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Forget national marketing. Concentrate on the local area.


Localisation marketing is, in many ways, the opposite of national marketing activity. It takes a granular approach to data, media use and knowledge, fine-tuning marketing communications to be sensitive to the local context. This could be, for instance, the geo-demographics around a particular store or sensitivity within a particular community to certain issues. By using localisation marketing, organisations are trying to add a layer of relevance beyond the national message.

Origins and evolution of localisation marketing

The whole concept of localisation was born out of brand policing - local networks had a tendency to create their own material and go widely off brand. Traditionally, marketers used localisation marketing for high-ticket items, such as cars. It was an opportunity to invest heavily in the 'final mile' in the retail network.

This was because up until a few years ago localisation was prohibitively expensive, we simply didn't have the technology to make it cost-effective. With the arrival of digital print and communications, email marketing and templated website systems, the cost of localised marketing campaigns has dropped considerably, making it accessible to far more brands and organisations.

For example, before the advent of templated website systems, creating an individual website for every store or every dealer across a network was time-consuming and complex. So, it's the output mediums rather than the technology that have helped localisation marketing grow in recent years.

Take drive-time mapping, for instance. This has been around for a long time as has the ability to break down geo-demographics to street level to deliver smart door drops. But without a fully integrated communication strategy working at a local level, these wouldn't necessarily make it into the average brand's live campaign.

Where technology has played a major role is in helping brands to buy more tactically, far more locally when it comes to online display advertising, for instance. Similarly, email marketing allows them to target smaller segments and create highly tailored messages. Once marketers can localise the use of output tools and channels it gives them the incentive to drive further into the data.

The rise of localisation

Among consumers there's a lot of mistrust of big brands, government and the globalisation that many see around them, which means the pull towards local is stronger than ever.

Marketers can apply the concept of localisation across the spectrum, from commercial opportunities in the sale of goods or FMCG brands looking to engage with certain communities, to government departments with behavioural change agendas. If smoking is prevalent in certain communities, for example a community-focused approach rather than a traditional top-down campaign might be more successful in getting the message across.

Channel choice

The prioritisation of channels in localisation marketing is based on trusted sources.

In the past, advertising was unchallenged as a credible, trusted source of information. Today's trusted sources are your direct friends, your indirect friends on Facebook and Twitter. And local media has greater credibility than national media.

Field and experiential is a highly credible channel because it initiates a face-to-face conversation and a direct engagement with the local community. Similarly, PR is more credible than bought press in the form of ads. This comes back to the well-understood requirement to move away from paid media towards owned and earned media.

Direct, face-to-face channels also achieve cut-through in this overcrowded media landscape. Where some brands find advertising's contribution is increasingly under scrutiny, experiential and field marketing can identify what a particular audience will respond to best. If you can really localise the message to a dealer or store, and to a community initiative then you will get better engagement.

You can supplement these local strategies on the ground with local search strategies online, by ensuring your PPC (pay per click) and keyword strategies are again sensitive to location. But brands need to support outlets in a way that fits in with the national agenda or they risk overlap and inconsistent messages and brand tone. Central office still needs to keep control of what happens in the locale.

Localisation marketing in a nutshell

Like any marketing campaign, you need to conduct in-depth analysis of your market. This involves extensive desk research at the outset - such as analysis of media, geo-demographics, your territory, and the geographic location of your brand and your consumers. The insights you gain will help you develop a campaign that is relevant to the individual location, based on competitor and drive-time analysis and the priorities of the people in the community.

Localisation marketing works because it is granular. This is direct marketing taken to a further degree than many brands and agencies practise. There's a fear of going to such a level of granularity because it takes time and time costs money. And at the outset, marketers are required to take a leap of faith. As with any campaign, the key here is to start with a small pilot and then upscale.

Localisation marketing will continue to grow naturally as changes in technology continue to reduce the cost, making it accessible to more brands. Of equal importance is the shift of attitude I mentioned earlier. As the Government pursues its 'Big Society' agenda, brands will also make community engagement a fundamental element of their CSR strategy. And of course it works for budget-conscious marketers still searching for absolute accountability in all of their spend in these straitened times.


Nick Davies' feature comes from the Direct Marketing Association and the website which brings together best practice guidelines and other key information on a range of B2B Marketing & Communication topics from a powerful alliance of specialist trade organisations.


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