Distributed marketing refers to a marketing model in which both a corporate marketing department and local business units or channel partners make marketing decisions and perform marketing activities. A distributed marketing model will often exist when a company sells its products or services through a network of regional or local outlets. Distributed marketing models can exist in virtually all kinds of companies, they almost always exist in franchised businesses, and they are frequently found in industries like insurance, financial services and manufacturing.

The defining characteristic of a distributed marketing model is that the local business units or channel partners have some degree of autonomy from the corporate marketing department when performing marketing functions.
Companies with a distributed marketing model have traditionally faced challenges that organizations with centralized marketing don’t typically encounter.

  • Corporate and local marketers have different priorities. Corporate marketers focus on maintaining consistent brand messaging and presentation, while local marketers want marketing programs that will drive sales for their location or business.
  • Local marketing partners often lack the resources to run effective marketing programs on a consistent, frequent basis.
  • Companies often lack the ability to measure the performance of local marketing programs.

The good news is that technologies now exist that will enable companies to address these challenges and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of distributed marketing operations. Most significantly, these technologies enable corporate marketers to maintain control of brand messaging and brand presentation, while making it easy for local marketers to create and use marketing messages and materials that are customized for their specific needs and markets.

Not only will these technologies optimize distributed marketing operations, they can also create new possibilities for companies that don’t currently use a distributed marketing model.

Marketers now recognize that “localizing” marketing content has become critical for marketing success. In a recent survey by the CMO Council, 86% of marketers said they intend to look for ways to better localize marketing content. When asked to identify the major obstacles to effective localization, 30% of survey respondents said understanding local market dynamics and variables, 23% cited measuring campaign effectiveness on a local level, and 22% said finding knowledgeable local market resources and experts.

The reality is, it’s difficult for marketers in a central marketing department to truly understand what’s needed to make marketing effective in diverse local markets. One solution is to decentralize marketing, to implement something closer to a distributed marketing model. Many companies have not taken this approach because corporate marketers fear losing control of brand messaging and brand presentation and because of the other challenges traditionally associated with distributed marketing. Now, the right technology tools can effectively address these concerns.

A more collaborative relationship between corporate and local marketers will enable companies to leverage both corporate marketing expertise and local market knowledge and insights. Distributed marketing technologies can make this kind of decentralized and collaborative marketing model a realistic and practical alternative for many companies.