Today’s brands need digital marketing. Modern consumers are “mobile-first,” or using their smartphones as a primary tool for connecting with the companies they buy from, whether local or global. While print advertising is likely to remain an important component of marketing for years to come, brands are creating new “tradigital” customer experience strategies that blend print and out-of-home (OOH) executions with digital media such as websites, social media, paid search and more.
Digital marketing offers a unique benefit to distributed brands, which are organizations where a brand management team supports the local marketing efforts of a network of franchisees, dealerships or other affiliates. Digital and online marketing can be a cost-effective way for locally-owned businesses to communicate with their customers, obtain visibility and publish relevant messaging.
Distributed brand managers deal with unique challenges that appear when local marketers try to execute either traditional or digital marketing. Balancing the need for real-time content creation with brand standards isn’t easy when you’re working with a network of hundreds or thousands of local marketers. However, it is certainly possible for distributed brand managers to drive digital marketing results at the local level by supporting simple, successful executions by local marketer.
Distributed brands may choose to communicate with their customers in a variety of ways using digital media platforms. In general, there are three distinct categories of digital media platforms that can be used to publish content to websites, social media, mobile apps and other digital platforms:
Category #1: Brand-Owned, Locally-Managed: A digital platform or account that is owned by the brand and operated by a local marketer. For instance, when a brand sets up a Yelp account on behalf of a local affiliate and lets the local affiliate respond to reviews.
Category #2: Brand-Owned, Locally-Influenced: Some digital media may be largely managed by the brand team with feedback from local marketers. These types of scenarios can be centered around the national website, or email campaigns sent by the brand. The local affiliates may provide valuable feedback to the brand team on how to improve their content to make it more appealing to a local audience.
Category #3: Locally-Owned, Locally-Managed: Some local marketers may fully implement and manage their own social media profiles, blogs, or local email marketing. Often, this will be the result of the brand’s lack of communication about guidelines, or a lack of support. Local affiliates take matters into their own hands to fill the void.
Understanding the categories that fit your organization’s objectives and local marketer agreements is an important baseline for managing digital marketing. For many distributed brands, using a mix of two or more categories can be the most effective way to deliver relevant, locally-targeted advertising to customers.
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There is quite a bit at stake for distributed brands when it comes to the quality of their digital marketing efforts. From a consumer’s perspective, poor-quality content can leave a lasting negative impression. Misplaced social media posts, badly edited videos, or spammy-feeling emails can erode the brand equity that an organization has worked hard to build up and protect.
Local marketers who feel pressure to publish more often on Facebook or send as many emails as possible will make do with the resources they have available. Producing content, without much time or knowledge of marketing best practices, while well-meaning, can be devastating to a brand.
Bad digital marketing not only will drain your resources, it will also negatively affect your brand’s future marketing ROI. As positive customer perception erodes, and your brand disappears from the first page of search results, your sales may begin to decrease.
You can’t easily quantify the bad taste left in a customer’s mouth after viewing a low-resolution picture of food at a local restaurant, or a loss of trust when an unprofessional video goes live on social media. However, you can assume these will translate into revenue dollars lost. As a brand manager you can also adopt five key steps to supporting exceptional local digital marketing:
Your brand’s national digital presence, including social media channels, websites, paid search, video content, and more, should set a benchmark for what digital marketing means to your brand. Exceptional digital marketing at the brand level sets a positive example for local marketers. In addition, it provides inspiration for local marketers to follow along with, including ideas for content, materials, and assets that resonate with local customers.
Headquarters should work to educate local affiliates on best practices for digital marketing. Steer clear of the utopian pitch about how digital marketing is the ultimate local business tool. Your local marketers will respond much better to solid and pragmatic leadership, and clear examples of what does and does not work for your brand in digital channels. You may accomplish this through a regularly-updated local marketing hall of fame that spotlights real-world examples of excellent local execution on various digital channels.
One of your brand team’s primary functions can be to provide content for your local marketers to publish to their digital channels, including email templates, social media templates, and webpages. At many brands, providing digital and print marketing support to local affiliates is part of the franchise or dealership agreement.
Brand managers should recognize that this digital content isn’t useful for the field if it doesn’t come with the right context. Your local marketers want to know what to do on Facebook, and how to optimize their videos for YouTube. By providing clear instructions around marketing campaigns and assets, you can make it easier for your locals to execute digital content in the right ways.
Your local marketers ultimately want to have direct, genuine conversations with their local customers. Micromanagement of local digital channels isn’t necessarily the best way to ensure your locals’ digital marketing is always on-brand. In some cases, locals can react negatively to feelings that they’re being watched too carefully on social or other channels.
Ultimately, brand managers should recognize that their local affiliates want to use digital to form genuine connections with loyal customers. By providing guidelines for success, and making it easy for your locals to comply with brand design standards, you can ensure your locals are able to balance a desire for authenticity with your brand standards.
Garbage in, garbage out. If your digital support or templates aren’t great, brand managers can’t expect excellence out of local digital. The most effective brand managers always share good content with their local marketers. Using Local Marketing Automation (LMA) technologies to make it editable for their specific purposes can ensure compliance without having to micromanage every design tweak.
Local marketers want to drive sales and customer loyalty for their businesses without having to invest in complicated methodologies. While many local affiliates recognize the value of digital platforms, resistance to adoption, or poor execution, result if it’s too difficult to achieve excellence with digital content.
As a brand manager, the key to supporting local success is understanding how to make it easy for your locals to follow your brand guidelines with great results. By setting a clear standard of excellence, providing high-quality content, and using technologies that make it easy to publish digital content to the right channels, you can support fast execution that’s always on-brand.
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