The World Really Is Flat

Thomas Friedman’s book, The World Is Flat, was a best- seller a few years ago because it resonated with what many of us in the media/communications business were beginning to sense — in a far-reaching and irreversible way, technology and its communications creations had synced to “flatten” our everyday world.
Through ubiquitous cell phones, smart phones, e-mail and the Internet in general, the 24/7/365 communications revolution was born, and it continues to mature and expand at light-speed pace. In connecting everyone around the globe, the advances made to date are truly astonishing. They are serving to erase the lines between day and night, work and play, cultures and economies and brands.
Still, with how far we’ve advanced from the invention of the rotary-dial telephone, it was only a short year ago — at the beginning of what is now being called the Great Recession — when most countries thought they were islands of economic independence. The feeling among these nations was that they could control and sustain their economies and markets, and this sentiment permeated down to a wide range of  businesses as they aggressively participated in the global marketplace. What a difference a year makes.

The melding we’re experiencing today is a result of rapid and diverse advances in technology, and it’s here to stay. In fact, we now expect and readily accept this as part of our everyday lives. For businesses, whether competing globally or locally, the direct impact on operations is challenging to say the least. The embedded plurality in markets and targets must be addressed in order to compete and to be successful on the world stage. And communications, on a global scale, have never been more important. We’re interconnected and dependent on one another-even putting aside the natural boundaries of oceans and mountains, time zones, disparate cultures and varied languages.
All told, this is an advantageous time for b-to-b agencies that have a global footprint. They are in a position to apply their knowledge, experience and understanding of the markets, cultures and customs in a business context that can translate effectively for clients and their brands. And, it’s not about selling jeans to teenagers or baby-care products and detergents to families.

These agencies help companies connect in meaningful ways with their key stakeholders by aligning overall communications and specific messages with business objectives. Through their global networks, they are uniquely qualified in their ability to leverage their “feet-on-the-ground” presence in the world’s business centers. They have partners “on call” who know how and where to gather intelligence, who understand how business is done in their areas, and who can develop brand strategies appropriate for the respective market.

To bring all of this to life for a company, the development of what I’ll call “soft-tissue” core messages is imperative. Like soft tissue that enables the human body to function seamlessly, companies have to deliver messages that truly support and connect their overall communications platforms, and have these messages resonate with and be relevant in the market.  In delivering effective brand positioning in this manner, the goal is to not waste a penny, a pound or a peso of the process.

This macro and connected approach is how businesses around the world must operate in order to survive the present economic turmoil and perhaps thrive once most of the world’s economies have passed into greater stability. Whether it’s a small independent concern based in Elkhart, Ind., or part of a European multinational, their reach needs to cross all borders to remain competitive by seeking and servicing customers in remote corridors where their brands might not have done business before.
Amped by technology, brand messaging has never been more globally resonant. In terms of connectivity, the world is indeed getting smaller and flatter, but the scale of business has grown geometrically as companies expand their reach, compete for market share and for clients and vendors. Instead of thinly spreading communications budgets far and wide, companies would be prudent to create partnerships that can demonstrate their capabilities with proven experience to operate around the world.
Cultures and economies will continue to meld, and it’s important that brands and communications platforms do the same. As we go forward, media and communications companies are increasingly seeking b-to-b agencies to help them accomplish that. Our job going forward is to help them to develop these new platforms, and help deliver results in meaningful and measurable ways.