The Age Old Question: Is Marketing Local by Nature?

By Bridget Arik, Chief Operations Officer at Redmill Solutions

There is one question in marketing that never fails to spark debate – local versus global. No one is denying the power of boots on the ground in catching those little nuances in language that save a brand from embarrassment but where the discussion gets heated is whether different regions are truly as different as local teams claim they are.

In our age of instant communication, cultural cross-pollination via TV shows and the internet, do marketers really need to differentiate between the Canadian and US markets, for example? Or even between different cities? Are local differences actually that pronounced?

Despite a sense of cultural homogenisation, rapid societal and economic shifts are making the contrasts between regions even clearer. The  possible incoming recession will impact markets in different ways at different times, with hyper-local repercussions varying shoppers’ behaviour by state or city. At the same time, marketers will need to ensure that every dollar of spend is as effective as possible.

We need to shift perspectives away from the push and pull of local versus global. Instead, global marketing teams need to ask themselves how they can better unlock the powerful insights that their local teams possess and then harness this information to drive better outcomes.

Location is king

While information about every location on earth may be available at the tips of our fingers, ultimately there is no replacement for in the market knowledge that local teams gather. From in-depth details of shopping habits, to an appreciation for how media partners operate within markets and even something as simple as knowing the language and popular slang, these nuances cannot always just be Googled. Apple, for example, should have taken heed from its Japanese team when naming its Siri AI assistant – which translates to ‘buttocks’ in the region.

When it comes to media data, these teams also hold vast reserves of insights that could offer global brands a powerful tool to better aid decision making in each market. But, as any global brands will know, getting local and global teams to work harmoniously is not as simple as a few Zoom calls together. Frictions, pressure points and tensions have to be negotiated daily and if left unchecked these can cause larger fissures that hamper global marketing efforts.

The quality of media data and its insights can suffer when these fractures fester. Differing systems, taxonomies, languages and currencies can cause confusion when absorbed back into the global team, leading to duplication and vital data being ignored or lost. There are even cases of the rifts between global and local teams leading to media data from certain regions not being fed back at all.

With media data being the backbone of all good marketing decision making, this tangled mess of spreadsheets can lead, ultimately, to wasted spend – something no brand can afford in the darkening economic situation.

Prioritising local teams

So how can global brands preserve the nuances and culture that make local data so powerful while also making data more reliable and accessible? In short, by prioritising their local teams:

Keep communication clear

Keeping open good lines of communication may seem obvious but it is key to ensuring that local and global teams are on the same page. Whether a brand’s global marketing strategy is dictated from the top, or if global teams are happy to take a more ‘hands off’ approach, good relations and a constant back-and-forth are needed if these approaches are to flourish. Ultimately, collaboration is the goal. Local teams need to feel part of the journey if they are to bring their unique insights and expertise.

Preserve local differences

Local culture is incredibly powerful and can derail even the best laid plans. Global brands should not try and fight against this unwinnable battle and should instead celebrate these differences. This is even more important when it comes to media data. The local taxonomies and languages contain within them rich insights that are incredibly valuable for understanding consumers.

With the wealth of media data flooding into global teams, the temptation can be to place this disperate, often incomparable data into silos and data lakes. But by not taking a holistic view of media data, brands are losing sight of what they have and therefore missing the insights it offers.

Brands need to prioritise the data of local teams, ensuring that nuances are retained. Harmonising global and local media data is no simple issue but with the assistance of a powerful media data management solution, granular insights can be preserved and harnessed.

The debate pitching global against local teams is unlikely to go unresolved but ultimately it misses the point. Global and local teams need to work in tandem if both are to benefit from what the other has and for this to happen, brands need to invest in – and take ownership of – their media data. Collaboration on a global scale needs flexibility, personalisation and up-to-date data at the fingertips of every team and without it, the rift between global and local teams will only widen.