Barriers and surprises: How (should) we overcome them?

A tiny Belgium region threatens to scuttle a major trade deal between Canada and the European Union. Sometimes seemingly little things have great marketing power and relevance

A tiny region within Belgium probably will scuttle an extensive, carefully crafted free trade agreement between Canada and Europe. The arguments against free trade should be quite apparent to anyone who has observed Brexit or Donald Trump (and Bernie Sanders) campaigns in the US, but it is still impressive that a tiny socialist area of a small European nation can thwart an extensive, carefully negotiated agreement — and, to add to the challenge, the Walloons who oppose the deal don’t really think the deal with Canada is all that bad; it just sets a precedent and the stage for what they fear are much worse arrangements with other nations (like the US).

We can agree or disagree with the interpretations here, including the odd alliance between left and the mid-to-far right on these issues (where international/multinational banking and business conspiracies clutter the mind-set and perceptions.) The question, from a marketing perspective is: What do you do when something happens out of left (or right) field to throw a monkey-wrench into your best-laid plans?

There appear to be three responses (sometimes in concert):

Fight back: Bloody the opponent, make things miserable, and apply economic and if necessary physical force;

Negotiate: Seek common ground, give-and-take, maybe some symbolic gesture that will make everyone happy and save face (EU leaders are trying that as I write this note with the Walloons.)

Walk away: The Canadian trade representative caught a plane home when she felt the case was hopeless; sometimes the cause is hopeless and the damage from further fighting will be greater than any effort to keep the deal alive.

I expect in most marketing situations, if you have a problematic circumstance, the negotiate/walk-away answer will prove most effective. But there can be effective fight-backs. Your position obviously is strongest if you have all three capacities and can apply them as you think best.

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