Why big businesses can’t overlook local marketing

Asia may be the world’s largest and fastest growing consumer market, but a handful of overseas retailers have continued to struggle on the market.

For example, many foreign customers, despite their high motorization rate, prefer to shop close to home. The booming traffic and lack of parking make it easier to walk to a neighborhood store instead of venturing into an urban center. Unless a distant supermarket has a unique product, like an iPhone, overseas shoppers will buy what they need locally.

However, not all international companies make the same mistakes. These businesses have good local marketing.

Make social networks local

In 2011, the national frozen yogurt company Pinkberry reinforced its commitment to local authenticity. The company gave franchisees mobile access to Foursquare and Twitter. Within a single portal created by MomentFeed, Pinkberry has gathered local hashtags, IDs, and relevant Facebook pages for managers to use.

In addition to creating a toolkit for visual and verbal messaging, Pinkberry offers regular training sessions on local social media marketing. For example, a workshop showed local managers how to find customer-generated Pinkberry photos on Instagram and reuse them to increase engagement.

Then there is Network capital finance company. Nominated by Magazine inc. as one of the fastest growing US-based companies four years in a row, it uses social media to interact with its local residents. “We strongly believe in recognizing our roots,” says Tri Nguyen, CEO. An example of this in action is their Facebook post not too long ago with a link to the Red Cross, supporting local firefighters and their families fighting the California wildfires.

Leverage sponsorship and community outreach

Death is not an easy thing to talk about in any situation. The Neptune Society, which provides cremation services and operates in several states in the United States, builds goodwill and notoriety by sponsoring events in its local communities.

In Fort Worth, they recently sponsored a social event for end-of-life care workers. Laura Anderson, head of services for the Minneapolis-based Neptune Society and holder of a master’s degree in theological studies, visited a local seminary to discuss death and death with future clergy and missionaries. By offering services and sponsorships in its communities, they build relationships with caregivers and local families. These local networks then recommend to people affiliated with the Neptune Society when their loved ones pass away.

Promote local messaging on parent company channels

Fast food company Wendy’s tried to allow local managers to run their own social media accounts, but the chain struggled with inconsistent messaging quality. The Wendy’s marketing team wanted to retain the local flavor while ensuring that the social posts matched the quality of the Wendy’s brand.

Working with software startup Balihoo, Wendy’s developed a centralized portal to which local officials could submit messages. The platform, called Wendy’s Local, allows managers to submit post ideas, which Wendy’s approves and then uses on dynamic, geo-targeted web pages.

Tap into local pride

Red Bull is a multinational company headquartered in Austria, but most people assume it is a local brand. The company is used to sponsoring individual athletes, but has learned to tap into local pride by promoting geographically popular sports.

In Sochi, Russia, Red Bull sponsored Roll the Dice Sochi, a unique approach to snowboarding competition. Instead of competing based on an established set of tricks, contestants rolled dice down the mountain to determine which tricks they should pass. In Seattle, Red Bull sponsored a soapbox race, featuring locally created vehicles– and some spectacular crashes, filmed.

Everything is local

It’s easy to feel cynical about the power of local branding. After all, despite the frequent cries of “Buy local!” Few American customers generally avoid big box stores. At the same time, personalizing locations and messages for a local audience makes a remote business feel like part of a community.

Big companies, wherever they are in the world, need to work harder on local marketing. Those who prioritize local understanding and communication gain a competitive advantage. Those who do not will be forced to return home.