Bob Kraut, Former SVP, Global CMO, Papa John’s International
Bob Kraut, Former SVP, Global CMO, Papa John’s International

When it comes to big national brands that I have worked on, local marketing has sometimes been viewed as somewhat secondary to the national marketing effort. However, almost all national brands start as local brands and are built locally.

Elementally, all retail is local – especially in the pizza business (where I worked). People want to patronize their local pizza place. This “local is better” belief is something that even us C-Suite marketers seem to have internalized on a personal level. So, while moderating a recent CMO Club Digital Roundtable on the topic of localization, I asked my peers to name some of their favorite local companies and what they love about them.

The answers weren’t surprising. Most people mentioned their favorite corner restaurants or stores that catered to them as individuals – remembering orders, favorite drinks, etc – and that had an outstanding in-store customer experience.

“It’s not even about the brand or the experience, but about the interaction and the individual who’s willing to [go the extra mile and] ask personal questions, share jokes and make me feel like a real person – not a credit card,” said Virginie Glaenzer, Former EVP, Head of Marketing and Customer Experience, Great Eastern Energy.

One national brand – Next Door – was commended on its ability to hyper-localize it’s app down to a block-by-block locale. By requiring users to be vetted and invited by their neighbors, it creates a private, local network of peer reviews, recommendations and sharing. A great example, it seems, when having a conversation about how your own brand can activate and thrive with local consumers.

Think about why you even want to be there

A 10,000-foot view of any business goal is to simply make money. But to channel the authenticity of a local company and effectively win over the hearts of consumers, your team needs to understand what they are trying to achieve at a local level.

Are you trying to build awareness or local affinity and connection? Drive traffic and sales? Does your product or service cater specifically to that demographic, psychographic or type of behavior? Is there a significant way you can participate in the community and everyday lives of the people that live in that area?

Answer these questions to clearly articulate the importance of a local strategy, as opposed to just investing in another national campaign.

Find your ‘In’ and act on it

The key to success for Papa John’s is connecting to customers locally in a relevant and meaningful way, which is central in its positioning. The beauty of Papa John’s is that the company is led by its Founder, who represents authenticity and independence – the “local pizza place that has a national scale.” Central to this strategy is local sports activations – Papa John’s has scores of collegiate and professional team sports sponsorships across baseball, football, basketball, etc. Obviously, the connection is there:

  • Everyone roots and follows the home team
  • Pizza is group occasion – bringing people together – and sports fits perfectly with this
  • Sporting events create numerous activation occasions to drive traffic

To make things more special for local fans, we established a system where, if the home team scored a certain amount of touchdowns, home runs or points, the local Papa John’s would have a discount the following day, encouraging people to come back. Our campaign went deeper than the correlation between sports and pizza – it understood the deep connection local fans have with their hometown teams. We dug into the local sports culture and became fans ourselves, effectively becoming an integral part of the community on game day and beyond – a tactic we were then able to replicate and scale to other communities.

Brands may find it easy to mine data for that key insight that makes them locally relevant, but they fall short when it comes to activating their strategy and effectively tapping into the local culture in a way that is monetized. In my experience, this is because of an underestimate of what it takes to be successful. A key component of successful activation is to invest about 2-3 times the worth of your investment, sponsorship or ‘in.’

Establish continuity and durability for a lasting presence

So, once there – now what?

“As a home décor retailer, we always want to make ourselves part of the community; therefore much of our marketing has been local. We’ve seen some particular success with our local activations in our Back to College and military markets, and are looking at how we can continue the dialog once we bring these customers into the store.” Jennifer Warren, CMO, At Home.

As some members mentioned, the real challenge often begins after you find your ‘why’ and ‘how.’ Continuity is key to remain an established part of the community. For some brands, this may happen naturally. For example, 7-Eleven sends locally-targeted social media content and ads every year for their birthday.

For others, the answer isn’t so obvious, but one CMO recommended working with your store managers and local teams to establish a tool kit and budget that allows them to activate in the community throughout the year – on a level that your corporate team may not be able to keep track of.

Staying the course is key for localization. As is regular analysis.

You’ll naturally look at the numbers, but finding influencer groups and other trusted sources of feedback would offer invaluable qualitative insights on the local consumers you are trying to reach.