‘Localizing” Brands, Circa 2018: A Discussion with MomentFeed’s Robert Blatt

Brands have often made a mess of their local store digital marketing relationships. They’ve focused on their national image while paying little mind to local customer relationships, services and marketing — or even telling consumers where their stores are.

Agencies and services like SOCI and MomentFeed are focused on improving the national/local marketing relationship. Complementing location-based marketing services like Yext, Vendasta and Brandify, they work to help “enfranchise” local stores via social posts. They also help generate ratings and reviews; manage promotions and paid search; and coordinate with national headquarters.

MomentFeed CEO Robert Blatt chatted last week with LocalOnliner about brands’ growing embrace of localized digital services and what-he-calls their “distributed engagement.”

The work with franchisees takes place via several channels, says Blatt. In some stores, the local manager still handles the full arsenal of a store’s digital efforts, including e-commerce, social media, content marketing, paid search, and managing customer ratings and reviews. Alternatively, corporate headquarters may dedicate a team of 15-20 field marketers to handle local stores. Some companies are taking a third path: teams of local agencies. That’s how it is handled at Wendy’s, one of MomentFeed’s large QSR clients.

The key is to lower (marketing) barriers at the local level. Blatt notes that 80-to-85 percent of a customers’ engagement with a brand happens locally.

A good place to start is to open the spigot of marketing dollars, sometimes with Co-op efforts, he says. But a lot of it is also making marketing activities simple and efficient – ideally, taking a store manager less than 15 minutes a day.

One thing MomentFeed has done is automate the ad relationship with Facebook for individual stores. It used to take multiple passes to get an effort going between the store, corporate headquarters and Facebook. “Our team has simplified what was once over 15 steps down to two,” says Blatt.

Generating that kind of efficiency has turned out to be a real boost, not only for the brand and stores, but for Facebook, too. It could end up boosting vertical areas where Facebook has traditionally under-performed, like retail, restaurants and automotive.

Such efforts help agencies, too. While ostensibly vying with services like MomentFeed, such automation helps them focus on media planning, community messaging, creative and ad structuring, says Blatt. That’s their true “value add.”

Another area that’s been boosted in the brand/franchisee equation is the broader move to paid search and to broader partner programs. While its great to see store managers working on a store’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, “organic/social has been continuously dropping in reach,” says Blatt. “The trend is going in other directions.”

The operating metric is engagement, Blatt adds. Channels that provide online ordering, transactions and loyalty programs are going to be on the right side of the argument. “Brands feel they have to have a direct connection to the consumer,” he says.

Are these efforts going to be effective in the long run? The fact that many brands have recognized the need to work locally is a victory in itself. But national/local remains an ongoing evolution with some wins, and some losses. As part of this evolution, it is inevitable we’ll see different features get highlighted over time.