Starry-eyed marketers sometimes think that marketing is all about having creative brainstorming sessions, creating award-winning websites that quickly leap to the top of search results, or launching viral influencer initiatives.
While these activities certainly do take place in marketing circles, they represent only the finishing touches in many cases of what it takes to make marketing—especially marketing across multiple local sites—successful.
While marketers tend to look at the potential upsides—the high search engine results, stellar amounts of leads generated, and high conversion rates—they must also be focused on the potential landmines—brand compliance and legal and regulatory risks.
Here we focus on the challenges faced by multi-location brand managers attempting to manage (and protect) a brand across multiple locations.
Living in the Multi-Location Marketer’s World
Multi-location marketers have a number of stakeholders whose needs they must successfully address.
The corporate office wants them to ensure that there is consistency and quality across the company’s brand for all locations—that the logo is always used in the right way, in the right size and place and with the right brand colors; that offers are consistent; that website content is current, and grammatically correct.
At the local level, individual franchisees, agents, and reps want the freedom and flexibility to adjust marketing efforts, including the content of their websites, landing pages and email offerings to meet local needs. That’s not unreasonable. We know that localizing and personalizing content for local markets is a significant best practice to achieve multi-location brand success.
Yet the brand must still be managed.
Brands of all sizes, but especially big brands (like Lennox, Pella, Kohler—and a host of others) are concerned about maintaining the value and integrity of their brand. From a marketing identity standpoint that involves things like making sure the right logo is used in accordance with brand guidelines, that the brand “voice” is consistent, that key copy points and offers are correct, and a host of other “must dos” that brand managers monitor closely.
You can imagine how challenging that gets as brands grow larger and establish a local presence in various locations where their representatives in these locations understandably want to also be able to control the message and make sure it applies to their local market and audience.
And then there are the legal and regulatory issues.
Legal and Regulatory Issues
Brands must abide by a host of legal and regulatory issues from the claims being made about the product and service, to following requirements related to data protection legislation like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), for companies doing business in Europe, or CCPA (California Consumer Protection Act) in California; or ensuring compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in terms of how people with disabilities are able to access and read website copy.
Things get more complex when these marketers work in industries like healthcare and financial services where rules and regulations are pervasive—and frequently changing. And exponentially more complex the more local markets, local representatives, and marketing channels (local websites, local social media profiles, digital ads, traditional media, collateral materials, etc.) the national brand is managing.
Getting Things Under Control
It’s imperative for brand managers to ensure that they are fully compliant with all of the brand and legal/regulatory issues that impact each of their sites. While that may seem like a daunting challenge, there are some key steps they can take to get things under control.
The first step is conducting an inventory and assessment to determine what requirements need to be followed and where gaps may exist. To do that, we recommend:
- Understanding and cataloging the national, state, and local regulations that apply in each of your locations.
- Conducting an audit to determine the gaps that may exist at each location.
- Developing a plan to determine how the gaps will be addressed.
- Determining how content will be handled moving forward—that requires a balance of some sort between national control and local personalization and contribution.
- Implementing technology that can help to manage brand and legal compliance in marketing materials without sacrificing local marketing needs and performance.
National brands recognize the importance of having a strong local presence and the role that local representatives must play in that. It’s simply not feasible, or advisable, for brand managers to say “we’re handling everything from corporate.” Neither is it advisable to let go of the reins entirely and turn things over to each location. That’s clearly a recipe for disaster and exposure to all kinds of risk.
Instead, the approach we most often see taken is establishing guidelines, training local reps, and instituting some type of review and approval process that might include some combination of human review and automation. For example, in the ADA compliance space there are several software packages that can be used to build and maintain compliant websites.
Localizing your marketing efforts really pays off. But you don’t want brand or legal compliance issues to stop you from doing all of the practices you need to do at a local level to maximize engagement with your local audience. Technology can be your friend here. We can help.