Branding Globally, Thinking Locally

Cable marketers have always been an independent lot. It’s an industry built from scratch by entrepreneurs in a relatively short period of time.

The industry faces an enormous challenge to get everyone in a large company made up of smaller regional organizations to “speak with one voice,” as the corporate brand marketers always want us to do.

When every regional sales manager in the company has a few great ideas about how to make the marketing message more relevant to the consumer — and they have access to those consumers via mail, e-mail and other digital media — brand messaging can take a hit. Corporate marketers have to wonder: What are the regions sending? Does it comply with legal? Is it working? If so, could it work for someone else?

Regional managers are often frustrated by the “brand police.” After all, they’ve been successful, or they wouldn’t be regional managers. What does the brand do for them anyway? They don’t know how many leads the regions need. And they don’t know about the tough local competitive landscape for cable providers. You may be up against a low-priced digital subscriber line service in one area and a well-entrenched satellite TV provider in another. Price wars come and go constantly in the local arena — but no one at the head office even seems aware of it.

Even with all these issues, it’s still possible for corporate marketing to maintain adequate control of the brand while letting go enough to see the good ideas work.

The answer is to develop a national marketing program that supports regional sales efforts with a lead-generation structure that incorporates testing for best practices, personalization technology and a way to communicate results to all the players.

Corporate marketers start the process by creating a variety of basic mail, e-mail and Web formats and copy. With the help of technology, though, they leave room for regions to tinker with things like offers and pricing. This allows regional marketers to choose materials that address their unique market conditions.

This is a powerful one-two punch. The Seattle area has a particular competitive environment and consumer ethos. Other regions have their own market configurations (think about the difference between consumers in Las Vegas and Buffalo, for instance). With tactics that operate at two levels, regional marketers can choose best practices and proven strategies, then (and this is the key) they can tailor the messaging to their own particular region.

Each region has market-driven autonomy. And you’re able to test and analyze results by region to make sure everyone has access to what works best. Best of all, the regions can finally leverage the millions of dollars that, for example, a Comcast may be spending on national media. If local marketing looks “Comcastic,” then the regions benefit from the powerful brand messaging.

It’s more than just centralizing the creative approaches — with digital technology (online and offline), an operator can centralize production to reduce costs and be sure it’s not communicating with the same person several different ways.

By continually testing across regions, you’re constantly able to improve results and simultaneously disseminate your own best practices to all regions. That’s much more efficient than waiting for managers to decide to share best practices nicely and willingly among themselves.