Localisation Brand Strategy Cost of Living

In a crisis, brands should make localism their specialism

By Dan Bowers, Chief strategy officer, TMW Unlimited



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May 19, 2023 | 7 min read

This beautiful world is not a homogenous blob; it’s a rich tapestry of difference. Brands must understand and reflect these nuances to truly connect, writes Dan Bowers of TMW Unlimited.

Aerial view of blue parasol among trees

Marketers should adapt their messaging to local demographics / Hakon Grimstad

When talking about how the country is feeling and behaving, it’s easy to make broad sweeping statements and generalizations. The reality is: the UK is hugely diverse, with people of different beliefs and cultures, speaking different languages, with different needs and priorities. It’s often easier for marketers to assume the general population are more alike than they actually are.

This often results in marketing that’s skewed towards people who live in big cities, particularly London. Given that 85% of the UK doesn’t live in London, we risk isolating huge swathes of the nation. We can’t expect audiences to react the same all over the country, so why do we talk to them all in the same way?

Tailored, localized approaches have been the foundation of political strategies for years. I’m not just talking about Jeremy Vine strutting around his big map on election night, but parties adapting their messaging to appeal to local electorates and their specific needs. If this is plainly obvious in politics, isn’t it time that marketers caught up? 

One size doesn’t fit all

There are significant geographical variations that limit the success of a one-size-fits-all approach. Take the cost-of-living crisis, for example. Of course, the whole country has been impacted, and there are undoubtedly common national themes – but there are also significant differences across the UK.

Our ‘What’s Moving the Nation?’ study run by our Human Understanding Lab has been tracking the mood of the nation for years and, when comparing regional responses, there are big variances in how people are both feeling and behaving. 

We found stark differences in how regions are feeling about the crisis. The biggest emotional swings were in the North, South West & Wales, where the emotional impact was more stark than in other regions. Specifically, there were big shifts in feelings of being more worried and more overwhelmed.

Interestingly, Scotland and the South East experienced much less of a swing, appearing to be much less emotionally affected by the crisis. These shifts in feelings are influencing behaviors, too; they directly correlate with whether people are more likely to be cutting energy consumption, buying cheaper brands, eating out less, and using credit more.

Contrasting regional differences tell us that a blanket approach won’t connect. Brands need to be more considered and nuanced in engaging different areas. First, they need to take steps to understand, then they need to reflect the local nuance.

Geographical analysis of brand tracking, sales performance and customer data is the key to uncovering meaningful differences. Once understood, the next step is to consider how they can adapt their strategy to reflect to connect. Here are three pieces of advice for harnessing the power of local.  

1. Celebrate local culture 

Understanding audience differences creates rich opportunities to reflect distinct cultures. This could range from celebrating the personality and culture of different localities, like HSBC’s classic ‘Together we thrive’ campaign, which highlighted the traditions and quirks of different cities. Or it could mean focusing on the beliefs and customs of specific cultures like Tesco shining a light on fasting throughout Ramadan. 

2. Uncover a local need

Smart geo-mapping helps brands understand the sociodemographic and socioeconomic makeup of an area. This means being able to tailor to the specific human needs of a given area. A great example of this was the recent Ocean Outdoor Award winner for the Trussell Trust. This enables food banks to communicate the items that are urgently needed based on current stocks, which interacts in real-time with the out-of-home creative that is served outside nearby supermarkets. 

3. Find your local edge

Thinking local creates a competitive advantage. There might be a disproportionate number of people in a certain area who are likely to be more interested in your brand. The product or service on offer could be more relevant, or even superior, to different people in different locations. For example, mobile and broadband providers like Vodafone, have the upper hand in some areas of the country due to network coverage. Brands that understand this and know how to adapt their communications will thrive. 

Our nation is so diverse, and that’s one of the best things about it. But it also feels more divided than ever. Brands can no longer continue to treat it like a homogenous blob. They must learn to supplement national brand campaigns with locally tailored strategies that both emotionally connect and rationally persuade. The ones that do will undoubtedly have a competitive advantage.

Localisation Brand Strategy Cost of Living

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