Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Distance No Object If Brands Go Global

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Distance No Object If Brands Go Global

Article excerpt

For some years now, The Guardian's website has attracted more readers in the US than the paper does in the UK.

Last week, Guardian Media Group launched of Guardian America - a website designed to tap what the company sees as a vast unmet need for liberal-framed news and views in the US.

The Guardian is the first newspaper outside the financial press to go international through the web and is making use of one of the fundamental effects of the move to online business - the irrelevance of distance.

From the web's early days, observers predicted that the medium's disdain for geography and borders would open new markets. Any business whose product is essentially information would benefit quickly, they argued, and even businesses with physical products could benefit from the reduction in economic friction that resulted from the ease of informing potential customers of their availability.

But the reality has been slow to catch up with the potential, largely because the web poses significant organisational challenges.

Between disciplines, the web raises the bar for co-operation between operations, marketing, finance and management. Failure to deliver on marketing claims can be widely exposed by consumers; the shift of marketing spend to being a cost of sale can challenge long-established budgeting practices. And the speed of competitive change can strain processes as the business cycle accelerates.

Within the disciplines, it exposes discrepancies and unaligned practice - differential pricing can become visible to consumers, contradictory offers become apparent - and always risks the full glare of public attention.

But it is internationally that some of the toughest obstacles lie Historic power bases guard their autonomy jealously, and tension between local and central management is common. The internet allows firms to ride roughshod over conventions - trading across borders, exploiting local opportunities and weaknesses and ignoring the established processes.

In 1999, when web advertising was still in its infancy - just a pounds 50m market in the UK - the demand for financial services advertising had rocketed, and as Christmas approached, rates had become uneconomic as less sophisticated buyers piled in regardless of the cost. …

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