Marketing Guru on... marketing jobs overseas

Marketing Guru: WIll Harris
Marketing Guru: WIll Harris

As the mood of austerity continues to limit marketing budgets in mature markets, Will Harris says marketers should educate themselves on new regions and the opportunities they present.

Q: I have been offered a promotion to marketing director that involves moving with my family to Indonesia. Will I regret such a move?

A: As marketers, we are used to doing more with less. Unless you run marketing for a hedge fund or work for the European Commission, the chances are that someone has asked if you could possibly manage with a couple fewer staff, and, sorry, but the marketing budget has slipped a couple of million.

Most of us would have to think back a few years (or a few jobs) to remember a time when the money was flowing in rather than out, and the interviews were for joiners rather than leavers.

Imagine, then, what life would be like in a country where the economy was expanding by about 7% a year, and the rate of consumption of basic household goods, not to mention luxury items, was growing, and growing aggressively.

Indonesia, a country you only ever read about in The Economist, doesn't get the attention it deserves. Yet it's the fourth-most-populous country in the world, with high literacy rates, a common language and a GDP its central bank expects to grow by 6.3% this year.

Its 260m-strong population may not have the world's greatest road system, but it has a mobile network that's fast, empty and, consequently, astoundingly cheap. On this, the people trade, transact, flirt, download, post and tweet like no other nation on earth. The country is one huge, super-connected hub - a marketer's dream, where good news travels even faster than bad.

Marketing budgets in Indonesia tend go up rather than down, as do headcount numbers. The tolerance of experimentation and risk in marketing is higher there than here; the cost of doing business there is lower, and if one thing hasn't worked, you simply try another, with all the speed and enterprise for which Asia is famous. It's what most of us went into marketing to do: make a difference to how people behave.

My point is not to encourage everyone to move to Jakarta, although there are worse ideas. It's this: one day, when Europe is out of its present mess, and we are back marketing in growing economies, let's agree that we will market how we used to: with verve, passion and a certain cavalier insouciance.

Until then, take that trip to Asia.

Will Harris has just returned from two years in Singapore, where he ran Nokia's Asian marketing unit. He is a former marketing director for Nokia in the UK, and was the first marketing director of the Conservative Party and launch marketing director of the O2 brand.


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