2017 has already been declared the year of "hyper-local" marketing. Jim Yu of SearchEngineLand reports a two-fold increase in customers searching Google for options "near me." For distributed brands with an effective multi-channel marketing strategy, the time is right to capture the attention of prospective customers looking for local businesses.
Compared to centralized brands, multi-location brands are the ones facing real challenges navigating the hyper-local landscape of 2017. Today's brand managers must create and enable both local and national marketing for a wide variety of customer segments, often at hundreds or thousands of locations worldwide. How do they coordinate marketing at this scale and still make every hyper-local experience feel authentic?
The trends and predictions below may not be a perfectly accurate glimpse of the future, but they detail how many distributed organizations are thinking about strategy, campaigns, technology, and other local marketing concepts in 2017 and beyond.
2017 Local Marketing Trends & Predictions
1. More Multi-Channel Marketing
For distributed brands, tools that help make multi-channel customer experiences possible are going to soar in popularity. One recent study revealed that while 95% of marketers say they know multi-channel advertising is important, just 14% are doing it. Replicating and scaling the same messaging and campaign concepts across multiple digital and print channels is complex, and the technical requirements can be especially overwhelming for local marketers.
In 2017, distributed brands have been adopting technologies that support multi-channel marketing execution. Using local marketing automation tools, these brands are developing ways to scale the same content across different formats. Distributed graphic designers are called upon to rework assets in a number of ways for increased efficiency. These reuse actions could include converting a print ad into a digital banner ad; significantly updating a 2016 offer for 2017, and creating single assets that scale across print, social media, and other digital outlets.
Distributed brand teams are starting to experiment with emerging modes of marketing; including new forms of content production such as geo-targeted offers that blend social media and mobile marketing with user-generated content. However, getting local marketers on board with these "experimental" formats is a challenge.
At the local level, affiliates are still prioritizing the methods of advertising that they're most familiar with. They know that coupons, direct mail, and in-store promotions drive business, and have been hesitant to branch out to new media types they don't know as much about.
Brand management teams need to furnish campaigns that include assets local marketers want, like direct mail or seasonal menus. But this is also a great opportunity to provide fresh formats which can make it easier for locals to try new forms of advertising.
Some distributed brands are building multi-channel marketing into their processes with technology. For many, this involves local marketing tools that allow local affiliates to easily edit templates for digital and print formats. Using templates, brand managers make it easier than ever for locals to adopt new forms of marketing (and personalize them) in addition to their tried-and-true favorites.
Prediction: In the months to come, many brands will try new ways to build efficient, multi-channel local marketing execution into their processes and technologies. By providing local affiliates with templates and tools that can be used across both digital and print formats, brands could allow their local marketers to get more multi-channel coverage with a single asset. In a world where brands are using many different channels for marketing, uncovering ways to reuse assets and achieve efficiency could be a massive area of focus.
2. The Balance Shifts Toward Local
Distributed marketing is more authentic if your affiliates are able to customize their digital, print, and other brand assets with a strong infusion of local culture. Customers want to purchase from brands they feel they know and trust. "Authenticity" is considered a key concept in marketing to millennial consumers in particular. By giving local marketers the position to add genuinely local flair, distributed organizations can ensure their local marketing execution feels trustworthy and authentic.
Shifting the balance in creative control more to the local level requires consistent, high-quality communication between brand managers and local marketing affiliates. Brand managers may be working with locals to influence the direction of campaigns, and provide them with flexibility in how campaigns can be customized in the field.
To put this idea into practice successfully, local marketers must receive guidance on exactly how much freedom they have for customization to avoid asset execution that lacks required disclosures or diminishes your brand's image. Some organizations are accomplishing this with templating tools that scale across multiple channels, allowing them to provide "locked" and "unlocked" content fields to balance creativity and compliance.
Prediction: Regardless of the precise balance between local-level and brand-level marketing control, brand managers are likely to spend the rest of 2017 exploring how to shift the balance more to local marketers and enhance the authenticity of local marketing. The success of Starbucks' city mugs campaign reveals that consumers today may equate localization with authenticity, even if they're buying from a brand that is a global household name.
3. Prioritizing and Spotlighting Customer Experiences
Digital technologies have made it possible for marketing to be done from anywhere in the world. However, your brand management team doesn't know customers as well as your franchisees and other local representatives do. This personal knowledge is what sets local businesses apart from centralized, corporate chains - and brand managers are wise to respect their local affiliates' first-hand knowledge of their customers.
Customer experience is becoming a more and more integral part of business strategy. Some local affiliates deliver an exceptional in-store experience. Satisfied local customers are a massive source of value for your entire organization; they are more likely to return, tell their friends and family about your brand, and buy more frequently. From a brand manager’s perspective, supporting local affiliates is key - the more you can keep your local franchisees or representatives happy and productive, the better they’ll represent your brand to the local customer.
Prediction: Distributed brand managers will likely explore new ways to spotlight happy local customers in the years to come, and help their locally-owned affiliate businesses differentiate themselves from the competition. While it remains to be seen exactly how this trend will play out, brand managers may look for ways to increase collaboration with local affiliates. It's likely that brands will work more to spotlight the local stories of franchisees or dealers and integrate affiliate-generated content throughout their marketing campaigns.
4. Technology Take-Over
Technology has become an increasingly important part of enterprise marketing budgets. Recent Gartner studies reveal the average CMO is spending 37% of their total department budget on their technology stack, including infrastructure, tech management, analytics, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. When broken down, this total spend on marketing technology often accounts for more than 3% of a company's total annual revenue!
For distributed enterprises, there's a particular need for highly-specialized technologies, including SaaS-based applications to provide global access to marketing assets. Local marketing automation and digital asset management (DAM) systems are two kinds of platforms these decentralized organizations are using to efficiently store, access, and reuse marketing collateral.
Technology is also providing distributed organizations with the ability to measure results at the local, regional and national level. While traditional marketing tactics aren’t going anywhere, technology continues to grow in importance as the groundwork for local marketing enablement.
Recently, Gartner made waves by announcing MRM 2.0; a new way of thinking about marketing resource management technology. Their change in definitions doesn't diminish the importance of comprehensive marketing technology, but it reflects the fact many enterprises are choosing to use a variety of lightweight SaaS apps instead of a single enterprise solution.
Prediction: We predict that in the months to come, distributed brands will increasingly refine and improve their technology stacks with an ecosystem of SaaS tools. With a wide variety of highly-specialized vendors in the market, there's no longer any need for decentralized organizations to make a poorly-fitting tool work. For many brand managers, this move towards MRM 2.0 could include several different SaaS apps for local marketing automation, project management, budgeting, and other functions.
Aligning Local Success with National Brand Management
While distributed brand managers face particular challenges in managing their complex organizational structures, they may have a leg up over their centralized competition when it comes to localization. Instead of having to manufacture the appearance of being locally-owned or operated businesses, they can draw from the first-hand knowledge of their local affiliates to infuse their local execution with authentic local flair.
As distributed brand managers consider the 2017 distributed marketing trends towards multi-channel marketing and increased influence from local affiliates, they're wise to consider how their brand's processes, culture, and technology support effective local marketing execution. By emphasizing two-way communications flow and adopting the right technologies for automating complex processes, distributed brand managers can allow their local marketing to shine - without sacrificing compliance or efficiency.
Interested in how brands like Marriott, The Melting Pot, and Polaris approach local marketing? Learn their secrets in our free eBook Distributed Marketing on Steroids: The Brand Manager’s Guide to Designing and Managing Local Marketing Assets Without Breaking a Sweat