The Role of Local Insights for Effective Campaigns: Spotlight MLB Creative St. Thomas

Much is attributed to success in sports for the hometown advantage. Playing on the home court is where one is comfortable, fans support is high, and everyone knows where the concession stand is.

What might be an effective campaign in Orlando may not have legs in the US Virgin Islands. Or what might work everywhere else in the world, won’t work on the Navajo Nation where above all, culture drives everything. Understanding the cultural nuances of a market not only helps a campaign tightly target funds and pinpoint messaging and graphics, it can help win acceptance and loyalty when buyers feel “this brand gets me.”

Diving Into A Local Market

The key to customizing national and regional campaigns is knowing the targeted hometown. What attracts, resonates, is culturally appropriate? Who are the decision makers and influencers? And how can they be reached?

After you’ve done the basic market analysis — combing over census data to sort market demographics into economic status, education levels, gender, race, population centers and nationalities, and unearthing available media options and social statistics —  you think the groundwork is done. But you still don’t have the ultimate connector: understanding what drives buyer behavior.

There are options to provide more insights into local buyer behavior: Surveys, interviews, focus groups, social media analysis, third-party data collection. Data driven companies refresh research frequently to keep an eye on developing trends and market changes, especially when launching new products or testing strategies. New to the market advertisers start from zero with this time-sucking, expensive process. With enough time and funds, this data is beneficial.

As good as the research data is, still missing are the elusive insights needed for the cultural cocktail that delivers relevance, engagement, connectivity and ultimately acceptance and sales.

Communications Case Study

An excellent example of knowing what drives an audience is a public relations publicity stunt for a long entrenched regional telecom leader making a shift to new products and technology — and introducing a new, invented brand name. 

With approximately 50% of adults in the markets as current customers, what strategy would be effective for a comprehensive name change to engage customers and stakeholders, manage implications on brand equity, and leverage the change as an opportunity for repositioning the company? A tall order.

While the ad campaign took a multichannel, multi audience approach, local knowledge provided the nuances for

  • Reach: mobility patterns, languages, education levels, cultural preferences
  • Repetition: local bulk rates not available to regional companies with media 
  • Key Market Influencers: personal relationships with social influencers, thought leaders, tech innovators, writers
  • Partnerships: symbiotic relationships on a local level that boost acceptance

Then came the icing: Hometown cultural preferences. Something out of the ordinary was needed to engage residents as personally as possible. And better, yet, viral to keep momentum going to ingrain the new branding and attract new clients (when 50% of the market just isn’t enough!). 

Having been entrenched in the US Virgin Islands for 25 years, MLB Creative felt the community’s pain at not having access to basic things, like Uber, DoorDash and fresh donuts. MLB appealed to the customers’ sweet tooth with elusive, mouthwatering treats – Krispy Kreme donuts. Fresh, orange frosted O’s mimicking the dot of the new Viya logo became the medium of choice. 

9,000 fresh tasty O’s were flown in from Puerto Rico, and with military precision, strategically distributed by employees decked out in the new branding, to all three US Virgin Islands simultaneously — St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix — creating happy, emotional, shareable, press worthy experiences that live on as an urban legend today. See the case study here.

When All Else Fails

Still doubting the importance of the hometown advantage? In case you are still thinking data, research and a savvy media buyer are all that is needed, here is an ultimate test:

As an extreme but increasingly likely example, after the devastating double Cat 5 hurricane whammy of 2017, the US Virgin Islands were left in an era of communication similar to the Pony Express. All electric power was down. Newspapers, radio, TV, even cell phones and data were inoperative. Yet, how does the critical work of reaching out to homeowners for emergency construction assistance get done? To quote FEMA, with “boots on the ground” — reaching out to seasoned communicators with deep experience to literally go neighborhood by neighborhood. MLB was tasked with solving this problem and excelled in meeting quotas and helping thousands of families regain shelter. And, as cell service was being restored, MLB created the Viya “We Stand Connected” PR campaign to alert Virgin Islanders that Viya was there for them.

Integrating Local Market Insights into Broader Campaigns

Savvy national and regional advertisers shortcut the arduous task of drilling down in a new market and seek the hometown advantage by aligning with local agencies. Because they are wise enough to know that they don’t know what they don’t know.

It also happens that great ideas come from going granular. When you figuratively shake hands with a community, large or small, there is a feeling of trust that leads to stronger communication and even loyalty. Some of these granular concepts resonate nationally. Don’t count them out.

Maybe AI can solve the intricacies of multicultural campaigns. Don’t bet on it. For the foreseeable future, the secret sauce to controlling budgets and time, and increasing effectiveness, is to get to know and trust a local agency like MLB Creative St. Thomas and Orlando. Give us a call. Better yet, visit and ask for the hometown tour. It’s like knowing where the concession stand is – we know where to go for the good stuff.