The Top 3 Challenges Regional Marketing Models Create for Global Businesses

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Kipp Bodnar
Kipp Bodnar

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Starbucks recently shifted from a global to a regional marketing structure. Kieran and I believe this is the worst thing you can do to your marketing strategy, resulting in significant, long-term business consequences.

Regional vs Global marketing strategy graphic with a globe, lightbulb for strategy and magnifiying glass for research.

Starbucks' new CEO, Brady Brewer, recently announced a shift from a global marketing approach to a regional, decentralized model. As part of the change, Brewer is eliminating the role of a global CMO and will instead have regionally divided marketing teams with regional CMOs.

While this may seem like a strategic move to tailor marketing efforts to local nuances — Brewer was previously Starbucks’ CMO, after all — we believe this is the single biggest mistake a marketing leader can make.

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As discussed in the latest Marketing Against the Grain Podcast, we dive into the biggest challenges that regional marketing models create for global businesses.

We also touch on the lessons learned by companies like Uber and HubSpot, which have tried this structural change, and steps to build your own global marketing strategy.

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    Regional Marketing Model Challenges

    1. Inefficiency and Misaligned Competition

    One of the core challenges of a regional marketing model is that it generates significant inefficiency and counterproductive competition.

    For example, when teams operate independently, they often (unknowingly) duplicate efforts, creating similar campaigns from scratch instead of optimizing and scaling successful strategies globally. This not only wastes valuable resources but also leads to inconsistent execution.

    Additionally, having multiple CMOs can incentivize teams to compete over the same resources, goals, and budgets. Each CMO wants to make their region seem 'special' and 'different,' resulting in what Kieran describes as "kingdom making."

    This phenomenon shifts the team’s focus from collaboration and unified strategy to internal rivalry, ultimately diminishing the overall impact of marketing initiatives and reducing efficiency across the organization.

    2. Inconsistent Brand Messaging

    A second challenge with regional marketing approaches is that it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a consistent global brand experience.

    Why? Because regional CMOs will all try to put their personal spin on it.

    While regional teams might be better equipped to understand local nuances, the lack of a centralized strategy leads to conflicting and often confusing brand messaging across different markets.

    Overall, we believe that a good idea is a good idea everywhere. What we mean by this is that the world is much more the same than you think — and is becoming increasingly so.

    "In nearly all of my experience," says Kieran, "more than 80% of a marketing strategy can be copied across most regions with a couple of exceptions. Plus, technology will continue to make the world smaller and smaller, highlighting the need for a unified approach."

    3. Fragmented Knowledge & Expertise

    A third challenge that regional marketing models create is the fragmentation of technical knowledge and expertise.

    Today's marketing requires a deep and thorough understanding of algorithms, storytelling techniques, and emerging technology like artificial intelligence (AI).

    By decentralizing marketing teams, however, businesses dilute this information-sharing across regions and create rigid knowledge silos that impede learning and innovation.

    This also leads to inefficient capital allocation, as different regions may not have the same access to talent and resources, resulting in uneven performance and a mismatch of knowledge and skills across the organization.

    Uber experienced this first-hand a few years ago, finding that regional teams struggled to efficiently leverage the full potential of the company’s centralized knowledge. As a result, they laid off over 400 marketers and had to completely rethink their marketing strategy.

    Step-by-Step: How to Build a Global Marketing Strategy

    Building a global marketing strategy can feel like a huge, overwhelming task — but with the right approach, it can lead to significant growth and success.

    To get started on creating your own Global Marketing Strategy, download our Global Marketing Playbook and follow the steps below.

    The Global Marketing Playbook

    Get expert advice on planning, launching, and expanding your global marketing strategy.

    • Build a global marketing strategy.
    • Assemble an international team.
    • Prepare for localization.
    • And more!
    Learn more

      Download Free

      All fields are required.

      You're all set!

      Click this link to access this resource at any time.

      1. Prepare to go global.

      Start by determining if your company has the mindset and resources — personnel, tools, language education, and budget — to approach an international expansion effectively.

      For example, conduct a readiness assessment to gauge if your team is equipped for global challenges. As we discussed on the podcast, "If your product or service is highly niche, there might not be a reason to go global."

      2. Map out your international strategy.

      Create a global marketing strategy that aligns with your business priorities. This involves developing relevant content, aligning global initiatives, and engaging executive champions to support your efforts. For instance, use analytics to define your target markets and set clear KPIs for each region.

      3. Plan, plan, plan.

      Efficient planning is critical to the success of your global strategy. This includes mapping out objectives, identifying stakeholders, and setting up processes for content creation and distribution. You might create content calendars and workflows tailored to each market.

      4. Assemble a dedicated team.

      Build a global marketing team that understands the nuances of each target market. This includes hiring local talent and partnering with local agencies and experts. For example, consider engaging local contractors and translation providers to support your regional campaigns.

      5. Establish scalable processes.

      Create scalable processes for content creation, translation, and localization — and then regularly check in with these processes to ensure efficiency and consistency. You may also organize a formal content audit to streamline content management and make sure all teams follow standardized procedures.

      6. Prioritize localization.

      Understand the difference between translation, localization, and transcreation.

      Also, make sure to tailor your content to meet the cultural and linguistic needs of each target market.

      As examined in the guide: expanding your business is far more than just finding a few people to hire that speak a different language. Try using real-time analytics to refine your localization strategy and choose high-quality vendors for accurate translations and a thorough understanding of your audience.

      7. Choose the right technologies.

      Select technologies that support your global marketing efforts, including tools for project management, content creation, analytics, and communication. Perform a global technology audit to identify necessary tools and ensure your team is trained to use them effectively.

      For an in-depth analysis on global and regional marketing, check out the full episode of Marketing Against the Grain below:

      This blog series is in partnership with Marketing Against the Grain, the video podcast. It digs deeper into ideas shared by marketing leaders Kipp Bodnar (HubSpot’s CMO) and Kieran Flanagan (SVP, Marketing at HubSpot) as they unpack growth strategies and learn from standout founders and peers.

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