For any distributed brand, the marketing success of your local affiliates can either make or break your brand – especially at the start of a new year. This year promises to continue a number of breakthrough local marketing trends. From digital experimentation to customer experience innovations, there are so many opportunities to launch your local marketing into the stratosphere in 2018. Are you local affiliates up to the challenge?
"Marketing has always been on the move in terms both of how it's defined and executed. From the early days of the telephone and wireless transmission to the "huge TV" trend, radio, and billboard commercials, and the internet, to social media platforms, IoT — and more — business and brands have always had to be on their toes to figure out what's coming next," said Toby Nwazor in Entrepreneur.
Before you go hunting down the latest marketing tool or tactic to support local marketing for your brand in 2018, it's essential to figure out which trends are must-watch and how those can fit into your strategy. Let's start by identifying a few methods brands use to target the most impactful and relevant local marketing trends:
How Brands Stay on Top of Local Marketing Trends
Just by having a franchise or dealer network, CMOs and other decision-makers have a lot of information about what marketing tactics are hot to sort through on any given day. It can be a real challenge for them to judge which trends have the most potential to raise the brand's game and which are total duds. So how do brands prioritize and determine which ones will make the biggest impact and more importantly, how do you communicate their value to the brand's key stakeholders?
By implementing a consistent research and reporting process across the marketing organization, brands can better determine which trends have the greatest potential value. When evaluating the latest local marketing trends, it's important to consider certain key factors that contribute to a worthwhile trend to pick up on:
- The Competition: Start by examining what your competition is doing. Have they introduced a new social media channel to their marketing mix? Did they recently unveil a new advertising campaign? Have consumers responded favorably to these new marketing moves? If your normal competition hasn't picked up the hottest marketing trends, that can tell you a lot about their potential value for your brand. Either the trend is not as hot as it seems, or your main competitors are flat-footed giving you a perfect opportunity.
- The Values: Remember, when a trend runs counter to your brand's central values, it's usually not a good idea to invest. It's important that brands draw a clear and distinct line between updating their positioning to keep up with the modern world and losing part of what made the brand great in the first place. Innovating is important, but innovation should always be benefitting the brand and enriching its identity, not tearing it down with an irrelevant fad. Search for trends that are going on which are aligned to your brand's values.
- The Reason Why: Finally, consider if this is a trend even worth investing in. Remember Pepsi's partnership with Kylie Jenner? While social activism can be a powerful marketing tool, in most cases, brands just don't have the right methods to pull it off effectively. If a trend is strongly aligned with your brand's values, the reason to follow it should be pretty clear. Then again, some of the best brands are trendsetters not trend followers, and having a powerful reason why behind that trend is what makes it stick. Look for the opportunities to turn your brand's "why" into action.
Running through these considerations can help your team identify the trends that are best-suited for your brand. Someone on the corporate marketing team should write up a summary of the latest marketing trends that could be worth investigating based on these findings. Outlines like these usually give CMOs all the information they need to make a directional call when faced with a new marketing fad or trend.
The Risk of Failure: What Happens When Brands Don't Adopt the Latest Trends
When marketers aren't staying on top of the latest marketing trends, they risk losing touch with what the consumer is expecting. By investing in emerging software, taking advantage of the latest technology and testing out experimental new campaigns, brands are showing consumers that they're in tune with what's exciting and popular. This can be key for unlocking growth and even, in some cases, for the brand's survival. If you're not staying a step ahead of the latest marketing trends, or at least keeping up with them, your brand may miss the boat entirely.
For example, Borders is a famous case of a brand that was plagued by a series of trend-reading missteps. Borders underestimated the value of ebooks and online sales to the bookstore business. As a result, the brand failed to deploy a marketing strategy that addressed or accommodated both of these items in their local retail presence. In fact, Borders had negotiated a deal to allow Amazon to control online business in 2001, but didn't launch their own website until 2008. By that time, Barnes & Nobel had already made serious investments in both ebook readers and online sales. Having a blended revenue stream that was pulled from the emerging trends in e-commerce counterintuitively helped to make their stores even stronger magnets for customers. Ultimately, Borders' consumers abandoned ship and opted for a book retailer that was more current, on-trend and accessible, both locally and online.
Local Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018
So what's the lesson for CMOs who are responsible for marketing across a dealer or franchise network of locations? It turns out that marketing trends are all around us – especially at the local level. Marketers need to be prepared to take these local market trends head-on just as much as the global trends we hear about all the time.
So, ready to read up on this year's biggest local marketing trends? One thing that's no surprise is that local marketers are using even more digital marketing tactics to engage and excite consumers. While local affiliates have always preferred "traditional" digital marketing tactics including email and paid search, the divide between corporate and local marketing preferences is quickly shrinking.
Brands such as The Burger Shack are gaining tremendous value from multi-channel, innovative and highly engaging local marketing as corporate teams continue to push for innovations in video and social media marketing. But multi-channel marketing isn't the only trend that's shaping local marketing in 2018. Here's a list of the top local marketing trends we expect this year:
- Landing Pages on the Rise. In 2018, look for leading brands, especially in the hospitality and retail industries, to pave the way for creating more relevant local landing pages. Franchisees, dealers and store managers will start to use these landing pages to promote local offers, incentives and drive more business to their stores from online activity.
- Brand Marketers Investing in Local Marketing Training. Unfortunately, local marketers lack the marketing expertise needed to deploy and manage truly effective marketing activity. In 2018, corporate marketing teams will spread the marketing gospel to local affiliates through new training programs and easy-to-use templates that don't need any training. With the right support in place, franchisees feel more confident about doing local marketing. This means they can take more autonomy in their marketing and still produce great results: a win-win.
- Rise of Interactive Media. At the local level, there will be more investment in high-impact digital advertising formats such as animated display advertising, digital OOH and online video. This requires providing interactive content into a format that local affiliates can actually use. Franchisees love this kind of immersive advertising, but their knowledge of these tactics is limited and their budgets are usually even more so. As a result, corporate marketers will have to spend more time playing go-between for local affiliates to ensure the success of these new and powerful assets.
- Return of Email Marketing. In email marketing, it's not just the content that counts; it's the context. In 2018, brands will leverage the "local" angle to boost customer engagement in the inbox. By sending friendly reminders, birthday promotions, and other kinds of more immediately helpful email, franchisees and all kinds of local affiliates will find ways to build more valuable relationships with their local consumers using email.
- Multi-Channel Moves Toward Omni-Channel. As digital continues to rise for local marketers, local affiliates will turn to the old "staple" marketing channels they've been using forever to integrate them into the new digital ecosystem. Expect more crossover campaigns between print and digital formats and for more local affiliates to take ownership over bigger chunks of their marketing mix.
Maximize your local marketing power with Local Marketing Automation (LMA). Learn how in 4 Ways to Scale Your Multi-Location Brand with Local Marketing Automation.
Enhance Your Brand with Local Marketing Automation
As local marketing tactics evolve, brands have the opportunity to see greater returns on their campaigns, as well as having more successful, satisfied affiliates. It’s important for CMOs to take these trends that they've identified seriously. Use them to align local marketers and corporate teams to make sure your brand isn't being left behind.
To effectively implement these top trends, it's crucial that brands establish a strong organizational foundation and process. Local Marketing Automation (LMA) tools give local affiliates the structure needed to deploy highly effective local marketing. Additionally, LMA also provides corporate marketing teams with the data needed to gauge how impactful that new marketing maneuver was. These insights help brand marketers to configure future marketing campaigns, strategies and tactics for optimal engagement.
For even more insight into the latest distributed marketing trends and challenges check out the 2017 Distributed Marketing Benchmark Report.