How Old-School Tactics From Emerging Economies Can Inform Local Marketing

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Pokémon Go took only 3 weeks to generate 75 million downloads worldwide. Marketers were quick to pounce on the phenomenon, seeing nothing but opportunity, especially for local businesses: Create a virtual Pokéstop which coincides with your bricks-and-mortar store — genius!

It’s a wildly successful game, but it’s also an anomaly: You can’t expect Pikachu to do all the heavy-lifting when it comes to long-lasting local marketing strategies. Rather, there’s tremendous insight in old-school marketing tactics about to how to strengthen local digital strategies through offline expertise. Here are a few tips from a few ever-impressive emerging markets.

Nigeria: Create an enormous selling-network
Despite being legally restricted to their operating regions, fintechs still find local attention tough to capture. This is why Nigeria is so exciting. A 95% cash-based economy makes everyday transactions highly inefficient and insecure. Payment and transfer fintechs like Pay Attitude, Bitpesa and *737* have proliferated, benefiting from Nigeria’s deep mobile phone penetration (Pew Research estimates it’s above 90% this year). However, it’s Paga, the SMS-based payment fintech that really stands out.

In a truly innovative (but old-school) local marketing move, Paga simply created the selling-network it needed. Over the past 4 years, the company has trained over 10,000 people to become Paga agents, who access the market by tapping into their existing networks. Agents are mostly established local entrepreneurs, such as shop owners, with deep local knowledge and connections. A grocery store owner could recommend his customers pay with Paga, for instance, allowing the company to provide an everyday and useful demonstration of its product. This effectively brings the market to them – evidenced in its estimated 70% reach of Nigeria’s adult population. So if you’re finding online local marketing isn’t penetrating the region you want — don’t wait for existing platforms to take your product on — create a partner network where you can both interdependently benefit.

India: Respect regional differences and persuade
Parts of India unfortunately still suffer from inadequate health care, with both education and resources lacking. Because of this, one challenge for the Indian branch of P&G has been to market its products to locals for whom certain healthcare products may be unfamiliar, and also possibly taboo.

In a recent report by McKinsey, however, the company was able to successfully navigate cultural sensitivities, particularly when it came to women’s health. So just how did it market its Whisper brand of its sanitary products to communities where similar goods were not used before?

P&G targeted local female figures of authority — including teachers and police officers — who could appropriately provide classes in schools on the subject and product. This created a word-of-mouth local success, with the campaign reaching 2 million girls in more than 150,000 schools. This not only has enormous health benefits, but creates lifelong trust in the brand; McKinsey reported that the campaign resulted in a drastic reduction in cloth-based protection from 66% to 6%. Differing from the Nigerian Paga, P&G shows that there are subtler ways to work: work with brand consultants to navigate and tailor your local marketing key messaging for different regions.

China: The devil is in the details 
When buying a laptop, you might just go online, read a few reviews, compare prices and buy. In China, however, customers typically make at least four trips in-store to speak with shop assistants, test the product, and compare. Through surveys, business consultancies MEC and CIC recently highlighted the changing consumption behaviors of middle-class consumers in China, noting a greater tendency towards security and safety when purchasing. They found that up to 75% of Chinese consumers are very reluctant to buy electronics online or from abroad: Not the best market for impulse products!

Computer manufacturers and outlets therefore reach customers the old-school way — through TV (79% of all Chinese companies market primarily through television, according to Forbes Insights). But China has about 3,000, mostly local TV stations, meaning single national advertizing campaigns are easy to plan, but they lose impact along the way. A more successful strategy is to segment geographies to get a higher share of voice through local outlets. This also promotes the notion that a brand treats the region as a priority – something very important to Chinese consumers. Therefore, companies like Lenovo buy local TV advertising across all relevant regions, and make only tiny modifications to a single advert: Changing the location name. The lesson? Minor details have major payoffs. Locations, languages, even dialects – use these to your advantage.

Brazil: Care about local distinctions
In China, it’s only the advertising which is locally tailored. In Brazil, however, entire business models are. Each Brazilian region has vastly different demographics, which creates drastic differences in industry segmentation. For example, consumer packaged goods tend to be concentrated  in the Southern, more wealthy parts of the country, with McKinsey reporting that more prestigious big-box stores make up to 70% of retailing overall in Brazil, but only 55% in the North. Such demographic differences have killed off the chances of clumsy brands, but Natura, the market leader for toiletries, has thrived.

Not only does it manufacture locally-sourced products, but it works closely with 32 local, sometimes-remote communities in the poorer North, to help develop the workforce and connections it requires. It has also expanded the skills of 5,000 small suppliers by providing training and partnership opportunities. Furthermore, it has carried out well-publicized sustainability campaigns which have demonstrated concern for the environment, and the lifestyles of the communities it works with, with INSEAD showing that Natura is one of the leading local companies to campaign for sustainable development. Natura shows that by tying your company to the success of the region, you create a real sense that you care about it, and belong to it. Something that benefits the company in a concrete way, as they have now expanded to markets outside of Brazil, including Europe.

Make your online local marketing demonstrate that you care about where you are – use it to showcase CSR projects, and recommend regional events and successes — be a part of your location.

florian-huebnerFlorian Huebner is co-founder and MD of uberall. He was previously a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, and studied at the universities of Karlsruhe, Southern California and Sydney. He tweets at @flohuebner.