Helping national brands get local: the Brand Machine story
During his career in advertising, Andrew Mitchell saw first-hand how challenging it was for brands with multiple locations to produce quality local marketing across their network. So, he set about starting his own company to solve the problem. Five years on, Brand Machine’s Marketing Hub solution is automating local marketing for brands around the globe.
With an impressive client roster that includes the United States Tennis Association, Westpac Australia, ASB, Les Mills International, Hyundai Australia and Spark, Brand Machine is changing the way multi-location and franchise brands approach local marketing.
“Historically, supporting local branches or teams took up a huge amount of head office resource, yet if local teams were left to their own devices that usually ended pretty badly,” explains Mitchell. “We figured that creating a self-serve portal technology for local activation could save a marketing teams thousands of hours a year.”
The heart of the Brand Machine solution is its intuitive template editing software that allows local stores and dealers to edit offers, imagery and contact details as needed.
But don’t be thinking this is a glorified PDF editor. A quick play with a demo link soon reveals some rich functionality that gives quite remarkable editing power. For example, type can resize depending on how much is written, formats can dynamically resize (think square to portrait, Instagram to Twitter), and fields can link to databases so clients can control dynamic template content such as pricing or product information in real time.
Brand Machine creates templates for print, press and digital media – including MPEG for animation and film, which Mitchell claims is something of a breakthrough piece of development. “For a local outlet to be able to localise animated or video content has opened up great opportunities for localising in-branch screen content and social posts.”
Moving from central management to Brand Machine’s local do-it-yourself template software is without doubt a massive resource and cost saver for brands, but Mitchell says that is only half the
story. He says workflows for marketing team approvals and supplier ordering and delivery are just as game changing. The system can handle orders and requests for multiple suppliers in the same platform – typically these include media providers, printer, digital screen managers and merchandise companies. “By taking these time-consuming tasks off the desk of marketers, they’re free to pursue more strategic initiatives which is a much better use of their time,” explains Mitchell.
The interactive nature of Marketing Hub’s capabilities is a big part of what makes it so appealing to brands, who don’t have to provide any specific training to staff to use the platform because it is so intuitive. When editing visual content, all changes occur in real time.
All the core day-to-day functions of Marketing Hub such as adding and removing users, approving orders and adding new filters can be done by a company’s head office team. Brand Machine provides full training and instruction guides to clients, who supply print-ready InDesign art files to the Brand Machine team to transform into their sophisticated interactive templates.
Brand and legal compliance is another key driver for brands adopting the platform. While layouts can change and resize, and copy and images edited, each brand’s design rules are coded into the templates to ensure brand consistency. And key legal copy or terms and conditions can be locked off to ensure the lawyers don’t come knocking. The level of editability is completely flexible. “When a client briefs us to build editable assets, they tell us how much control they want to pass over to the local users. It might be very tight, or it might be really open.”
Each Marketing Hub can also have a full digital asset management module added, providing an easily sharable visual repository for brand assets such as images and logos. A sales proposal builder and project management module are available as well, the latter being ideal for managing bespoke media or creative requests from local teams. The module can also manage local budgets.
Far from being just for enterprise level brands, Brand Machine is equally active in the franchise space, implementing systems for House of Travel, Caci Clinic and others. “Franchise brands are a natural fit for our software”, says Mitchell, who is a regular speaker on the franchise conference circuit in Australia.
House of Travel internal communications manager Louise Reeves says Marketing Hub appealed to the company because it is user-friendly and intuitive to navigate.
“The fact that it is easy to use was key for us because with 75 stores it is hard to train retail on different programmes because they already use so many – Marketing Hub is easy to find your way around and intuitive for everybody.”
Previously stores were having to either mock up marketing material themselves on Microsoft Word, or independently pay a designer before getting approval from head office.
“They had a bit of free licence to do what they wanted because we didn’t have the manpower or resources to create branded materials for them. The fact that we can now provide them with a platform that has templates available that were designed in-house is really great,” Reeves says.
FAB Group, which runs the Caci brand, now has branded materials available for all business partners to access and edit for their local markets – whether in New Zealand or the UK. FAB Group brand activation manager Melissa Soich says using Marketing Hub has saved everyone from head office to individual Caci clinics time.
“Business partners can now access and create materials easily and instantly themselves without needing to request this from our support office and having to wait for it to be created. There are also set templated marketing pieces, meaning our staff can look there for what to implement rather than trying to solve the problem or an idea from scratch.”
Brand Machine has gained a strong foothold in Australia. Mitchell says the team made the conscious decision early on to think of themselves as an Australasian business rather than a strictly New Zealand company, and that mindset has led to around 65 percent of Brand Machine’s revenue coming from across the ditch.
But there are users much further afield as well. Les Mills International use the platform to service the 15,000 fitness clubs right around the world that licence their content. Meanwhile United States Tennis uses Marketing Hub to generate the material they need to promote tennis camps and club membership drives right across the USA.
Helping marketers tackle the unique challenges of managing marketing across multiple locations and providing solutions is the aim of Brand Machine’s game, and that means constant innovation and partnering with other solutions such as social and Google's multi-location automation platforms.
Mitchell has learned that in the digital space, the self-serve ethos needs to be complemented with the ability to localise ‘at scale’ from head office through to channels such as Facebook and Google. “The digital channels are by far and away the leading local marketing channels now, so we're excited to be able to offer some amazing automation solutions in this space”. Plans are also underway to integrate Marketing Hub software with email platforms to make the process of locally activated tailored email much easier to produce and manage.
As mass media ruled for years, local marketing may have taken a back seat, but brands are quickly switching onto it again in the new media environment – especially once they learn they can automate so much of what previously took a lot of manual effort. Connecting with your local audience with relevant, localised content will often turn consideration into action, and Brand Machine’s technology is making that achievable.
Andrew Mitchell, managing director: firstname.lastname@example.org 021 801 115
This story is part of a content partnership with Brand Machine.