By Sarah Bryers, Head of Experiential, TMW UNLIMITED
The term ‘localism’ may not have been used as widely as ‘social distancing,’ ‘new normal’ or ‘you’re on mute’ but, for marketers at least, it may be among the most enduring changes that we have seen since Covid. In the immediate term, the move towards localism, particularly in retail, is undeniable. 64% of the UK population have said they are now more inclined to shop locally, according to research data from our insight partners, Walnut Unlimited. This is reflected in the sales data too, with independent local retailers seeing a 69% increase in sales in 2020.
Two primary reasons for this trend, the first of which will be self-evident to most of us. The restrictions on travel have meant that people are leaving their homes less and, when they do, they are less likely to travel far. The other factor though, points to a potentially deeper change in the population, and this is where brands need to be most attuned.
As a result, the impact of the pandemic – and all of the challenges that it has entailed – has enhanced the sense of community among consumers, and this is manifesting in the way people shop, meaning now more than ever, being able to centre brand strategy on understanding human is crucial to delivering marketing strategies that cut through the noise.
Localise your message
The importance of activating national campaigns locally has long been an underestimated element of the marketing mix. According to internal research across our client-base at TMW Unlimited, we discovered that 66% of purchases are affected by some form of local activity. Effective local marketing which takes national campaigns and finds ways to tailor messaging to a smaller audience has always given brands the opportunity to increase their cut through, response rates and inspire more brand affinit
Engage your retail network
Understanding the local market is a skill that only the local network can deliver authentically. Providing the tools to deliver national messaging to a local audience is important to harness local communities, as well as mobilising and upskilling the network into action. For franchises who are used to managing their own marketing, it is up to brands to drive the focus and allow them to speak to the community. For brand-owned stores with more centralised marketing, this could require a more significant adjustment, a movement towards system where messaging is more devolved.
Manage your message, be true to your brand
Given the PR disasters some brands have faced from local markets going off messaging, companies will no doubt be reluctant. it’s crucial to offer guidelines when adapting communications to a particular location’s audience to ensure that it does not dilute the importance of maintaining an established brand identity. Everything still needs to embody the tone and purpose that consumers would see in national marketing. Allowing local elements of the brand some autonomy but within the parameters. With proper training and education to let local operators know the importance of maintaining one brand, as well as having vigilant systems in place to check and assure compliance, companies will be able to have the best of both worlds: authentic, tailored messaging under one cohesive brand.
According to Paul Wolstenholme, Regional Marketing Manager for Lexus, they have seen success in this area by putting marketing training at the forefront of their strategy: “We routinely check outputs across all channels to ensure guidelines are met, with measures in place to prompt swift correction if standards are not met, but fundamentally it starts with working with retail centres so that they understand why consistent branding and messaging delivers greater returns – both for the brand in general and for sales at a localised level.” This has paid off in the relationship between the brand and its retailers, with Lexus having the most satisfied dealers out of all manufacturers in the UK.
When it comes to talking about how a brand fits into the local community, little steps can go a long way. Brands that take steps to genuinely help their community with local initiatives are likely to prosper in the long run. Even more so if their consumers get a say in how. Waitrose’s Community Matters scheme, in which they give a chance to vote on which local community projects receive support is a great example of a brand entrenching itself and its customers in the local community. A warning though: companies should be wary of slipping into cliché. With more purpose-conscious consumers comes better detectors for tones that ring hollow which won’t get a lot of cut-through.
Know your customers, hyperlocally
To make informed choices about bespoke marketing on a local level, it is crucial that a brand truly understands its audience in each location. Using insight tools that employ the right combination of sales data, demographic insight and any other information marketers can get their hands on means it is now possible to accurately discern exactly who it is they are communicating with and where they are. The key then is to aggregate and unpack the information available to come up with actionable insights that are easy to understand and implement at a local level. Done well, this can be a powerful tool in a brand’s armoury to take them beyond a more generic approach.
Matt Clark, Senior Dealer Coach for Ford, told us that they that the brand was bearing the fruits of investing in local insight tools: “Zone mangers and retailers are now able to see where opportunities are within their territory, whilst comparing local sales performance to a national index. Using both household and industry profiling has enabled us to create audience types and develop impactful messaging, leading to higher conversion rates across the network.”
Create local experiences
If the pandemic has shown anything it’s that brick-and-mortar retailers, will need to function differently. In-store purchasing is becoming an increasingly secondary function to browsing and click-and-collect, and brands need to create experiences for customers to set themselves apart. This could provide a fantastic opportunity to leverage the brands understanding of local audiences. They’ll need to deliver events to attract people to their store and curate an experience that delivers a more personal relationship between a brand, its consumers and the community it sits within.
Ultimately, each brand and each location will need to interact with its local community in its own distinct way. Assuming that one size fits all has never been an efficient approaching to marketing but brands who don’t have a strategy in place will now feel the consequences more than ever. The world has changed in many ways and what people now expect from the companies they buy from is different as well. As ever, those who move first to innovate and deliver for their customers are likely to fullest effects, whilst those who are slow to adapt will face an uphill battle to catch up. Above the line messaging is as important as ever, but it is vital that it integrates with a local strategy too.