Global Marketing for the Digital Age

David R. Fortin (Department of Management, University of Canterbury, New Zealand)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 July 2000




Fortin, D.R. (2000), "Global Marketing for the Digital Age", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 358-372.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book is actually an American sequel to Strategic Marketing for the Digital Age, originally published in Canada in 1996. Not surprisingly, it is a “new and improved” version, especially with respect to online references of various governmental agencies worldwide. This kind of compilation is certainly a great timesaving resource for anyone wishing to expand a business into a global arena. Before I even started reading the book, I expected another “do this, do that – go through the checklist” kind of book which to my positive surprise didn’t turn out that way. Without trying to slap a label on the text, I would venture to say that it attempts to guide the reader through strategic steps that one should carefully consider before going “Global”. The wrinkle in this case is the digital way of doing it. The author makes an interesting distinction:

When I refer to digital marketing, I’m not talking about Internet marketing or Web marketing. I believe marketers who focus solely on the Internet are missing a much bigger picture…That’s why it is important for you to look at all of the digital marketing tools (p. 17).

The view that “digital marketing isn’t about bits and bytes, bandwidth or JAVA applets” (p. 17) is actually quite refreshing. The whole idea is to promote better relationships and better communication, not a new way to avoid contact with people. Bishop introduces some classic examples of what he coins Technopia, a digitally induced malady where consumers get trapped into technological non‐sequiturs.

The book is packed with thought‐provoking ideas and uses entertaining examples to get the point across. Definitely, this is isn’t for the “mom and pop” shop around the corner and assumes the reader already has some background business thinking under the hood. Using the strategic process recommended, it shows basically how to develop a global marketing program that uses digital technology to its fullest potential. Bishop convinces us of the value of his prescriptions by providing cases about firms that have “made it” by using the book such as “T‐Rex Bread sticks”, the “EMU Medicine Man”, and the “Digital Art Dealer”. In the “New Digital World Order” (p. 115), we find out interesting tidbits about specific countries. For instance, Saudi Arabia has only one Internet service provider, which allows the government to filter out sites not conforming to that country’s values. Conversely, in Sweden, every man, woman and child has an e‐mail address and if you do not have an Internet account, the post office will print out your messages and deliver them directly to you by hand.

Although the reading is lively and easy to understand, the book’s structure perhaps falls slightly into the “how to” trap with sub‐titles such as “the eight global marketing imperatives”, “the ten global marketing structures”, and “the four levels of global promotions”. Notwithstanding that, it does provide some conceptual integration with other views of the digital world such as that of MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte in his book Being Digital.

If the page count can seem frightening at first, remember that half of the 270 pages are actually dedicated to the Global Marketing Digital Index where 50 countries are examined and classified according to their score on the author’s original criteria. The index provides an overview of the digital marketing environment in 50 major trading countries. It considers ten dimensions such as economic power, growth, stability, trading level, the political environment, freedom of expression, a bureaucratic index, the telecommunications infrastructure, digital capabilities, and online resources. The weights assigned to each of these criteria are not specified, so the final country scores are the result of an unknown magic formula. The final rankings reveals some interesting and surprising conclusions. One would expect to find the USA on top of the list but it actually comes in the number six spot behind The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Canada, and Finland. Regardless of the ranking, the book is useful in providing a two‐page summary for each country where all the data for the ten indicators is available, followed by a commentary and some recommendations.

All in all, Bishop’s work here is of use to anyone wishing to expand a business in the global marketplace. It is not a recipe book but it is a great practitioner‐oriented resource to begin such an endeavor. As with all reference books, it will suffer from obsolete information over time. But fear not!In a digital world, physical books can be linked to virtual resources and yes, you’ve guessed it, the Global Marketing Digital Index will be updated on a regular basis and available on the book’s website at:

Because this book is all about digital communication, I decided to put the book’s prescriptions to the test. So I went to the site and looked up what other readers had to say. I found one reader comment about the book and part of it is reproduced here:

The text is at a very high level. It provides a framework for thinking about marketing globally. However, aside from the country rankings, I found the actual content to be somewhat superficial. I still have not seen an overwhelmingly impressive book on the subject. Most texts just help you get your foot on the first rung of a ladder but you still have to climb the rest of the way yourself.

In sum, Bishop was able to package some useful and, at times, dry information into a refreshing format, drawing inspiration from the original global traders that were Marco Polo, Columbus, Jacques Cartier, and Magellan. With that objective in mind, he brings an intelligent direction and focus to business owners, corporate executives, and marketing professionals in their quest for global expansion.

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