Thursday, October 13, 2011

Will Big Brands Cut Out the Middleman to Go Hyperlocal?

Most of the online publishing world still views “hyperlocal” as referring to a local news publication that is dependent upon advertising revenue. Yet, with the rise of Groupon, new revenue models are developing that support hyperlocal advertising outside of the traditional newspaper ad model.

Going forward, brands will start marketing at the hyperlocal level, creating another business model that isn’t quite apparent to traditional publishers. This week, Walmart announced the launch of My Local Walmart, a Facebook application that customizes marketing to every Walmart store in America. The value of these hyperlocal Walmart presences will be in the conversations that will take place within the Facebook app framework. Customers “liking” and commenting favorably on Walmart items will broadcast these opportunities to their immediate neighbors, which will have far greater marketing impact than any banner ad. Imagine if Whole Foods and Home Depot followed suit and developed hyperlocal networks of their own, either via Facebook or through websites that focus on nutritional food or home and garden, respectively. When this trend gets multiplied across a large swath of national brands, the hyperlocal space starts to explode commercially.
For national brands, it’s simply a matter of expanding from one main destination, like, to 3,600 web destinations based on locality. Positioning brands as local,social products is a new marketing concept that will cut across all product categories.
Movies, for example, are a social product but current movie marketing practice simply doesn’t engage audiences at a local level. We see a trailer, go to the movie and “that’s all folks.” Although there are a lot of review sites, local conversations revolving around movies don’t exist online, even though movies are talked about in high schools, around water coolers, everywhere. These local conversations need to be captured by the studios, by the theater chains, and by the local restaurants neighboring the cineplex, because influential social messages like “Hey, let’s all meet up at Romano’s at 6:30 so we can see the 9:00 Moneyball at AMC” are how consumers create business opportunities.
In sum, we’re on the brink of seeing brands start to carve into the hyperlocal pie simply by providing an online space to offer localized content and capture the “neighborhood” conversations that locals want to see.