Distributed marketing is a model where organizations formulate marketing messages at the corporate level and execute them locally through partners, dealers, or retailers. Local partners then customize these marketing assets to fit their locality and target customers while staying on brand.
Distributed marketing is common to franchises, companies with multiple regional locations, and businesses that partner with field sales agents and retailers to market products and services. This marketing model allows brands to meet customers at a personal and local level. When done right, distributed marketing can promote brand consistency across all locations and rally for more engagement from customers.
However, distributed marketing comes with its own set of challenges. A significant downside to distributed marketing is misalignment and fragmentation of marketing activities. This misalignment can be attributed to the many parties involved and the lack of a clear marketing strategy to ensure cohesiveness. But that's not the only issue.
What Are the Unique Challenges of Distributed Marketing?
As you'll see below, distributed marketing faces a couple of challenges.
1. Off-brand marketing materials
Where multiple locations are involved, there'll be occasional brand non-compliance issues. For instance, local units may use the wrong color for the logo, typography, or message tone. While most of these are seemingly inconsequential, off-brand marketing materials can cause mixed messages causing brand identity dilution. Ultimately, this affects your customers' trust, putting your brand in a negative light.
When local branches use off-brand marketing assets, it may be a result of several issues. One, maybe marketing assets are not easily accessible to them. Or two, the assets provided may not be the right fit for their local customers.
The average marketer spends 35% of their time looking for brand assets. If there isn't a clear and easy-to-use access portal in place, then off-brand marketing materials will be a common occurrence at the local level. That's why brands should establish clear communication between HQ and the local branches. Communication between the two needs to be deliberate and set in writing. Everything from best practices to guidelines should be accessible to local marketers.
Brands can centralize communication guidelines through a brand portal. Unlike brand books or PDFs, a portal is interactive, easy to access, and updated.
But it's not just about sharing guidelines and compliance standards with local marketers. It's also about having a process in place to receive feedback from your local partners. Getting input from local branches will help corporate brand managers align the brand strategy to solve the pain points of local marketing.
2. Inability to Adapt to the Local Market
Suppose corporate marketers decide to use the same blanket campaign in all regions for local campaigns. In that case, local franchises may miss out on personalized campaigns for their target audience. Even worse, they may end up targeting the wrong customers. Just because a particular campaign template worked for a store in Dallas doesn't mean it will work for a store in New York.
While consistency is important for brands, corporate marketers need to leave room to adapt marketing to each locality. This is only possible by working with the local-level partners since they interact with the customers daily. Once you have the local data in place, corporate marketers can then create templates and campaign strategies that strike a chord with local customers. Again, lack of adaptation will only lead to asset wastage since most of it remains unused or used for the wrong purposes.
The best strategy would be to incorporate a healthy mix of national and local campaigns in your marketing strategy. By doing so, local partners can benefit from the corporate brand authority in national campaigns and still have the means to reach local customers through local campaigns.
Example of localization creative Ikea (source).
3. Outdated Brand Assets
Most local marketers might not spend time looking through files to locate designated templates or media for a particular campaign. Here is where brand compliance and inconsistency issues start. Outdated marketing assets and expired media will quickly make their way to your local campaigns before you notice. This may lead to mistrust among customers and other legal issues with contracted photographers and vendors.
Brand managers can quickly solve this by investing in DAM software to ensure everyone uses the most current assets. They can take it a notch higher by training local partners on the expected best practices and compliances.
4. Slow Change
Another major challenge of distributed marketing is the long and mostly slow process of change. Without a clear communication strategy, campaign changes and updates may take longer than necessary to reach local channels. If this happens often, then local campaigns will not always match the marketing strategy at the national level.
Also, if the campaign approval process is long, local marketers may take campaigns into their hands, leading to marketing failures, coupled with brand inconsistencies. To counteract this, ensure campaign changes are communicated in time and approval workflows are quick and efficient.
Setting up an automated work approval process will reign in the possibilities of local branches straying from brand guidelines. Finally, brand managers can distribute locked templates that promote consistency but leave room for local units to customize as per their needs.
5. Going Rogue
While brands should encourage creativity, brand content, voice and tone can be tramped without brand guidelines in place. Sometimes, local marketers may take creativity and customization a bit too far. When this happens and there's no compliance monitoring in place, rogue content can lead to a crisis control situation.
Rogue marketing content happens when brands fail to create governance procedures to oversee all the marketing activities of local partners. It also results when local channels put more effort into tactics rather than strategy. This means that instead of being proactive, local partners create reactive marketing campaigns. The result? A lot of fragmented messages with no business brand goals or plans to back them up.
What problem does rogue marketing introduce?
When local branches go rogue with their marketing, it causes digital detritus- a situation where there's a stream of digital litter that doesn't add value to growing your brand. These streams can come in the form of social media pages created for a campaign and are no longer updated. This situation can paint your brand as uncaring and untrustworthy in customers' eyes. Mainly, the digital residue is caused by tactic marketing activities as opposed to a clear marketing strategy.
To prevent local branches from going rogue, brands should implement a brand compliance monitoring process. Where possible, they should have a team to monitor compliance while supporting local branches to align marketing strategy with corporate goals. That said, corporate marketers should communicate marketing processes that aren't subjected to compliance. This will give local branches the freedom to be agile and creative with marketing without crossing boundaries.
6. Local Level Analytics
For corporate marketers, accessing insights into local branches' marketing activities can be cumbersome. Without these insights, the corporate brand misses out on a chance to optimize its whole marketing strategy. They are blindsided by the progress and ROI of local marketing campaigns. This happens when there's poor support and communication between corporate and local branches.
Corporate marketers can solve this by creating a single brand portal where marketing campaigns are dispersed. It enables them to track the usage of marketing assets across all regions and helps corporate markets gain insight into the performance of local campaigns. The HQ can devise ways to support local campaigns or optimize campaigns for impactful ROI with this information.
7. Rigid Marketing
This challenge ties back to the inability to adapt. If brand managers set campaigns in stone leaving little room for customization, they are missing an opportunity to build a local connection with the brand.
Brand marketers should also involve local partners in campaign ideation to ensure customers' preferences are accounted for. If local partners feel the campaigns are not working, they will take asset and campaign creation into their own hands. This will lead to brand dilution and inconsistent messaging. Brands can avoid these issues by providing channels for local partners to alert HQ when campaigns are not working.
How to Offer Local Partners the Flexibility to Engage their Communities Without Diluting the Brand Identity?
Simply put, you can offer flexibility to your local partners and still stay on brand with a Local Marketing Platform. Marvia helps your multi-location businesses create on-brand and localized content at scale.
We offer tools and tactics that help large organizations ensure brand consistency while still empowering local marketers to self-create customized, on-brand assets for all channels.
Local marketers can access pre-approved templates that guide them through the creation process while offering the freedom to customize per locality. At the corporate level, brand managers can track asset usage of each locality, improving the brand compliance monitoring process. Brands can also reduce confusion by granting local partners access to only the content they require.