A guide for building the best advertising templates. (Part 1)

Distributed Marketing Management, Local Marketing Automation, Channel Marketing or Local Advertising Optimization – whatever you call it, one factor determines success more than any other: Providing local affiliates effective templates for creative materials.

For those who are unfamiliar, templates are dynamic pieces of advertising creative that allow marketers in specific locations to adapt national materials for their local audiences. Here’s the definition we stuff into our PowerPoint decks:

A template is the client’s creative broken into standard square or rectangular pieces that can be layered and interchanged programmatically. This functionality gives the user numerous creative possibilities within one template.

Using templates, an automotive company can use the same corporate-approved framework to create ads that work for all dealer locations; this would allow a Florida car dealer to advertise a red convertible and Minnesota dealer to advertise a four-wheel drive truck, each with different promotional offers and legal disclaimers set by the corporate marketing team.

No matter the complexity or industry, all templates have the same basic parts: static and variable regions, which allow different creative possibilities and functionality within a single template.

Basic layout for a creative template

Templates let your local dealers, agents and franchisees without design skills create custom marketing materials that adhere to your national brand standards.

Determining which parts of your advertising creative are static and which parts can be adjusted to speak specifically to your local audiences will guide the essence of your distributed marketing program. As the pioneer of this space nearly fifteen years ago, Brandmuscle has created thousands of templates for our clients across all industry types and provides coaching to national brand managers about how their designs can be best adapted for their distributed local audiences.

Here’s the start of our template guide, which provides high-level tips for both designers and marketing managers. We’ll dive into details for each category in future posts. If there’s a question or case study you’d like us to explore, sound off in the comments and we’ll try to fit in an answer in a future post.

1. Consider both “customers” when designing – Templates should take both consumers and your local affiliates into account. View both as customers. Make the templates you offer appealing to your local affiliates and make sure that whichever option they choose, the result is a powerful marketing message that drives customer behavior.

Remember that your local affiliates are often not marketers by trade. Templates should serve as a best practices guide, and the options available serve as suggestions local affiliates will use to communicate with their customers. National brand managers should provide options that drive marketing best practices and steer their local affiliates to the right types of messaging.

2. Design with templates in mind: give effective options – The entire premise of a template is often missed because national brand managers offer too many or too few options for local marketers to use. Striking the balance between offering a static template with only one variable field or offering  a blank template with lots of variable fields but no clear direction comes down to selecting the right number of options.

Providing options for templates will help your local affiliates diversify their marketing programs, reaching more customers through different channels.

Templates should promote corporate standards and messaging, but also allow local affiliates to feel they have control too. This is their business, their livelihood and often they want to be included in their messaging.

3. Offer a variety of media types and sizes – The best way to guide local marketers to creating an effective, customized ad is to be clear about the utility and effectiveness of your templates. One creative layout may work great as a flyer or handout but not as a direct mail piece. Similarly, landing pages suited for a consumer audience might not attract the attention of a B2B buyer. It’s important to give local affiliates choices within each template so they can build an ad that will best resonate with their local audience. Equally important, you should offer local affiliates multiple templates to choose from so they can select the media channel that works best reaches this audience and matches the promotion – whether it’s a media placement, direct piece or online ad.

4. Keep it simple: avoid “super templates” – While robust templates with many options give local marketers the ability to customize their messages to their local audiences, sometimes too many options make for unclear direction. Oftentimes, we see clients combine too many options into one template causing the piece to become considerably less useful than if it had been separated into two templates that could be used for two different purposes.

For simplistic ad placements – like seasonal offers made through small online ads or postcard mailers – limiting variables to just a few messages and contact information may suffice. Remember that many local marketers are simply looking for grab-and-go marketing materials and providing them this option means they’ll carry your national branding on the local level. Lastly, consider limiting options on materials that have a proven track record; making templates easy to create will amplify their usage.

5. Embrace “Other”: don’t be afraid of user entry fields – A blank page can overwhelm local affiliates who aren’t marketers by trade. But templates with fully customizable sections can help affiliates leverage your national branding to support their specific needs.

Pizza_Ad_Poster_LocalVariability_Web_sm

Leaving variable spaces open for your local affiliates will allow them to tie into community topics, like sports teams.

User-entered text and images allow local affiliates to specifically target their community to promote local events or appeal to distinct demographics – think of a headline directed at “Springfield Home Owners” or a mention of the local high school football team. Allowing the use of ultra-local components in your creative templates helps establish your affiliates – and your own national brand – within their communities by reinforcing the common ground they share.

Lastly, don’t worry about rogue local dealers and agents. Most distributed marketing management systems will have additional review processes built in for open field options to ensure brand standards are in compliance; and in our experience, affiliates using the system are much more apt to create approved ads than those who are doing so using their own devices.

Giving local affiliates templates they will actually use is the first step to creating an effective distributed marketing program. Balancing the customization is an ongoing task, but one that will create a two-way dialogue about which marketing tactics work well on the local level and which tactics do not.  A strong distributed marketing partner offers the technology to support a variety of template types as well as effective reporting on what options are being used across your distributed marketing base. Brandmuscle offers on-demand support from our own marketing experts (real people!), who can guide your local dealers, agents and franchisees through the available templates and choose the options that best suits their marketing programs.

Are you on your way to building better templates? Want to learn more or talk about how this process could help your business? Contact us here or let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE: Read Part 2 of this post to learn how customizable marketing assets connect national brands with local consumers.