Global consumer markets have rarely been as uncertain as they are today. As we go to press, China and the US are putting the finishing touches to a phase-one trade deal which removes only some of the exchange barriers thrown up over the last two years. But even this progress is uncertain; the EU is threatening legal action against the deal at the WTO  while the US says it is considering retaliatory tariffs against the EU .
In such a volatile environment, one of the best ways to harden operations against disruption and ensure business continuity, is to decentralise. Local branches know local markets and business conditions best. With the right skills, the right organisation and the right support, they can keep things running even in the face of disruption in global markets.
How does decentralisation work?
In a decentralised marketing and localisation model, each local office can decide whether to take marketing and other content from the global HQ — and localise it —or create its own. This builds in a useful degree of flexibility and agility.
It also allows companies to take advantage of price differentials as a way of cutting costs: hiring an agency to do marketing and localisation work in Vietnam is much less expensive than hiring an agency to do the same work from New York or London.
The downside to decentralisation is that the centre necessarily has to relinquish some control. This can complicate brand compliance and cross-border campaigns - but these problems are not inevitable. With the right planning and the right organisational structure, companies can enjoy the benefits of the decentralised marketing and localisation model without the downsides.
These are the six steps to decentralised success
1. Consistency, consistency, consistency...
If markets are going to work independently, it’s important that they all work towards the same goals. This starts with business targets: all units should know what the company’s goals are and how they are expected to contribute to them. But it also extends to things such as brand and copywriting guidelines – no matter where it’s produced, your marketing should look and sound like it belongs to your company.
2. Everyone thinks they know best - make sure they do
A potential pitfall of decentralisation is that knowledge and best practice are not diffused quickly and efficiently throughout the organisation. This is not inevitable. Ensure there is a central function responsible for monitoring what each local office does, identifying best practice and making the network aware of it. Also give the markets themselves forums in which to do this and incentivise them to share.
3. Tech tools - don’t just show; also tell
With the right content management, communications and collaborations tools, independently operating markets can share creative, collaborate on mutually beneficial projects to drive down costs, and discuss how to identify and achieve best practice. But you can’t just make the tools available and then leave them. If you do, your forums will be empty and your content repositories a disorganised mess. Active moderation is key.
4. Follow your (local) leaders
In a decentralised system, one of the potential pitfalls is that it can be tricky to spot when a market is going off the boil, whether because of problems in the decision making, a lack of understanding or clarity over what the company goals are, or some other reason. One way to avoid this is to regularly meet local leaders and hear what they each have to say about their market, how it’s performing and its direction.
5. Could you off-load?
Often, the best way to ensure seamless co-ordination between markets and HQ in a decentralised marketing model, is to work with an external partner with specialist expertise in this field. Market-leading localisation companies have expertise in supporting companies to manage workflows, ensure quality and diffuse best practice as part of a decentralised marketing and localisation model.
6. Work the numbers
More than ever before, working the numbers and using data analytics to model and predict trends, becomes important in a decentralised system. Metrics often tell a story that managers cannot articulate or may not even know is unfolding. By tracking a wide range of metrics, companies can spot problems before they materialise and identify successful approaches to marketing and localisation early on, so that they can be made available to other markets.
But of course, the ideal model for your organisation will depend on a number of factors including the size of the business and level of localisation maturity, the markets and audiences being targeted and the strength of the brand itself.
TranslateMedia is a specialist in translation and cultural adaptation, providing tailored solutions for each client based on its brand personality, business objectives, technical capabilities and budgets. TranslateMedia works closely with clients to select the right mix of services from translation, localisation, copywriting and transcreation – creating custom teams of linguists for specific projects to ensure quality and brand tone-of-voice consistency.