Today, marketers in the corporate home office and/or franchise headquarters are pushing a larger percentage of their marketing and advertising dollars to the local limited-service restaurant, allowing that local entity to use those funds in ways that best appeal to their immediate geographic and demographic markets. While based on the sound idea that local owners and managers know their patrons best, such a policy also raises the issue of how a brand can maintain its own integrity in terms of logo design, graphics, look-and-feel, and even messaging. However, modern variable design and production technologies now can support the brand while giving street level owners and managers more latitude in reaching out to customers in the most relevant way possible.
The web-to-print model has been around for several years, and in practice, means that corporate develops a variety of materials, such as point-of-purchase/point-of-sale displays, table tents, brochures, coupons and other collateral, and offers them to local branches and franchisees via an online catalog and ordering system. Building on the basic concept of web-to-print is a new and improved concept called "distributed marketing," a model where a corporation sells its products and services through a network of regional or local channels (franchisees in the case of restaurants). With a distributed marketing model, the local restaurant has access to designs and templates created by corporate marketers, but they have a much greater ability to customize these pieces to suit their specific needs and the needs of their customers.
Variability is key
The primary difference — and the key to empowering local branches and franchises — is variability in design and production. For example, a national franchisor with more than 1,000 locations nationwide has recognized that what works for a restaurant in California may not be embraced by the patrons of a location in New York City. Based on that fact, corporate decided to give local sites a freer hand and more funds to implement their own campaigns, perhaps promoting certain menu items with POP/POS displays, or using direct mail coupons to increase weekend traffic.
While this model can be more effective than "remote control" marketing driven from the home office, corporate marketers may be justifiably nervous about how the brand might be misrepresented. And at the local end, the franchise owner or branch manager may not have the expertise of the corporate marketing staff.
In this case, corporate established the necessary parameters for various promotions and campaigns and developed basic templates for POP/POS items, coupons, postcards and other materials that are accessible to local owner/managers at a central and secure web portal created and maintained by a vendor-partner. The local restaurateur can go to this portal, which looks like a typical online storefront and, using the templates, predesigned graphics, photos, and even text messaging, they can put together highly customized collateral to support their specific marketing campaign, all with previously-arranged approval from corporate marketing. The technology that makes distributed marketing possible also provides the home office with detailed reporting and analytics, requisites to determining ROI on specific campaigns.
The local owners/managers are not simply ordering a dozen ceiling danglers or table tents, but are using the design tools provided by corporate to create materials that feature the products and services that work best for their specific geographic or demographic market.
Making it work
By working through local branches and franchises that are closest to customers, the distributed marketing model can ensure the most effective and targeted marketing efforts, and therefore, the most efficient use of marketing dollars. Additionally, rather than creating and producing an inventory of marketing materials, then storing them until they pass into obsolescence, distributed marketing is an on-demand system. The specific materials aren't produced until they're designed and ordered by the local restaurant.
Today's variable data design and printing technologies make the distributed marketing model possible and are implemented using variable print production capabilities — either in-house or through a vendor-partner.
Organizations that have utilized web-to-print will find distributed marketing a practical next step in providing local owners/managers with precisely what they need to promote their specific locations. Similarly, distributed marketing makes it relatively easy for owners/managers who have even minimal experience with online buying to develop and order sophisticated, high quality materials pre-approved by corporate headquarters. Additionally, corporate marketing will appreciate that distributed marketing technology can and should be scalable to respond to the trending growth QSRs are experiencing.
The distributed marketing scenario can be a win for all concerned, empowering local branches and franchisees while strictly maintaining brand integrity. And the system can work not only across state boundaries, but globally. As limited-service restaurants move into growth mode, it's a concept very much worthy of in-depth consideration.
Daniel Defino is vice president and managing director of Tukaiz, a results-driven marketing services production company based in Franklin Park, Ill. Founded in 1963, Tukaiz is a family-owned and operated company providing products and services to advertising agencies and corporate America. The infrastructure of Tukaiz includes imaging, print, and interactive services. For more information visit www.tukaiz.com. Defino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.