7 Tips for Big Brands That Want to Reach Local Consumers

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National brands that add local context to their mobile campaigns can expect to see click-through rates rise to 5% to 8%, versus 0.6% for mobile display ads without local relevance, while adding something as simple as a local phone number to a Yellow Pages print display ad has been shown to increase response rates by 40%. While there’s little doubt that local marketing helps big brands get noticed, many national companies have been slow to get onboard with these types of advertising tactics thus far. (Thirty-three percent of the top 100 U.S. brands don’t have mobile-optimized websites, and 16% have no mobile strategy.)

For tips on how national brands can create tailored local campaigns, we spoke with Jamie Olson, vice president of shopper marketing for Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide and the executive responsible for Vicks’ successful mobile campaign in 2011, and Ron Blevins, vice president of digital strategy for Novus, an ad agency focused solely on the local space. Here is their advice for brands thinking of taking the leap into local.

1) Start by asking why local is attractive. Olson recommends that national brands start by pinpointing why it is they want to go local with their marketing. Is it to reach a new demographic? Overcome a particular obstacle to reaching that demographic? Or maybe to try out a new mobile platform that customers are using? The answers to these questions will guide which tools Olson recommends companies use to achieve their advertising goals.

2) Keep audience size in mind. The more criteria that a brand uses when deciding which customers should receive its targeted messages, the higher the click-through rates and redemption stats will be. The flip-side to this, however, is that brands can expect to hit fewer people through their local campaigns than they would with national outreach efforts. For these reasons, Olson says local marketing is best for brands that are comfortable focusing on the quality of leads that come in, versus the quantity of click-throughs and coupon redemptions.

3) Think outside the box. To get the most benefit out of local investment, Blevins says brands need to find out how they can customize their ads. Rather than taking the easy way out by using local inventory aggregators or geo-targeted display ads, companies should opt for custom executions such as sponsorships, unique ad units, and content integration with local publishers. Brands that engage in these types of programs at Novus have seen dramatic increases in their marketing performance, and Blevins says the impact these ad runs have on consumers can’t be understated.

4) Find platforms that meet your needs. With so many vehicles to choose from in the hyperlocal market, it can be difficult for brands to know where to begin. Olson recommends that companies interested in using location-based technology check out popular vendors like Shopkick, Foursquare, and CheckPoints. Where.com is a third-party ad network that Olson recommends for targeting mobile ads based on location. When it comes to selecting the right online coupon companies, it is important to keep the audience size and demographic in mind.

5) Go beyond DMA targeting. National brands that want to strategically communicate with their customers need to go beyond DMA targeting by optimizing their programs at the zip code and neighborhood level. Failing to target customers on a granular level results in wasted impressions and poor user experience, explains Blevins. Rather than displaying impressions against users who are not within driving-distance of any retail locations, Blevins recommends that companies increase the frequency of ads displaying against better prospects.

6) Form strategic partnerships with retailers. As retailers become more of a focus point in marketing, Olson believes it will become increasingly important for brands to unite with the retail shops to gain traction for their products in stores. In addition to promoting their own products, the marketing messages that brands send out should direct customers to nearby retail stores where they can make immediate purchases.

7) Keep the budget in mind. Companies that have unlimited financial resources don’t have to be strategic in their advertising efforts. For the 99% of businesses that do care about costs, however, local marketing is an intelligent way to funnel dollars into very targeted and meaningful campaigns. Rather than taking a blanket approach to marketing, national brands that go local need to ensure that every dollar spent is used to reach their target audience. Olson believes this is important to keep in mind when it comes to understanding why local marketing is so important for such a wide variety of national brands.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.