THE MISSING LINK

Field marketing can be a valuable promotional tool, yet it is still underestimated by marketers.

Let your taste decide!” was the rallying cry of the Pepsi taste test, perhaps one of the most successful marketing drives of all time. It was also one of the few marketing campaigns that linked field marketing directly to advertising with exceptional results.

While strategists at Pepsi may not have known it, they were 20 years ahead of their time in creating a model for the integrated marketing strategy: successfully mixing above and below-the-line activities. But why is it that now, so long after the resounding success of this marketing pièce de resistance, so few marketers think of combining field marketing with advertising?

Field marketers will tell you it’s no surprise them that the link is rarely made once you realise that the discipline is relatively young and as a result has not had much of a voice – at least not until recently. In addition, because field marketing deals with activities right at the bottom end of the marketing chain, it occupies an unglamorous position.

Eddie Phillips is managing director of CPM International, which had a turnover of nearly 40m last year. He thinks that the reason field marketing is very rarely combined with advertising is this glamour factor.

“I don’t think it’s particularly sexy,” he says. “Field marketing is the last link in a long chain and there’s this feeling that ‘my product will sell on its own’. It’s the idea that as long as you advertise it will sell, and as long as you get a listing in the major multiples it will sell.”

Phillips also points out, rather testily, that while 9bn is spent every year on advertising, the field marketing pie is worth only 135m, which works out as one per cent of advertising spend. It’s no wonder he is upset.

Marketers such as Phillips are, however, increasingly making a noise about this discrepancy and it seems that companies are starting to sit up and take notice. While some have been doing advertising, with sampling bolted on in a tactical way, there is a move to integrate field marketing in a more strategic way to increase sales.

John Bunyard is managing director of Fast Marketing, a company whose raison d’être is linking advertising to high-intensity field activity, such as sampling as part of a broader strategy. The Fast concept involves the implementation of several integrated activities. These are high intensity advertising, the use of advertising copy, where the copy conveys the product experience, an experimental bridge to the product sample, heavyweight field marketing and product sampling, and finally specialised response monitoring.

Bunyard states that advertising linked to field marketing can increase brand sales by over 40 per cent, depending on the product. “The logic is good for sampling,” he says. “With advertising you’re positioning the brand and creating awareness. With sampling you’re giving people the chance to check it out, to see if they like it. What is new is strategically linking the two aspects.

“What we’ve been doing is using advertising and sampling as the tools to do a very specific job. You use the advertising to set up a very specific expectation, which the product experience delivers. It’s not to do with benefits at all – it’s purely to do with what it’s like to use the product. We call it a realisation. The psychology is that when you have an expectation realised, it a very rewarding experience. Having expectations borne out is how people get locked into products. We’ve turned that into a system.”

Marketers should be trying to get people to experience the product immediately after they have been exposed to advertising and the only real way they can do this is through field marketing and promotions, he believes. Instead of using advertising, marketers could directly tie campaigns in with the product’s concept.

Many in the industry believe that if manufacturers have experienced the success of linking the two as part of a strategy, they are likely to do the same for all of their products.

But what about the manufacturers who have not directly experienced field marketing and advertising working successfully together? The accepted line of attack for reaching these people is, according to experts in the field, through education. In many cases it seems that brand managers may not be aware of field marketing as a discipline, let alone capable of making that strategic link.

Mike Garnham of Milton Headcount believes the reason is a simple lack of awareness on the part of both manufacturers and agen cies. He believes that once field specialists get to speak to marketers, they are often quite receptive to the concept.

“We have a pretty good success rate getting through to companies that are likely to be launching new brands,” says Garnham. “These people are generally quite receptive, even if it’s a new idea.”

For many field marketers it is a question of plugging away with the message from the bottom up, or indirectly through buyers for the multiples. Merchandising Sales Force (MSF), whose managing director is David Carter, has taken the route of approaching those major multiples which are in contact with manufacturers every day.

Garnham is heavily linked with sales promotion agencies and promotes the field marketing message through them. Colleagues are encouraged to talk to these companies and run seminars. Headcount also tends to target the marketing managers within companies directly. Garnham endorses the work of the Field Marketing Association (FMA) in increasing levels of awareness of the strategic importance of linking marketing and advertising. “The FMA is very good at getting to those people who are on marketing courses at university so that when they go out into the commercial world and start planning how to launch and manage brands, field marketing is an integral part of their strategy,” he says.

Alison Williams, chair of the FMA, agrees that the key to raising the profile of field marketing in association with advertising is through education. She believes that one of the reasons why manufacturers are not making the most of the link between advertising and field marketing is because they do not understand what field marketing does for them. “Many promotion houses and manufacturers don’t understand how an ad campaign can be picked up and translated into reality for the public in the field. Those that do have a tremendous amount of success.”

The FMA is working in several ways to address the problem. It is participating with the Institute of Sales Promotion (ISP) and field marketing is now a component of the ISP diploma course and diploma questions. The FMA is also working hard on public relations activities in the marketing press which has helped increase the profile of the discipline. It also offers free lectures on field marketing to universities with marketing courses.

Williams herself works for FDS International Field Marketing and was heavily involved with the relaunch of the Club biscuit, one of the best recent examples of integrated advertising. Jacob’s BURP (Bureau for Unmasking Robotic People) campaign encompassed widespread television and print advertising, backed up by BURP squad teams around the country in shopping malls offering children detector kits to unmask robots with the help of the new Club biscuit.

One million samples were given out as part of the campaign which, in the words of Nick Stephens of Marketing Principles who worked with Jacobs and FDS, had the aim of “getting more bars into people’s faces”. For Stephens, the campaign was an excellent example of an above-the-line story as a unified theme working hand in hand with below-the-line. “It’s a rarity when the two work so closely together. The BURP squads in the shopping malls take the campaign right down to the grass-roots level.”

Integrated campaigns such as this one are likely to be remembered for how well they have combined all elements of the marketing mix and how successful this has been in generating sales. As successful integrated campaigns become more common, and levels of awareness of the strategic importance of linking the two disciplines increase, marketers will be forced to look at the lead set by Pepsi 20 years ago and pay more than simply lip service to the idea of integrated marketing.

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