Marketing centralisation - are your markets on board?

I recently met with the Head of Global Branding for a large multi-national and we spoke about the challenges global marketers face trying to get consistencies in ways of working across regions, and the difficulties in getting local markets on board to a centralised model of technology and process.

Global companies looking at centralising global marketing activities are typically seeking the following benefits:

  • Consistency in technology used and ways of working, gives much greater clarity for global teams to understand local market activity and the ability to track and monitor the effectiveness of marketing activity across the regions
  • Brand consistency globally across all channels and markets can be significantly enhanced which strengthens brand awareness across the globe
  • Leveraging from global resource can result in a significant cost reduction across all areas and regions of marketing
  • Global campaigns produced centrally can be delivered to markets fast

Shifting to centralised marketing

Implementing the shift from decentralised to centralised strategy is often more complex and carries greater risk than is first realised. The complexity often comes from the assumption that local markets will easily adapt to a centralised way of working which does not always happen smoothly.

Regional teams have typically had full control over their own budgets and marketing activities in their own region. They will often have local marketing suppliers with local brand knowledge and experience, in the same time zone, who they trust and have good relationships with. But what about the centrally produced marketing campaigns themselves? Will they really be produced on time for local launches? Will they really resonate in the local market? Will small and fast requirements for single markets, take forever to go through the centralised process and end up costing the earth? Will the global agency or agencies really be capable of coping with production for all forms of web, TV, print, digital, HTML5 banner ads and social media in multiple languages? Will communication with the local markets be possible in the local language?

Typically, local marketers will have their ways of working with trusted technologies and platforms. They are unlikely to hand control to global teams at the drop of a hat. These are typically some of their concerns:

  • “My needs are different from this centrally produced work”
  • “I can print faster right here”
  • “You’re making my life harder not easier”
  • “We need quick response – our local suppliers are just down the road”
  • “I will lose control of my projects”
  • “Our markets have different requirements from others”
  • “We have our own campaign tools which work perfectly for us”
  • “We trust our local agency and we prefer to work with them”
  • “Local suppliers cost less than this centralised service”
  • “We have our own campaign tools which work perfectly for us”
  • “My distributors tell me what they need”
  • “Global doesn’t understand our market”
  • “Global projects always run late”
  • “It will cost more”

These regional concerns are frequently overlooked or underestimated by global marketers, the philosophy being that regional markets will easily accept the new ways of working due to the already identified benefits. As a result of the factors mentioned, a move from decentralised to centralised marketing can cause considerable suspicion and resistance amongst regional marketers. We have known local markets who refuse to take global campaigns. They will secretly use local suppliers, local technology platforms and local ways of working without informing the global teams. This can fragment global marketing initiatives, reduce the effectiveness of campaigns, waste money and cause unnecessary friction between global teams and regional markets.

Overcoming resistance

So, what is the best way to overcome these concerns and ensure a smooth transition from decentralised to centralised marketing activities?

At Freedman we believe the key is to properly understand the marketing objectives of all relevant stakeholders in the centralisation process in both the global and local markets. Listen to the objectives and concerns of the local marketing teams and make sure their voices are heard. Show them how they too will benefit from the centralised process, that their concerns have been addressed and that the expertise is in place to make sure centrally produced marketing content for their region will resonate with customers locally, as well as adding benefits to the global teams. Use advocate regions and markets to support the more sceptical markets. Building confidence with the regions where these concerns have been taken into consideration and addressed. The transition to a centralised way of working will go smoothly provided there is careful planning and risk assessment. Using internal teams or an agency with prior experience, can help to ensure this smooth transition. Have a well thought through training plan for local marketers who will use the central technology and it’s related processes.

Remember, communication is the key!


Freedman International
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