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Picture: 123RF/ra2studio
Picture: 123RF/ra2studio

The media is littered with news of liquidations and layoffs. But pausing expansion plans could mean lost opportunities that could put a business on the back foot for years to come. The good news is that with some smart planning, brands which are looking to take advantage of others’ inaction can make their marketing budgets work much harder, and even use digital marketing to help de-risk their expansion plans, says Roan Mackintosh, MD Africa at digital agency Incubeta.

One way to reduce the risk associated with expansion is to create a marketing centre of excellence, he says. “We’ve seen this used to great effect by South African brands that are operating in multiple African and even global markets. By centralising strategy, budgets and content, they can share their efforts with outlying regions to include the local nuance and translation. This is a very effective way to maximise resources in a skills-scarce, budget-conscious economy.”

Though centralising efforts can inject cost savings and efficiencies, Mackintosh warns that local teams may resent being dictated to by colleagues who don’t fully understand the regional advertising and media culture. He says this can be overcome in some instances by splitting brands so as to retain local culture. 

When it comes to fulfilling global operational requirements efficiently, digital marketing can really shine, he says, adding that the one sector where this is most clearly seen is the automotive industry. 

“When researching and deciding on a car brand European consumers focus more on the latest and best features, while in South Africa we are far more interested in price and monthly affordability. This doesn’t mean centralisation won’t work. While the journey the consumer follows will be different, the content can be the same and it’s just the order in which the potential buyer sees the copy that changes. What’s more, having a data-driven template for dynamic creative allows you to change things without too much effort. You’re effectively just changing the business rules rather than rewriting the strategy, and this approach even allows you to deliver hyper-targeted campaigns,” he says. 

There is a downside to centralised marketing delivery, however, and Mackintosh concedes that when it goes wrong, it can go horribly wrong. 

“If you are too rigid and entirely focused on reducing costs you could compromise on standards. Local relevance is the first potential casualty. More importantly, quality across all regions could also take a knock, and you could spend a lot of money on content that no-one uses. Another mistake is to doggedly overinvest in traditional media simply because it’s expected. Brands must have a balanced approach when budgets are tight, and build in some agility,” he says. 

Brands should put time and thought into when and how they work with local agencies, he adds. Regional weaknesses, however, can be properly addressed only if brands recognise regional shortcomings.

Things can only be improved if they can be measured 

“There is no doubt that digital marketing allows brands to do more with less, and, in an economy where chief marketing officers are being forced to squeeze out every last budgetary drop, digital marketing delivers quick and, importantly, measurable results.  

“Measurement is the double-edged sword by which we live and die. When you say you can measure more you’re dependent on having the infrastructure (which also adds to the costs) to conduct those measurements. Unfortunately, there is a perception that digital efforts will be significantly cheaper than above-the-line ones. Brands need to approach digital campaigns realistically and provide the necessary support to ensure effective delivery or they will be wasting the money they have invested,” Mackintosh warns, adding that technology investments to enable measurement is often overlooked. 

Though digital marketing allows brands to do more with less and delivers quick and measurable results, brands need to approach digital campaigns realistically.

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