Major franchises including Dunkin' Donuts, 7-Eleven and Supercuts still reign as some of the world's fastest-growing franchises. How did they get there? All of them have made major investments in boosting their brand equity.
Of course, the products and services these brands offer are top-notch. But as marketers at these brands know, brand equity is much more than what's on the shelf. Brands today have to maintain brand standards in all areas, creating effective marketing campaigns and make sure every detail of the customer experience is exactly as planned.
Meanwhile, the local affiliates of these brands are tasked with delivering all of that branding goodness wrapped up in a localized customer experience. Unfortunately, all too often, companies aren't providing their local partners with the marketing tools and resources needed to deliver exceptional local marketing results. And that's why so many brands are still facing the scourge of every brand marketer: the one-off marketing request.
In recent estimates, half of corporate marketers indicate they get requests for custom marketing materials from the field at least weekly, while up to 26 percent of brands receive these requests as often as daily. That's hundreds or thousands of one-off pieces on an annual basis.
While this might not seem like a big deal on the face of it, when designers have to deal with all these one-offs it means they're not focused on the rest of their work. In time, as designers get more dissatisfied with the whole process and local marketers start to look for more and more customized pieces, this leads to huge inefficiencies and even lost revenue. When you add it all up, those innocent-looking requests end up costing brands millions.
The Surprising Cost of Local Marketing One-Offs
One-off requests like the ones we've described above carry a huge opportunity cost. Every custom request from local marketers delays the design team's ability to focus on more urgent initiatives, such as developing engaging marketing campaigns, and strategizing ways to attract new customer segments. Each time a new request comes in, the corporate design team's progress is interrupted. If you're finding that your brand is still dealing with lots of these inquiries, here's what one-off requests are probably costing you:
Loss of Productivity and Efficiency for Designers
When distributed brands don’t have a documented process for creating localized assets or don't have the latest tools to create marketing collateral, local affiliates will start asking for things. These requests take up a considerable amount of time and the design team takes the brunt of that. Creating unique materials for each local affiliate can also fail to support the brand’s mission to have a cohesive brand experience at every location. Most importantly, the amount of time put into one-offs puts unnecessary pressure on the brand's corporate design team.
Before you know it, corporate design teams have missed a key deadline on last quarter's new ad campaign because of the daily one-off requests that they're getting from local marketers. The influx of custom design projects also leads to across-the-board delays in getting local advertising out. To truly be successful, corporate design teams have to be focused on work that contributes to the bigger picture or they risk falling behind their objectives.
Want to measure how much this is actually costing your brand? Keep track of the number of inquiries the team gets in an average week (hint: it's usually connected to how many locations you have). Then ask your most senior designer how much time it usually takes to finish one of those jobs. Multiply those together and you could end up close to the $500,000 per year in design time that some brands end up losing.
Customer Experience Inconsistencies
Inconsistencies are bound to show up when one local marketer gets to use a unique asset that was customized just for them and the next one doesn't. When brand teams keep sending out these special one-off requests, they run the risk that the local customer experience in each of those stores will end up quite different. While the impact isn't always immediately visible, an inconsistent customer experience will show up down the line in missed revenue, decreased brand awareness and lower brand preference scores.
What's even worse than all that? Oftentimes local affiliates don't get the one-off asset in time to meet their deadline (or they don't get the one they wanted) and they make their own versions from scratch. These unauthorized versions, while well-intentioned, usually turn out to be pretty rough- blurry, pixelated images, logos that don't follow brand guidelines or crazy fonts and colors can all show up. That's where it can really spiral out of control. When local affiliates take it upon themselves to create this kind of DIY marketing collateral, there's no control over how the customer experience will look at the end of it.
At the end of the day, it’s a simple formula. When a company has inconsistent customer experiences because of inconsistent branding, customers get a negative signal from the brand and end up feeling less loyalty to it. When local affiliates create their own one-offs, customer preference for that brand hangs in the balance.
Without the right process in place, your local affiliates might ask for a piece of marketing collateral that doesn't follow established legal guidelines your company has to follow. Oftentimes, the local affiliate has no idea what legal implications their special offers, promotions and branded materials could carry. When marketing materials don't follow legal regulations, companies risk immediate consequences from the authorities. On top of that, brands that aren't seen as being totally on the strait-and-narrow risk losing the connection they've built up with their loyal customers.
A specialized software such as Local Marketing Automation can help track and manage logo and asset compliance across all of your locations. By adopting an LMA solution, companies can guarantee the quality of marketing and branding efforts, and avoid falling on the wrong side of the law. Templating, reporting tools and long-term file storage all enhance the ability for brands to continue legal compliance even as they grow their network of locations.
Even if your brand has never seen a fine for violating FCC rules, even just keeping the local marketing process running on safe legal grounds can be a huge cost in itself. Every time a new one-off request comes in, somebody on the legal team will have to make sure all the disclosures are correct. Then if your franchisees start sending in photos they want to use, get ready to deal with all the intellectual property headaches that you hire the lawyers to deal with in the first place. Lawyers bill by the hour and your local marketing requests can chew through those hours pretty quickly.
Local Affiliate Dissatisfaction
If nothing else, it's important for brands to have a positive relationship with their local partners. These local marketers may feel constricted or like the brand isn't hearing them if their ideas for new marketing programs aren't being used. When local marketers submit one-off requests and brand managers turn them down, someone at the local level is bound to be upset.
CMOs are in a tricky position here, since of course we've covered all sorts of other challenges that one-off requests can bring. So marketers know they need to fill in the gaps in a local affiliate's limited marketing experience while making them feel as if they have some control. If the corporate team isn't striking the right balance here, over time this can build up into a general malaise in the local network. Even worse, local affiliates may decide to leave the network which is a marketer's nightmare and leads to a significant loss of revenue to boot.
Solving the Cost Problem with LMA
The cost of all those local marketing inquiries is really quite surprising. For brands that haven't been able to measure the impact for themselves, it can be shocking just how big a difference those little minor things can make.
Thankfully there's a way out. If even a fraction of these one-off requests for customized materials was fulfilled by a self-service Local Marketing Automation portal, corporate marketers would be able to rest easy knowing they have a handle on those ballooning costs. Establishing LMA software and supporting processes is mutually beneficial for both corporate and local marketing departments. By providing local affiliates with the right tools and resources through systems like these, brands can create brand-compliant materials and launch local marketing campaigns easily.
With solutions like these, the real value is in the way that all the value of one-offs can be maintained while eliminating as many of the unnecessary costs as possible. Brands can make sure campaigns are closely controlled with pre-approved templates, while local affiliates are able to follow best practices and still get the creative liberty they're looking for.
Give your local marketers the tools they need to create brand-complaint campaigns. Check out the latest templates, campaigns and tools to help boost your marketing results. Download The Local Marketing Playbook.