The secret of managing marketing teams across borders

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 14 Jul 2016


Although most marketers would like to have local team members based in each market where they operate, it is not always realistic so how can brands best set-up and manage international teams to create global growth?

As companies grow in scale, marketing strategies must evolve to meet changing needs. However, the challenges of global expansion mean marketers need to decide how best to structure their teams, whether it is managing the brand strategy centrally, working with a tight-knit local team or recruiting specialists.

Conscious of the cultural differences in attitudes towards food and technology, online food delivery platform Just Eat believes local marketing teams can be more agile and entrepreneurial, reacting quickly to competition and consumer demand.

Present in 15 countries, Just Eat groups its business into 13 markets served by 12 country managers. International marketing directors manage a portfolio of countries. The UK, Australia and New Zealand report directly to global CMO Barnaby Dawe, with the rest split between international marketing directors in Madrid and Paris.

READ MORE: How to build good marketing teams

“Although the brand and its values are centralised, we like all markets to have a certain degree of autonomy,”explains Dawe. “Each country creates its own marketing strategy based on the life-stage of its market and consumer needs. The country managers own the profit and loss, and therefore have their own marketing budget.”

Group marketing roles

At recruitment specialist Hays, the structure is heavily skewed towards regional marketing teams. Of the 120 marketers working across 33 countries, 12 occupy a group role at its headquarters in London.

While the regional teams are involved in candidate attraction and client engagement, group marketers take a global perspective around premium content, social media, thought leadership, sponsorship and brand management.

Chief marketing officer Sholto Douglas-Home is an advocate of having marketers in every country to work hand-in-glove with local business partners, applying the strategic priorities in a relevant and targeted way.

“It is important to have marketers in every country. I cannot see how you can market without a marketing person on the ground working closely with the clients,” he says.

However, group marketers must remain close to day-to-day activities so they can relate to their global teams. “The country teams don’t think the group marketing team are sitting in an ivory tower looking at strategy, they know they’re working on marketing day-to-day,” he adds.

Looking for similarities

The scale of the Diageo-owned Baileys business, which spans more than 50 global markets, means it is not always feasible to have marketers based locally in each country, explains Baileys’ Europe marketing director Anna MacDonald.


“It would be lovely to have a marketer in every country, but it is not always possible or might not be the right model,” she says. “However, regardless of the model it’s crucial to gather consumer insight. We look for similarities and common consumer insights across Europe, as well as understanding how to bring the message to life locally.”

The global brand team, which is based in Dublin, runs brand strategy, creative development and brand governance. They develop the campaign material and visuals, while local customer teams manage the activation and any subtle market-specific tweaks.

Twice a year the European brand team meets to present their strategy to senior marketers from the country teams. Baileys marketers, along with other Diageo brand marketers, also share ideas through private social network Yammer, and are required to summarise the impact of each campaign and share the results as a centralised resource.

One location, global team

German fashion online retailer Zalando takes a different approach. Each of its 15 European markets have their own country team who are recruited from the country in question and brought to work together at its headquarters in Berlin.

“To understand the differences in each market, we need people who understand the customer,” says UK brand manager Tomasz Ebbig. “If you have people from that country, you can quickly track whether a campaign is going to work and this helps us to be agile.”

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Ebbig sits with the UK marketing team three days a week, spending the other two days upstairs with the senior brand managers responsible for other countries. The team also travels regularly to the UK to stay close to the market, attending events and agency meetings.

The 15 country teams work alongside the global team, who drive the overarching brand strategy, and the performance marketers who manage customer relationship management, search and affiliate marketing, making a total of 500 people. Zalando is constructing an open plan campus in Berlin to house 5,000 employees, which is scheduled to open in 2018.

Whether it is running operations from headquarters or working closely with local teams, marketers who have set up their teams to develop a closer understanding of the cultural nuances in each market are reaping the rewards.

Franchise partner helps Leon branch out


When opening its first restaurant outside the UK at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in July, healthy fast food chain Leon chose to work in collaboration with Dutch franchise partner HMSHost, rather than creating an in-house marketing department in the Netherlands.

Leon had already developed “a close relationship, not just a commercial partnership” with the Dutch franchise company, explains brand and marketing director Kirsty Saddler, having previously partnered with it on restaurants in UK airports and train stations.

Leon’s seven-strong UK marketing team developed the brand and marketing material, collaborating closely with the marketers based at HMSHost’s Schiphol airport head office, on site selection and design, as well as assessing paid for marketing opportunities in the airport, including poster sites.

“We are working closely, investing time in the strength of this partnership,” says Saddler. “As we grow, we might consider opening separate marketing offices but I doubt it.”

The Schiphol restaurant team is another key marketing channel for Saddler, who invited the new employees to spend six weeks in the UK, working at its head office and in various restaurants to gain a better understanding the Leon culture ahead of the launch in Amsterdam.