Europe direct – the challenges of union

Andy Wood

Political, geographical and cultural differences between countries mean that pan-European segmentation, and the consequently tempting idea of pan-European campaigns, is by no means simple. Experience shows that these differences can greatly affect everything from purchasing frequency to the order in which products are typically purchased. But this is not to say that a level of pan-European consistency (and therefore economies of scale) cannot be achieved. This is particularly important for organisations that are finding their main growth area to be European expansion. This paper describes the cross-border segmentation challenges and the extent to which they can be overcome.

OVERVIEW

The recent agreement between EU member states over the nature and adoption process for a new European constitution is a precise metaphor for the challenge facing marketers who want to operate on a pan-European basis. 'United in diversity' is the way one commentator rather politely put it. The Polish had their voting rights amended, yet Britain also got the concession of veto on all the elements it found awkward in the treaty. Similarly, marketers (and direct marketers in particular) wishing to address Europe as a homogenous whole must rapidly realise that we remain a collection of very different cultures and societies, with differing tastes, priorities, mores and – most importantly – legislatures.