So today my colleague was a in a Starbucks* in San Francisco. Clearly a person at a Starbucks in San Francisco isn’t big news. This particular trip, however, was interesting for two, contrasting, reasons:

  • He saw a beautifully branded QR code on an in-store display promoting the purchase of Starbucks bags of coffee. Scanning the QR code was stellar: it connected to a mobile optimized page where he could vote for his favorite roast, watch a movie, post to social networks, make comments, i.e. everything he could ever want.
  • As my colleague held up his phone to scan the code, he heard an authoritative outburst from behind the counter: “Sir! Are you interested in buying a bag of coffee!?” (my colleague: “No thank you”). “Well then why are you taking pictures of the coffee bags?!?!?”

Here’s the rub (in case it’s not already obvious). Starbucks corporate has a firm grasp on the intricacies of mobile marketing. Starbucks local, in this case, had a mere finger’s touch on the same concept.

Just to be clear, the issue goes far beyond QR codes. Take SMS marketing, for example, in particular mobile coupons: Those businesses running coupon campaigns might have to ask store clerks to check phones to verify a code’s validity. If the coupon has the brand’s short code as a sender? Great, the coupon is legit. But without a short code sender (for example another phone number or long code), you’ve got a cut and pasted or forwarded message (of course you can overcome this risk using unique codes). Users having trouble pulling rebate information from an app? Local-level employees may have to be ready to give people a step-by-step on finding downloaded apps on the home screen.

And that, folks, is the sound of opportunity knocking. Corporate/local businesses are everywhere in the United States, from banks, to QSRs, electronics stores and fitness centers. Given mobile’s rapid rise to the top of the digital marketing ecosystem, intelligent marketers are going to have to find ways to educate their local constituencies in order to achieve maximum mobile success.

Of course, there are tons of ways to achieve this objective, especially considering that communicating corporate initiatives to the local branches has been on corporate/local businesses’ plate since their inception. Ideas include newsletters, company meetings, corporate social networks, internal mobile marketing, internal strategy wikis/websites, a dedicated team for communication, etc. Each company, of course, has to choose the approach that works best for its particular culture and brand.

What has been your experience with corporate/local mobile marketing? Any similar experiences? Any different ones? Please let us know by posting to the comments.

(Some background context for those that don’t follow these things: Starbucks is an innovator in mobile marketing, having launched everything from SMS campaigns to mobile apps and a comprehensive mobile payment system (one example). In addition, Starbucks is a corporate/local brand in that there is a corporate Starbucks based in Washington State that runs more than 5500 local branches located throughout the world).

  • Carl Eppolito

    The corporate to local disconnect can be attributed to the loss of Personal Engagement between this massive entity and the local community. Once these conglomerates recognize and understand the power of mobile and it’s ability to personally engage with their local consumers, the bridge between corporate and local will begin to close.