National Brands Must Take Advantage of Tech and Reap Benefits of Going Local

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National brands are rediscovering that localizing campaigns allows them to deliver offers and creative messaging to their target segments with greater precision and higher return on investment than through national campaigns alone.

Today’s consumers have a greater sense of their local communities and expect brands to be more aware of who they are before they engage further with those brands.

Marketers are designing campaigns to embrace local consumers in both online and offline touchpoints by melding traditional media like print magazines with digital activations.

Why National Brands Are Increasing Local Activation

One size does not fit all, and today’s consumers, now accustomed to the personalization provided by programmatic exchanges and daily social media use, expect more relevance and personalization from brands. 

To wit, brands are building new insights about consumers’ attitudes and values into campaign planning and execution based on consumer research, new applications of data science, and different views of the relative contributions of national and local marketing.

Local activation is becoming a bigger factor both in national brands’ total media spending and in their growth strategies for driving incremental revenue. National brand campaigns remain foundational, but increasingly chief marketing officers are seeing that localized campaigns provide higher overall ROI.

How do brands go from national to local? Brand strategists and media planners are finding what Nielsen calls “hidden pockets of opportunity” in localizing media campaigns to target consumers where they live and work. 

To find these pockets of opportunity and achieve growth, companies like Coca-Cola and Meijer recommend three steps: (1) understand differences in consumer behaviors at the product level; (2) assess geographic differences in product demand to see where localization can pay off; and (3) target households in these local markets that fit the strategic consumer profiles in media activations.

As consumers develop a greater sense of community and “localism,” brands should show that they understand differences in consumers’ lifestyles, attitudes, and expectations. Campaign elements that work in Detroit, for example, may be less effective in Dallas. Going with a national-only campaign may not develop the full brand engagement that local activations bring.

In spite of the clear benefits of going local today, national brand marketers and agencies invest less now in understanding the benefits of localized marketing than they once did.

BIA/Kelsey’s Maribeth Papuga, former executive vice president of local activation at MediaVest, argues: “Local literacy skills are in steep decline among marketers and agencies. Consumers have a growing sense of localism, and marketers need to key into this in their campaigns to achieve a level of genuineness.  They fail to do so at their peril.”

One of the reasons that national marketers moved out of local is the cost and complexity of managing local activations at scale.

However, recent technologies and workflows have dramatically increased the efficiencies and effectiveness of localized marketing. Technological solutions have provided national brands with a golden opportunity to strike locally in a wide array of markets.

The marketplace is now offering media inventory that can be localized even in channels like national magazine titles. Advances in data management platforms, programmatic exchanges, and ad operations workflows allow national brands to go local at scale in order to reach customized audience segments.

Given the success national brands have been having with local activations, we expect to see some shifts in their spending. 

  • Total local advertising revenue in the U.S. will reach $151.2 billion in 2018, up from $140.9 billion in 2017—representing a growth rate of 5.2%.
  • Traditional media will comprise 7 percent of the revenue, with online/digital securing 35.3 percent.

The bottom line: If brands and marketers aren’t ‘speaking directly’ to their target audiences, the experience is not authentic, not as relevant, and the ROI diminishes. Localized marketing strategies are now a critical tool for driving engagement and purchase behavior.

Jackie Graziano is a marketing strategist with experience at media companies such as Time Inc., American Express Publishing, The Economist Group, and AARP Media. She currently works at MediaMax, the leading provider of integrated local advertising solutions. MediaMax Network provides geo-targeted print, data, and digital advertising solutions in hundreds of local markets throughout the U.S. and Canada. As the exclusive local advertising partner of Condé Nast, MediaMax has more than 1,000 clients, including national brands, regional marketers, and local companies. She is on Twitter @jsgraziano