These four books fall into two categories. The first is that of the traditional international marketing text, while the second adopts a decision-based approach to marketing in a global environment.
Sak Onkvisit and John Shaw's book falls firmly into the first category and is destined for marketing specialists at undergraduate and postgraduate level. The authors say this fourth edition incorporates recent research, updated cases and examples.
Disappointingly, the revisions do little to revitalise the text, which presents a formulaic and outmoded view of international marketing. The book opens with detailed chapters on trade theories and economic development before moving on to an overview based on the marketing mix, returning to foreign direct investment and currency exchange, reflecting a strong economics orientation. The authors' claim to offer the latest theory is invalidated in a number of areas - services, for example, merit just five pages, although McDonald's has 15 entries in the index. Ethics is mentioned only very briefly, and the internet is given less than a page. Perhaps I should rest my case at this point, but the final straw is the unremitting concentration on marketing to countries, which overlooks cultural issues or segments that transcend national frontiers. All in all, an edition too far.
The second book in the international marketing category is by Isobel Doole and Robin Lowe. For this fourth edition, the authors have written a new chapter on technology and updated or included new case studies. This book is thoughtfully pitched at the student studying in a 12-week semester, with accessible text, good use of colour and clear diagrams with website support. Each section of the book concludes with a learning activity, all of which indicates experience of teaching undergraduates in the modern university environment.
The chapter on global strategies - a subject that has the potential to be challenging for undergraduates - is lucid, with a section on globalisation of customer segments that reminds the reader that customers across the globe can share characteristics, which is far from the message broadcast by Onkvisit and Shaw. The case study for this chapter is once again McDonald's, but at least the task here is for students to develop strategies that address the company's difficulties.
It is good to see a chapter on small and medium enterprise strategy and niche marketing. When dealing with the immense topic of international marketing, the problem is to balance the complexity of the subject with clarity. The strength of this book is "what you see is what you get" - it is straightforward, up-to-date and has some good new material. No wonder it is a bestseller.
The other two books differ by focusing on decision-making in global markets, although there is some overlapping of material with a more conventional approach to international marketing such as the marketing environment, product and communication decisions.
In Strategic Marketing , Doole and Lowe once again demonstrate their knowledge of contemporary marketing in informative chapters on organisational learning, value creation, ethics and social responsibility. Most valuably, there is a chapter on financial appraisal, a topic that needs to be seen in more marketing texts.
But despite the interesting choice of subjects, where does the book fit in the market? The authors say it is aimed at marketing students and practitioners, but it looks and reads like a textbook, being similar in layout and style to International Marketing Strategy . This is a shame as there is much in here to interest and enthuse.
The final book, by Svend Hollensen, is a little less captivating than his previous book on marketing management. Although it positions itself as a decision-oriented text, the book's content is more conventional than its title suggests. In this third edition, there are new topics such as small and medium enterprises and services internationalisation, international marketing research and global internet strategies, which are all supported by a website. There is a breadth and depth of case-study material with a good representation of European companies. The target markets are students, non-university students and managers, but the book operates at a different intellectual level from the Doole or Lowe texts, so it might be more suited for advanced students.
Decision-oriented books develop the subject in interesting directions, but the student first needs to pick up the basics from a more orthodox text.
This is a dilemma that at least three of these books seek to address.
Jillian Dawes Farquhar is reader in marketing, Oxford Brookes University.
International Marketing: Analysis and Strategy. Fourth edition
Author - Sak Onkvisit and John Shaw
Publisher - Routledge
Pages - 594
Price - £85.00 and £.99
ISBN - 0 415 31132 2 and 31133 0