By David Louis, Sales & Marketing Director, Field Sales Solutions
Covid turned marketing insular. The need to pivot to meet tactical needs was essential as marketers and agencies across the world responded to unique challenges in each country, even in regions. Comfortable as it may be to remain focused locally, the commercial world has moved on. Increasingly there’s a borderless landscape to business, and field marketing like other communications channels, has to be able to operate as part of it.
In the UK even before the pandemic, Brexit created a diversion away from the importance of cross border capability. But having Europewide reach is becoming a necessity, not least because the owners of major US and European brands have never viewed international boundaries as restrictions. More than that, marketing is driven by other factors such as the growing number of global products, and the rapid growth of international sponsorship.
International sports sponsorship requires Euro wide networked marketing support. The vast majority of the budget involved in sponsorship investment is dedicated to activation, not the purchase of naming rights to put a brand name to a tournament, on a car or anything else. Most of the money goes into appropriately themed promotions running across international boundaries, and field marketing plays a major role.
Global sports sponsorship is expected to grow 18 per cent a year to 2026, according to the latest analysis by Report Linker. That’s a rise of £45 billion, with much of it focused on Europe.
In addition to big brands operating across borders, there is a need too for some independent and tertiary brands to operate on a wider geographical scale based partly on ambition, and partly on safety in spreading sales into different markets.
But there is also something new of major importance on the horizon. Already Chinese brands are making their presence felt in Europe. Some with their own retail outlets, including in the UK. When China’s Covid problem is resolved, it will be a starting gun for implementation of a new phase of overseas expansion.
China’s home grown labels have already successfully ousted many big name international rivals in their domestic markets. They now have major international ambitions, and this includes FMCG. A combination of natural business ambition, and Confucian attitude of spreading commercial risk through growth into new markets, means China’s brands are going to be an increasingly common sight. And the Chinese view of European borders is far more opaque than those of American counterparts.
From multiple perspectives, Europe is increasingly seen as a single place of business.
Field marketing, like other marketing disciplines, needs to respond by providing cross border services. This means having a dependable network localised to each European territory. Local skills, creativity and knowledge is crucial.
Brands often mean different things in different countries. For example, in the UK, Schweppes is perceived as a mixer drink, in Spain a generic soft drink brand, and in Germany a high end premium mixer. The brand profile changes, but it has a heritage of international sponsorship, including Formula 1. The Europewide Formula 1 sponsorship promotions it ran needed careful tailoring for each country. They couldn’t be all things to all people in the hope of striking the right message.
And it’s not only consumer perceptions and attitudes that are different. There are compliance laws and regulations. GDPR was supposed to establish a universal data law that would operate seamlessly across Europe. But in the end Brussels gave up on this, and decided each European government could interpreting the law the way they wanted. It means GDPR is different in every country. And then there are different ways countries apply promotional directives. For example, the recent Article 6a on price promotion sees governments heading off at different tangents on how to apply it.
Pan European campaigns quickly get complicated if attempts are made to control campaigns centrally. They have to be brokered to those that can positively interpret core themes and apply them locally. It means working with international partners with known capability. And it needs to be based upon a permanent arrangement. Putting together an untried collective at short notice is at best a recipe for major problems.
There was a time when Inter Direct was thought to be the solution to the international agency network challenge. For more than 30 years it has provided a banner for 1,000s of different types of marketing supplier in Europe and beyond, to work together in designing and executing campaigns. However, there are no quality standard guarantees. In practice, Inter Direct amounts to no more than an international database of marketing service suppliers.
Therefore, it is important for field marketing agencies to be part of a permanent network, whether it is group of independent practitioners that have created working relationships with overseas peers, being part of a global communications group, or being a member of a dedicated network of Pan European field marketing companies. The world is becoming a smaller place, and in response there is a need to have the right partners in the right places at all times.
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