Cross-border collaboration

With international boundaries now so permeable, consistency of message for a brand is a must. Richenda Wilson asks if a centrally produced campaign or using local knowledge is best

When the pressure is on, it is vital that no detail in the international direct marketing printing process is overlooked, and that the right people check every dot and comma on every mailer, brochure and covering letter, and in every language. But what is the best way to achieve this?According to Freedman International managing director Kevin Freedman, brand owners have three basic choices. “You can centralise the whole operation, let each country do its own thing, or use an international network.”

He advocates splitting the creative from the implementation. Local markets can view and approve campaigns, while production is managed centrally by a project management specialist who can focus on the timelines. This approach also offers cost savings of up to 30%, claims Freedman.

Brand guidelines
Customisable templates may have their critics, but Freedman maintains there are now many sophisticated systems that offer the opportunity to search a catalogue of all campaigns created by an organisation across the world. Text, pictures and formats can all be altered to suit local markets while staying within the brand guidelines.

Freedman’s Global Marketing Shop offers such a service as well as the ability to manage projects across many markets. “The resellers don’t need to have a marketing manager but they can still produce a professional event branded in the right way,” he says.

DSTi Output also favours the customisable template route. Its Direct Access Web allows clients to plan campaigns online. A UK-based creative lead can monitor work throughout the process, keep an eye on timings and sign off all the work.

“A menu of all the countries is a key aspect of not letting the campaign slip,” says DSTi Output sales and marketing director Malcolm Webb. He explains that the system is flexible enough to allow individual markets to customise their campaigns to allow different discounts or mechanisms.

This system offers flexibility, greater speed to market and late cut-off times owing to its digital printing process. “If you have a launch coming up and a rival has slashed its prices, the Direct Access Web allows you to raise your offered discount from 10% to 25% at the last minute,” says Webb.

Allan Fraser-Rush, planning director and managing partner at Tequila, also believes in devising the creative element of a campaign in one place. “With European borders now so transient, consistency of message for a brand is a must, and a centrally produced campaign actually enhances this. A structured and ready to use toolkit ensures that agencies across the launch can focus on getting the exact structure of the campaign correct for their local market.

“With 95% of material already supplied and approved, the logistics of an international campaign are exceptionally straightforward. Budget is not wasted on different creative ideas, leaving spend to be maximised on the DM reaching the market,” adds Fraser-Rush.

However, Matt Bird, managing director of print management company Etrinsic, counters: “It’s a mistake to take one model from the UK and stamp it onto other European countries. You have to be aware of social and cultural differences as well as different market needs.”

Bird gets round this difficulty by forming partnerships with organisations in other markets that are like-minded in terms of customer care.

And there is one other key element to consider before embarking on an international DM campaign – data quality, warns Colin Rickard, DataFlux EMEA managing director.

It’s all very well spending time and money making sure the content of a campaign is good, but this is a wasted effort if the mail arrives at the wrong house or is addressed to the wrong individual, he adds.

Data record
Marketers today often face data input from varying channels, be it from data entry in the call centre, online data inflow or from a data migration. It is essential that an enterprise can keep one single and accurate record of their customer details and previous contacts. Data hygiene specialist DataFlux offers a real-time solution that can investigate each data record as it attempts to enter the data warehouse. Using customisable business rules, set by the company, each record that is not standardised correctly or is a match to an existing record can be identified and denied access or investigated.

With so many aspects to consider when running an international DM campaign it is essential to manage it as tightly as possible. Whether this is done centrally or locally, greater control will mean less stress for the brand manager; fewer missed deadlines; and big potential savings in production and mail costs.

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