Commentary

How to Make Your Brand Feel Like a Local in Every City it Visits

New York City is called “The City that Never Sleeps.”  Winnemucca, Nevada is known as “The City of Paved Streets.”  Nashville is “Music City.” But do you know why Winooski, Vermont calls itself “Onion City”?

To those of us who will never step foot in these smaller cities, this may all seem like trivia. For locals, though, these sorts of regional identifiers bring people together and forge communities. 

As marketers, we need to strive for a hyper level of local awareness.  Just as we target our media buys, we need to understand how our brand experience fits in with the experience of the region.   

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Going hyper-local can be  time-consuming and difficult to execute at scale. Also, there’s not yet a ton of data to prove the risk is worth it. 

But everything we know about the changing consumer attitudes toward brands tells us the approach makes sense. Today’s consumer wants physical experiences and authentic relationships, and to feel that a brand is listening to them. 

Here are some basic principles to help make your brand feel more at home in every city it visits. 

Work with local experts. Stoli just worked with local artists in all 50 states to paint murals interpreting the brand’s campaign slogan, “Whatever Drives You, Make It Loud and Clear.” 

It’s a clever strategy that instantly places the brand in a relevant local context and ensures personal interactions between the brand and the community (if only when pedestrians stop to ask the painter what he or she is working on). 

The campaign also stresses the importance of working with trusted local experts.  Smart brands deputize local marketing or culture experts who are already living the lifestyle of the consumer they want to target and let them make key decisions about how the brand will be represented locally. 

Empower possibility.  Going hyper-local means ceding some control of your brand so it can make sense in each local milieu. This is also where local experts come in handy. Having a trusted, empowered person on the ground can help you find the right places and partners for your brand.

Focus on culture. Mountain Dew recently introduced its “DEWnited States Collection”: 50 limited edition bottles, along with 50 15-second TV spots, celebrating the unique things that people do in every state. West Virginia’s bottle is adorned with images of fly-fishing for example. The campaign was a huge hit with consumers, who were bidding for the bottles on eBay.

In order to connect with locals, a brand needs to focus on what makes them proud of their home. It can never be about the brand as much as it is about the culture. 

Give it time. Don’t just try something once and declare it a hit or a miss. Experiments need time to grow and show results. And as with any move to a new town, the locals are more likely to embrace you once you prove you’re truly invested in the community.  

A hyper-local approach to marketing places your brand on the ground with consumers, which is increasingly where they want you to be.

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