Economists and other observers seem to be as split on the Eurozone crisis as is the chasm between the German and Greek economies themselves. Some heartily maintain that this is just a momentary blip and that with judicious application of economic common sense and some strong medicine the whole thing will blow over, while others see in the Eurodebacle the seeds of global financial Armageddon. The jury is still out on whether the blatant fiscal irresponsibility by Greece, Italy, Ireland and the rest of the Euroslackers will break up the world’s largest economic union and send a ripple effect across the nations. This factor of the unknown has created a climate of uncertainty. The question arises, if the worst is to befall Europe, a major international recession-depression as the most extreme analysts fear, how should your marketing plans take this into account?
Treuchtlingen = Thessalonika?
The Euro was based on the concept that the worker in Thessalonika should have an equivalent level of productivity as a counterpart in Treuchtlingen. Whether this was a mass hypnosis or an application of wishful thinking taken to its illogical extremes may be determined by future historians. Anyone who has seen Europe more directly than behind PBS’ Rick Steves has to acknowledge that stating that the southern Mediterraneans have a completely different outlook on life and work than their Teutonic neighbors is not racism, it’s an indisputable fact.
Standard & Poor’s recent downgrade of nine Eurocountries may indicate that things are getting worse rather than better. When even august France and Austria lose their Triple-A ratings and third-largest Euroeconomy Italy gets cut to near junk status, it’s not exactly positive news. The relatively small size of Greece’s economy leads some experts to believe that their default could be “survivable,” but should Italy or Spain tank the rescue would be beyond even mighty Germany’s economic capabilities.
Burger-Flippers with Better Credit than Italy
The current situation is that some Euronations are now forced to pay a higher interest rate for their money than most Americans pay on their car loans. When you have industrialized nations that are less creditworthy than a Kia-driving burger-flipper you know that something is profoundly wrong on the far side of the pond.
Euroskeptics Are Looking like Savants
Critics who have long savaged the European Union as a bureaucrat’s fantasyland have been proven correct, and Euroskeptics that previously formed looney tunes fringe parties in the United Kingdom are now looking like savants. Although the mechanism for joining the Euro was detailed in thousands of pages of legalese, the exit strategy was non-existent. A British CEO is actually offering $400,000 to anyone who can come up with a way that a Eurocountry could split with the common currency without bringing down the entire house of cards.
Uncertainty Worthy of Heisenberg
This uncertainty is categorically bad news for business of any kind. Even if you never sell a single widget outside the good ol’ USA, the implosion of the Euro could affect your business in a severe fashion. The Eurozone would almost immediately lose over 10 percent of its $12 trillion economic output and the shockwave would toss the USA back into deep recession with GDP receding by up to 3 percent and unemployment jumping by 2%, according to the OECD. The stock markets could lose 40%, putting the Dow back in the 7,000 range. With over $2 trillion of American capital held in European banks, runs on those institutions could shutter them. This would have a domino effect to pension funds, share prices and the basic underpinnings of the US economy.
Whether this financial cataclysm will actually come to pass or if it will all just fizzle out is still in the realm of fiscal rhabdomancy, so your guess is as good as that of the latest Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences winner. Caution may be indicated if contemplating a sizeable and costly marketing expansion, however. Your average customer is aware of this situation brewing on the Old Continent, and the continuing chaos is continuing to have a suppressive effect on their overall consumer confidence.