Why not take ideas that are proven to work at a local level and run them on a national basis?

Our ’man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

The Secret Marketer
The Secret Marketer

When we talk about marketing, many people reach for case studies from national brands or well-established agencies. This means commentary often excludes the lion’s share of the activity that really goes on out there, produced by small and medium-sized enterprises.

In my experience, local-level marketing by SMEs is often better conceived than national campaigns. It tends to show better understanding of the customer because it is grounded in knowing who they are and what they want.

Local businesses are more in touch with their customers than many big brands, tending to deal with them face-to-face, day-to-day, rather than via the odd meeting with “representative sample customers” in focus groups, or other research.

Despite talking a good game, most big companies manage their marketing budgets from the top down. They start with a lowest common denominator message and fire it out nationally. If spare funds are available, they may prop up their impact with local level overlays. This is very convenient for a central marketing group with a central budget working in partnership with national agencies.

“Why not take ideas that are proven to work at a local level and run them on a national basis?”

The result is very often bland. It just about keeps all internal stakeholders happy, but it fails to really light the touch paper at local level. So why do companies not do it the other way round and take marketing ideas which are proven to work at local level and explode them in a more co-ordinated fashion on a national basis? Surely this model would have a greater return on investment? The answer is that it probably would, but that our industry is too lazy to work out how to do it.

To do so would challenge the conventions of the traditional client-agency model. Those who have tried to run multi-layered, grassroots-based activity via agency partners may have long since given up. The complexity of so many executions and agencies telling you they can only produce so much tailoring within their fee leads to fears that doing things locally is simply not economic.

You may, therefore, have been tempted to retrench to a national, one-size-fits-all compromise. In so doing you have undoubtedly made life easier for your marketing team and agency, but are you sure you are not championing a false economy?


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