Local Marketing Lessons from the Global Marketing Landscape

global-local-lessonsCoke, Unilever, McDonalds. These massive global brands spend billions of dollars each year to implement strategies learned from local marketing. They adjust their products, slogans and even the colors they use in their advertising to customize their message market by market, and they reap the rewards in the form of revenue, customer loyalty and brand recognition.

Global marketers learn from local campaigns constantly, but the lessons can flow both ways. 

Achieving international results often means listening to marketers who are native to the target market and its demographics, but there can be barriers in the form of company organization and technology to contend with too. The way multinational corporations leap these last two hurdles can offer some excellent lessons for local marketing campaigns, allowing us to do Coke marketing on a water budget.

How Global Marketing Meets Local Challenges

A 2012 study by Forbes revealed that 82% of senior marketers felt that “interconnected consumers have broken down the barriers between global and local marketing,” making the main challenge of global marketing “to deliver relevant messages to the local market.”1

For companies that are trying to reach consumers in countries as diverse as the United States, South Korea, Australia and Amsterdam, creating “relevant messages” for each of those markets is no small task. Companies that are succeeding in global/local marketing are focusing on two big channels of consistency: technology and vocabulary.

Global Marketing Technology: Assets and Technology

Global marketing campaigns may be able to deploy huge technology suites to serve their marketing teams, but it’s not the size of their tech that matters; it’s the technological consistency between teams that determines their success.

Every person creating or distributing brand messages needs “access to a rich library of global assets, campaign resources and brand guidelines” to help ensure “global-local brand alignment and visual consistency.”2

This access can come in the form of file sharing, joint software, or any other system that makes sense, but without the basic ability to use similar digital images and other assets, marketers are working at a disadvantage. The same goes for tracking metrics like impressions, conversions, influence, etc.

If the team in Australia is measuring one set of metrics while Korea is using another, comparing their campaigns and translating their successes/failures from one market to another will be virtually impossible.

Companies aiming for global marketing dominance have to invest huge amounts of time and cash into international trainings, communication and technology standardization to ensure brand consistency, while still enabling the right amount of innovation for local marketing initiatives.

Local marketing campaigns, however, can achieve similar results without a massive investment.

Local Marketing Vocabulary and Technology: Consistency and Scalability

If you’re managing campaigns for a local flower shop or restaurant, it may seem like a stretch to compare your efforts to those of Coke, but global marketing has a lot to teach local marketers. If you think big, you get big returns.

Consistent Assets, both Images and Guidelines

Lesson the First: give all of those who will be marketing for you access to a consistent library of assets, resources and brand guidelines. That means if you have an agency doing work for you, they should get the same images, colors, fonts, etc. that your internal team is working with. Everyone should understand what images belong on social media and which should be reserved for more “serious” print media.

Do you have employees posting on your behalf on social media? They must have a detailed, consistent understanding of your company’s message, along with a standard library of digital assets.

If there are direct competitors in your market, should marketers mention/engage them, or will you take a hands off approach? If customers post negative feedback on social media, how should it be handled? Guidelines as well as imagery needs to be consistent. You don’t want someone going rogue and getting into a social media battle if everyone else has stayed above the fray.

Technology and Tools Must be Scalable

Lesson the Second: emphasize the scalability of technology. Unilever can afford to adopt a new technology suite from the ground up and implement it worldwide. A hyperlocal marketing campaign, on the other hand, will lose ground, time and money by scrambling to get all its contributors in sync with the same tools after a campaign has begun.

Small scale can certainly be a fine starting point; you can start off with tools that allow free, or virtually free, use of their services up to a certain point.

For example Hootsuite, Buffer, and many others will let you manage your social media campaigns at a very reasonable price point, and you can add additional users very easily. This means you can monitor everyone’s contributions as needed, although a “Big Brother” oversight approach certainly won’t be scalable. It’s better to get the guidelines discussed above in place throughout your team so oversight (or babysitting) isn’t necessary.

Whatever software or system you choose, envision it growing. Can it accommodate use by a third party agency if that is something you want to explore? If you hire multiple full-time local marketing professionals, can they all use the software/tools concurrently and harmoniously?

Think big from the start, and then you’ll be ready for when it’s time to go big.

Customer Stalking, in a Good Way

Lesson the Third: Customize your local marketing message to find customers where they are. This may seem a little obvious for a local marketing campaign, but I’m constantly surprised how little customization there can be within regional or local campaigns.

For example, so often I’m listening to streaming music and hear an ad that calls for me to “click the banner” to take advantage of an offer. But I’m not even looking at the ad — I’m cleaning or working out or playing with my kids. It’s very jarring to be asked to click something when there isn’t even a screen in front of me. These ads aren’t finding me where I am.

Similarly, you need to adjust your visual content to display correctly in an email campaign (across all devices), and the copy you use for a pay per click campaign isn’t going to cut it for social media. The lesson about message consistency holds true, but in order to achieve consistency across all the channels of your local campaign you’ve got to customize, just as McDonalds tweaks its menu to appeal to local tastes (falafel burger, anyone?).

This gets even more true when we get to the huge growth of hyperlocal advertising using geo-targeting and beacons.

A recent Nielsen study found that 77% of mobile transactions end up being closed in-store,3 so local marketing needs to be aware that a mobile display ad has a very good chance of just being a traffic driver rather than a click target. You’ve got to be ready to capitalize on that in your brick and mortar location, or you could miss out on significant revenue.

And speaking of brick and mortar campaigns, the ultimate in meeting consumers where they are is beacon-driven ads. Beacons are small devices that can be distributed throughout a store, convention center, stadium, etc. and will trigger an offer or message on a mobile device when it comes near the beacon.

Current data indicates that 60% of shoppers open and engage with beacon-driven content, compared with 1% average click through rates on display ads and 20% on email. Additionally, 73% of the shoppers surveyed in this study said “that beacon-triggered content and offers increased the likelihood that they would make a purchase during their store visit.”4

If you’ve mastered the first two lessons (consistent assets and scalable technology), leveraging all these channels to meet your local customers at the precise point where they are (both physically and in the buying process) will definitely bear fruit. Global marketing is constantly learning from local marketing innovations, so turn the tables and use their strategies to make the most of your local marketing campaigns.


1. 5 Challenges for Tomorrow’s Global Marketing Leaders
2. How Top Brands Localize Global Marketing Campaigns
3. 1 in 10 Mobile Ad Impressions Lead to Store Visit
4. 6 of 10 Shoppers Engage with Beacon Messaging

Other Articles You Might Be Interested In:

get the agile marketing styles ebook

Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

Leave a Comment