Russell Zwanka, SUNY New Paltz – Global Companies and Social Media

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Russell Zwanka, professor of marketing at SUNY New Paltz, discusses how social media can cause problems when one practice is accepted in one place, but not in another.

Dr. Russell J. Zwanka is a lecturer at SUNY New Paltz teaching courses in Category Management, Food Retail Management, Marketing Principles, Sales Management, and Marketing Strategy. Zwanka is currently CEO at Triple Eight Marketing, and previously taught in the Schools of Marketing and Management at Siena College in Albany, New York.  Before entering the academic world, he led the merchandising, marketing, advertising, procurement, and all customer engagement areas for multiple organizations in the United States and Canada.

Zwanka holds a Doctorate in International Business from the International School of Management in Paris, France. He also holds a MS in Management from Southern Wesleyan University, and a BS in Psychology from the University of South Carolina. Zwanka, the author of eight books, has spoken at various events, including the Carnegie Mellon Social Media Conference, the University of Manitoba Marketing Conference, the Argyle Executive Forum, and the Consumer Goods Forum.  Additionally, he has served on the IGA Retailer Advisory Board, the HVEDC Food and Beverage Alliance, the Consumer Goods Forum Marketing Committee, the HVCC Marketing Advisory Committee, the Topco Operations Board, and the Nielsen Retailer Advisory Committee.

Global Companies and Social Media


I think I’ll have the chicken!  Imagine you travel to the deepest depths of Asia and it’s dinner time. You stop by your local Tesco Lotus in Thailand to pick up dinner. There it is—horse meat!  A staple in Thailand, but a bit repulsive back in Tesco’s home operating country of England.  You pull out your phone, post a selfie of yourself and the horse meat on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #Tescohorsefordinner—and there it is!  A few seconds later, the London Daily posts your picture on its Twitter page and the image beams to millions.

Could it happen?  Of course!  A local norm acceptable for hundreds of years becomes a scandal back in Tesco’s backyard.  Throughout the rise of globalism, companies operating in more than one country have a common issue: How can we ensure our employees are making the ethical and socially-acceptable business decisions throughout our entire global spanse?  Have we just encountered an ethical dilemma accelerated solely by the speed of social media?

Thomas Donaldson and Thomas Dunfee proposed an integrated approach to ethical decision making called the Integrative Social Contracts Theory (ISCT).  In this theory, the idea of cultural or moral relativism was considered- or “how might each situation be handled differently depending upon the operating geography?”.  In essence, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy and Code of Ethics could still be open for interpretation based upon local cultural impacts. 

The rise of social media could have a serious impact on the process of using cultural relativism (or microsocial norms) in business decision-making.  A global company like Tesco may want to consider the potential impact of social media on its local decision making for the future.  In other words, the Tesco Lotus merchandising team may want to repeat the mantra—“I think I’ll have the chicken!”