millions of dollars in the wrong location, and there was no recovery after that. With social media on the rise worldwide, it was believed that this would be a hot stock early on.  The overly-optimistic buyers were waiting for an early 50%-60% increase, and little did they know it was about to be a failure. Was the IPO too high, or is Facebook just losing its popularity it once had?

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While most news headlines involving Mexico revolve around drug cartels, illegal immigration, and law enforcement, economists are noticing a new story south of the border. Trade between the United States and Mexico has been surging recently, including a 17 percent increase to a record level of $461 billion (USD) in 2011. Mexico is currently competing with China for the title of America's second-largest trading partner following Canada, and the Mexican economy became the top investment destination for the aerospace industry this year. Mexico's middle class, which is quickly growing to be the country's majority, has been responsible for much of the trade with the U.S. since they are buying record levels of American goods.

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In September 2011, India lifted a four-year ban that was responsible for limiting the exportation of wheat and rice.  Because of this ruling, India exported over 10 million tons of grain and soymeal in the first half of 2012, a figure that is nearly double what it was in the first half of 2011. The current drought in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan has significantly limited wheat production in these countries, yet world wheat prices have remained relatively stable due to India’s timely increase in the exportation of this commodity.

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While the rest of the world scrambles to overcome the current global recession, the Philippines has been experiencing record levels of economic growth. The island country has benefited greatly from increases in government efficiency, as well as a crack down on political corruption. The gross domestic product of the Philippines has grown 6.4 percent in the first quarter, which surpasses the performances of all other neighboring economies except China, and its currency, the peso, has reached record heights in the past four years when compared to the dollar. As a sign of the country's unprecedented economic progression, the Philippines has pledged $1 billion (USD) of its $70 billion in reserves to the International Monetary Fund to aid the European Union, which is the same fund that rescued the country in the 1980s.

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File under: Currency, European Union

Alternative currencies have been around throughout history, mostly in times of economic crisis or during times of war. The situation throughout the Euro Zone is no different at the current moment. Countries including Spain, Greece and Portugal all have alternative currencies in some form, floating around in their economy. More people are turning to these alternative currencies because they are used locally and allow people to trade services for goods or services for services. The currency is calculated in terms of hours, allowing someone who, say, taught piano lessons, to buy a haircut with the hours she accrued teaching the piano lessons.

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This week the World Economic Forum released the 2012-2013 edition of the Global Competitiveness Report. The report measures the business operating environment and competitiveness of over 140 countries worldwide. It also acts as a benchmarking tool for the public and private sectors by identifying the many advantages and obstacles economies face on their way to national growth. As the balance of economic activity shifts away from advanced economies toward emerging markets, many countries are trying to push their economies forward despite the increasingly complex global landscape. This year’s report shows interesting results as some countries were able to accomplish this feat more so than others.

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