As far as isms go, if you listen to some recent media coverage goes, the trend in the U.S. seems to be toward isolationism, even though the rest of the world appears to be going, well, in a worldwide direction. You know, globalism.
I'm not sure how the word "globalism" became such a negative one, but I suspect political rhetoric has something to do with it. And sure, as an American, I definitely want my country to come first -- just like as a member of my household, I want my family to come first -- but the world has become much smaller and more intertwined than the frontier orientation of isolationist rhetoric, which isn't good for the sake of anyone who lives on this planet, especially marketers.
When I first began covering global marketing in the 1980s, the mantra was "think global, but act local," which seemed to make sense back then, because marketing budgets weren't infinite and the planet seemed so large that you couldn't really get much bang for your advertising buck if you spread it thinly around the planet.
But digital marketing -- and platforms -- have shrunk the principles of global marketing too. Some of the first evidence of this was uncovered by former GroupM business intelligence chief Brian Wieser, though it continues to be tracked by his successor Kate Scott-Dawkins. It was data reported by the major digital media platforms showing that Chinese marketers were spending billions of dollars in the U.S. to reach American consumers.
Scott-Dawkins recently confirmed with me that number still is about $10 billion annually -- although it slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic, due mainly to supply-chain and manufacturing disruptions. She predicts, however, that kind of marketing spending will once again begin to accelerate as China, and much of the rest of the planet begin to normalize once again this year.
Some new data released late last week by global shipping service DHL and New York University's Stern School of Business seems to support that.
The data -- part of the DHL Global Connectedness Index tracking -- shows that following a slight decline in 2020, the index rose above pre-pandemic levels in 2021 and the most recent data for 2022 shows it continued to rise, albeit at a slower rate.
"The currently available data points to a further increase in 2022, despite slower growth in some flows," the study found, noting, "International trade in goods was 10% above pre-pandemic levels in mid-2022. International travel remained 37% below 2019 levels in 2022, but doubled compared to 2021."
"[The] data clearly debunks the perception of globalization going into reverse gear," DHL CEO John Pearson asserted, adding: "Globalization is not just a buzzword, it's a powerful force that has transformed our world for the better. By breaking down barriers, opening up markets and creating opportunities, it has enabled individuals, businesses and entire nations to flourish and thrive like never before. As we continue to embrace globalization, we can build a brighter future that benefits us all, creating a world that is more interconnected, more prosperous and more peaceful than ever before."
While global geopolitical tensions remain high in some regions (do I have to tell you which?), but the DHL connectedness study finds there is no evidence of a trend toward regionalization.
"It remains an open question whether trade patterns will become significantly more regionalized in the future," says Steven Altman, Senior Research Scholar and Director of the DHL Initiative on Globalization at NYU Stern's Center for the Future of Management. "Many companies and governments are focused on near-shoring to regionalize supply chains, and there are substantial business benefits that can come from regionalization. On the other hand, more than half of all trade already happens within regions, and the benefits of long-distance trade are still important, especially as inflation remains high, economic growth has slowed, and container shipping rates have come back down."
Which are the most globally connected nations worldwide? The Netherlands is No. 1, followed by Singapore, Belgium, Switzerland, and Ireland.
And while the report does point to some "decoupling" between the U.S. and China commerce-wise, I think the truth is we are both two interdependently reliant on each other for that to remain a long-term proposition.