CMOs struggle to master the geographic, culture and cost challenges of a truly localized ad campaign

Global brands find marketing to localized targets to be a challenge

Marketing leaders and agencies find it increasingly difficult to keep pace with growing demands to localize brand marketing content across the channels and geographies they serve.

Despite the increased range of channels available to marketers, hitting the correct note when it comes to geographic, cultural and customer audiences is at some level beyond the capacity of in house marketing teams, according to a new study by the CMO Council developed in partnership with HH Global.

The new study, which interviewed 150 senior marketing executives in the spring of 2017, and then conducted further interviews with marketing leaders from PepsiCo, Chobani and Starwood Hotels and Resorts implied that almost two-thirds of marketers find that their organizations and agencies are below satisfactory in their capacity to adapt to the mounting pressures of localization, new channels, finding rich and engaging content and increased cost pressures.

Further, the study found that organizations invested only 5% of their budgets in creative adaptation for localization and cross-cultural engagement.

"At a time when the customer has higher expectations than ever for relevance and personalization of content and brand interaction, marketing organizations will need to step up their game when it comes to brand content adaptation to address geographic, cultural, customer and other differences," said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. "Past research has shown that adaptation of marketing strategies and content can be a major enabler of sales and brand success. Yet most companies have a long way to go in order to get it right."

The study focused on global industries that demand an omnichannel presence, including retail, travel, hospitality, technology, consumer goods and telecommunications. The report notes that although 67% of marketers ranked digital advertising as the most important element of their marketing mix and 67% agreed that website design and content are most important, respondents were frustrated by the pace of execution; and less than half said they deployed localized content in a timely manner.

“All brands, regardless of the geography where people are experiencing the brand, must demonstrate a clear identity of the brand,” said Ram Krishnan, chief customer officer at PepsiCo. “What does the brand stand for? If you lost that, than you lose the soul of your brand.”

The study suggested that 33% of those questioned say their companies are either advanced or doing well in adapting brand content to different markets, partners and geographies. Another 34% said they improved while just 20% are satisfied with their creative delivery process and marketing supply chain effectiveness.

“The 50 states are not always the united 50 states of America, and there are different points of view, consumers, socioeconomic backgrounds, race and ethnicity ratios and histories to all the states,” explained Peter McGinness, chief marketing officer of Chobani. “Blanketing the United States with one message may be efficient in terms of cost per 1,000 perspectives, but efficiency based on the number of eyeballs reached is not a measure of success.”

Marketers agreed that their top five process challenges are shortening turnaround times, ensuring quality and uniformity with brand guidelines, end-to-end workflow management, delivering creative on time, and measuring the creative appeal and impact of content.

The study also found that many organizations failed to take important steps to improve their capacity to adapt and modify branded content. Just 18% had completed a formal assessment of their creative delivery process and marketing supply chain effectiveness although another 24% say they had begun one.

In addition, many companies utilized only basic project management and collaboration tools to manage these processes.

Just 20% used online approval and proofing systems to accelerate modifications. Even more surprising, 49% of respondents say they spend less than five per cent of their marketing budget for creative adaptation and cross-cultural localization.

"The findings—that marketers are struggling with finding efficient ways to adapt creative content for local markets at scale—expose a gap in the market that is quantitatively consistent with our qualitative experiences," said Robert MacMillan, Group CEO at HH Global. "We have seen marketers trying to expand into new regional markets with localized content, but, as demonstrated in the research, they have neither the time nor processes and tools to execute at scale."

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Laurie Fullerton

Laurie Fullerton is a writer based in Boston, MA with a background in business, sports, community, medical and travel writing. She has been a newspaper editor in the Boston-area, a sports writer covering yacht racing and a community reporter. She has been reporting for The Drum since October 2015.

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