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Local Marketing Still Gets Top-Down Management

Brands bring corporate management to local strategy

Driving customers into store locations is an essential step in the path to purchase, and local advertising is one of the best ways to reach consumers “on the ground.” A February 2013 report by the CMO Council and Balihoo found that local marketing is increasingly happening at the digital level, with the greatest percentage of respondents (27%) reporting that increasing digital investment was the biggest change in their local marketing strategy in the past year. But the study also found that brands are at very different stages in terms of their integration and execution of local marketing.

Just over one-third of those surveyed thought their local capabilities were growing, while 15% of marketers reported struggling or underperforming in their local efforts. Only 7% considered themselves highly evolved in their local outreach.

As brands make a greater push into local marketing, one of the major difficulties they face is executing at the regional level while keeping a corporate focus and quality control on local efforts.

Half of US brand marketers surveyed managed local sales and engagement efforts at the corporate level. In addition, one-third reported a combination of corporate-level monitoring of local efforts, along with franchise and outside network management. To develop local marketing strategy, three out of five marketers said that the CMO or corporate marketing team set local priorities.

Communicating the message of the brand at all levels remains a top priority: 81% cited uniformity of the brands’ values and promises as a goal for the year, and 64% wanted to eliminate customer confusion that conflicting execution caused. This suggests that brand consistency will continue to be more important than incorporating local-level insights and ideas into marketing efforts.

Websites remain the primary means brand marketers have to engage customers locally, with 86% citing the corporate site as part of their local engagement strategy. About half of those surveyed also used corporate social media outreach to engage consumers at the local level. By contrast, only one-third of brand marketers reported maintaining a local website, and even fewer, 27%, operated local social pages.

In addition, mobile advertising has still not received a great deal of interest as a local marketing tactic, despite its ability to reach consumers based on where they are and what they are doing. Only 31% of brand marketers reported using it.

While many brands struggle to immediately translate corporate campaigns into local executions, the majority of marketers reported an ability to localize the corporate message within 20 days. One-quarter of respondents were able to do so in a week or less. This may be the most important element in a brand’s local execution. Of those who translated their local campaign rollout simultaneous with the national campaign—a slight 3%—nine out of 10 said it had made a competitive difference for the brand.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Brands Flex Their Filters on Instagram” and “The Economist Creates Experiences Across Multiple Platforms.”

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