Hyper-local Marketing, Post-Recession Positioning, $5 Gas -- and Your Agency

Small Shops Need to Get Themselves and Their Clients Ahead of These Trends

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Marc Brownstein
Marc Brownstein
One of the key advantages small- to midsized agencies have over the global shops is that we embrace change before they do. A lot sooner. This is an advantage that we must continue to own, as it differentiates us, and provides significant value to clients.

Each week, I visit clients, meet with my team, and read other blogs and websites and attend conferences. My take away from the first quarter (so far) of 2011 is that there are three trends emerging: Being hyper-local
Your inbox is likely flooded with coupons from retailers and service providers in your community. It's the Grouponing of America. The world's fastest-growing company has quickly drawn the attention of me-too competitors. Living Social and Travel Zoo are in it. And as you read this, about 40 other couponing companies are preparing to land in your backyard or already have. In my town, Philly, our leading daily newspaper has spun off its own coupon company, Dealyo. I hear it's the fastest-growing part of their business, too. The companies that can fully infiltrate your local community, and offer the best deals, are going to win.

What Groupon began is having ripple effects on marketing plans throughout America. Clients want their marketing to be increasingly hyper-local, meaning that the advertising should feel organic to the community it is placed in. Saying it is easy; doing it is completely another. Outside of buying local media nationally, and giving your ad copy some local flavor, it is important that agencies gain a better understanding of their clients' customers in each market they serve. This means developing local insights that national work would overlook. Partnering with local brands. Bringing innovation to a media plan that allows your clients' brand to move in to the neighborhood.

Post-recession positioning
The phone's ringing at Brownstein Group for our branding services. Five companies have recently engaged us to help them be relevant again to their customers, now that the recession is over. They believe that customers have changed. What was important to consumers three years ago is not so meaningful now. Their heads are in a different place. Motivating them to buy will require a new message and a re-positioned brand. The other interesting fact is that two of these companies also indicated that they've wanted to do this for many months now; only recently did they get the go-ahead to spend the money. My advice to you is to talk with your clients about how their products/services are positioned, and if their messages need a re-fresh -- or if their brands need to find an entirely new market.

Impact of $5-a-gallon gas
Just when the economy was revving up, chaos in the Middle East, and its impact on gas prices, may choke off a recovery. As I write this, the price spikes have been so sharp and sudden that the U.S. government is considering tapping into its strategic oil reserves to stabilize prices. Experts predict a gallon of gas could exceed $5 by June. That will certainly send shivers into middle America, and could put a clamp on wallets. When consumers feel worried, they stop buying. And the ripple effects of that could send us right back to where we were a couple of years ago.

Messages that emphasize saving and value will continue to be very important. And if you can create any offers or promotions that would ease the pain at the pump, such as a "free gas for a month" promotion, may resonate. High energy prices will also send consumers into car dealer showrooms seeking fuel-efficient models again. High-mileage hybrids and electric cars will take center stage. Public transportation and other forms of transportation, like biking, will be embraced by people. Of course, high energy prices do have a silver lining: it will keep up the pressure on innovation for new energy sources and energy independence. That sector will come alive again, as it did in 2008 when we saw our last gas spike. I'm sure that emerging industry will be seeking more marketing help!

These are just the trends from the last few months. Keep your finger on what's changing around you, and learn how to adapt and leverage it. That's what agencies our size can and should do. If you embrace change and interpret it for your clients' gain, they will thank you and stay loyal to your shop.

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