Revisiting local marketing: Why it still matters

Revisiting local marketing: Why it still matters

Big or small, companies need targeted marketing to stay relevant

In today's internet-driven world with boundless avenues for marketing and advertising, local marketing is often pushed to the peripheries. However, for big companies looking to foray into emerging, new and untapped markets as well as for smaller companies which emerge in their own specific contexts, the 'local' shall always matter.

For the latter, the quest is about capturing the small markets effectively in areas they are limited to and for the former, the challenge is to keep appealing to people in disparate locations, away from their headquarters, against competitors. In both cases, staying relevant in every particular local context requires targeted marketing.

As expert Janis Balis remarks, the Covid-19 crisis has reinforced what we already know: that brands must communicate in very local and precise terms, targeting specific consumers based on their circumstances and what is most relevant to them.

That means truly understanding the situation on the ground, country by country, state by state, zip code by zip code. For some businesses, such as banks, restaurants, or retailers, it may even mean tailoring communications store by store. The local context as well as local talent is indispensable in imagining fulfillment of consumer expectations and expansion and consolidation of a business in a location.

The success story of Patanjali, chronicled by Harvard Business Review demonstrates how an acute local presence can help gain competitive advantage and vanquish much bigger competitors. As the report states, Patanjali's Dant Kanti toothpaste brand held 1 per cent of the market share across India in 2011, and grew to about 13 per cent in 2017. This was in a category that has long been dominated by Colgate, which had carefully built a dominant position over the last 80 years with few challengers.

Yet, Patanjali could successfully make dramatic inroads in just five years, with very limited investment. Initially, Patanjali's marketing efforts consisted of participating in Yoga camps, and it sold its products only through its own retail outlets. In doing so, it was also gaining timely, hyper-focused consumer feedback, which it used to shape its portfolio and grow its business. This case study succinctly illuminates the potential and efficacy of local engagement.

To synergize the local with your marketing, several steps might be necessary. First of all, a firm local presence is necessary, which could be accomplished by setting up regional websites and stores for a brand with customizations of your products, schemes and campaigns and featuring people from the area targeted, as clients and spokespersons.

The mere availability of an alternative in a specific cultural way can attract consumers to bank on your enterprise. Furthermore, drawing from Patanjali's cue, showcasing the everyday relevance of your product through engagement programmes can be a simultaneous opportunity for sales and building a local clientele. For instance, if your brand sells stationery for art, holding an art workshop can get people interested, who shall be acquainted with the products to be sold, as well as the brand while acquiring the experience you intend to offer first-hand.

Secondly, instead of heedless standardization, strategic adaptation is the way to go for optimal market utilization. The company's uniform ways of working across different locations has to be reconciled with the particular needs of every context. When you localise an effort and focus on a certain set of consumers, we are almost entering the terrain of direct-to-customer (D2C) services. Interactions become all the more important here with two considerations to be kept in mind - consumer trust has to be built and local talent has to be leveraged.

When people part of the local community is your employees and advocates, it becomes increasingly easier to understand consumer expectations and allow your clients to share crucial data with the company. Local talent, which has an edge over other people in understanding the cultures, customs and needs of the local market, thus must be part of forming and implementing local marketing strategies.

Local marketing can provide a large company the much needed granularity and nuance across its vast operations. For a small company, it can enable building solid foundations for the firm's future. In both cases, the talent pool and the consumer base of the area responded to become crucial parts of business endeavour and allow it to optimize many specific terrains to write a bigger success story. The local is here to stay and marketing efforts must take care of it to let business unfold in seamless and rewarding ways.

(The author is Chief Impact Officer at Recykal Foundation)

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