So often, it can be painfully difficult to see eye-to-eye with your local marketing partners. The only thing they seem to care about is how fast they can get their marketing materials delivered and how big their logo or local phone number will be. Hardly seems like the right way to run a world-class brand, but the less you cater to their every little request you can bet the louder and more unhappy they’re going to get.
When it comes right down to it, it feels like the old relationship adage is still the best way to put it.
Designers are from Venus. Franchisees and dealers are from Mars.
So how can in-house agencies get beyond these worlds-apart differences and help their local affiliates be really successful?
It all starts with a simple idea.
The Planets Align Around Customer Experience
Conventional thinking says that brand management teams and local marketers have very different priorities—the former interested in brand integrity, the latter focused first on sales. This is undoubtedly one of the first reasons that most people give for why the two groups have so much trouble getting on the same page. Designers are focused on producing Cannes-quality work that customers will notice and even enjoy. Local affiliates care much less about how nice the creative is about how many sales it will help them make.
No wonder they’re not collaborating in perfect harmony – they’re trying to do totally different things!
Actually, it’s far more productive to see the two players in this mini-drama being focused on a single, common objective instead of these polar opposites. What branding pros and local affiliates have in common is really far more significant than what appears to set them apart.
No matter how different the two approaches seem to be, the key insight is that they’re both focused on creating an authentic brand experience at every customer touchpoint, most especially at the point of sale.
Designers and creative teams may be spending their time ensuring that the brand logo is the perfect shade of PMS 201 on every flyer and counter card (kudos if you know the brand I’m talking about). But by trying to achieve that high level of brand consistency they’re really focused on creating a pleasant and immersive experience of the brand for their customers.
On the other side, local franchisees and dealers might be worrying that the URL included in the latest campaign isn’t live on the corporate website or that the landing page doesn’t show the inventory they have in-store. But what they’re really stressing over is whether their customers will be able to complete their purchases easily, or get fed up and abandon the process.
The customer experience is at the heart of both of these examples. Local marketers and in-house agencies are just coming at it from two different starting points. If you understand this, dealing with local affiliates is no longer doomed to end in frustration. Together, you’re trying to create the best customer experience possible.
Five Steps to Better Agency-Affiliate Collaboration
Once you’re able to see that your local affiliates really are working towards the same objective, that by itself can feel like a big breakthrough. But you’re not done yet – they’re probably still nagging you about all those minor things that used to feel totally counterproductive. The good news is, you can use this same insight to stop the flood and even anticipate what local affiliates are going to ask before they even think to.
There are five steps you can take to really see eye-to-eye with each and every local affiliate you work with.
1. Design Specifically for Local Executions
Usually, the local execution of a branding effort is an afterthought—bolted on, if you will, to what the brand’s already planning to do. Don’t let yourself be limited to this one-dimensional approach to local promotions.
By beginning the design process with the brand-to-local execution in mind, you can increase the likelihood of adoption, in addition to creating a more holistic bond between the brand and its local selling outlet.
2. Embrace Co-Branding, Don’t Ignore It
The brand identity of the local affiliate—whether franchisee, reseller, or retailer—should be an integral part of the brand execution. If local dealers have their own logo and taglines, don’t just assume they’ll be happy to replace them with your own brand colors. You can build elements into your design that will help affiliates accomplish this type of co-branding – you’ll even get their assets to look better when they’re used in your framework.
3. Balance Brand and Local Messages
Price, place and promotion may be primarily things your affiliates are worried about in each execution. But these practical features are not antithetical to the brand message—they are an integral part of that message. If possible, consider giving the local marketer equal play with the brand, remembering that it's at the local outlet that the brand may be experienced most completely.
4. Encourage Partner-Generated Content
Your boss (and your boss’s boss) has been talking about user-generated content as the next big wave you absolutely have to pay attention to. Why let the content creation stop with your end-customers? Get your local affiliates to produce their own content and you could have a next-level campaign.
Allow for brand messaging to be amplified by local content—without, of course, allowing the brand to be overwhelmed by the local. Provide flexibility for local marketers to take credit for their place in the local community, their relationship with local organizations, etc.
5. Accept Feedback and Celebrate Success
Open the door for local thinking and suggestions to influence the way you design future assets. Creativity and engagement are a two-way street. Look for ways to fold local thinking into brand executions, and offer generous recognition for the ways in which local marketers win mind share at the local level for your brand. At the very least, you’ll win some fans in your affiliate network.
Easy In-House Agency and Local Marketer Collaboration With a Brand-to-Local Portal
CampaignDrive by Pica9 is a brand-to-local marketing portal that helps world-class brands empower their local affiliates in activating their brand at the local level.