Looking after the pennies

While most brands now accept that field marketing gives their product a sales boost, many are failing to take into account how much is being spent on other expenses, says Steve Hemsley

The cake industry can ill afford to let its marketing go stale during the festive period and the level of in-store promotional activity can have a massive impact on a brand’s sales. More than 40 per cent of cakes are bought on impulse and most people do not make their final purchasing decision until they are salivating in front of the fixture.

Manor Bakeries is part of the RHM food group and remains a firm believer in the use of field marketing to tempt shoppers. A recent campaign with its face-to-face agency Raisley generated sales growth of more than 11,000 per cent over four days from one carefully selected supermarket.

Any sales uplift of this magnitude will raise excitement among clients, and it is easy to get carried away with such headline figures when discussing the return on investment (ROI) from field marketing. Yet to get a true indication of the cost effectiveness of this discipline, clients need to track closely the cost of every ingredient necessary to produce a successful campaign.

Cutting costs Brand managers also need to know exactly how much they are spending to rent retail sites, build stands and hire any equipment to demonstrate products. There can be unexpected expenses, too. The promotional staff’s uniforms may have to be cleaned or repaired more often than expected.

When assessing ROI, clients should also take into account the possible long-term negative effects on a brand if some of the samples are poor quality.

“Clients will be happy to hear 20,000 samples were handed out to the target audience, but to get a clearer picture they need to assess the value of how those consumers interacted with different elements of the campaign,” says Toby Knightley-Day, managing director of third-party auditing company TKD Europe.

“For instance, if beer or wine was sampled in a supermarket, did the brand experience match the feeling consumers would get in a bar? When you take a product out of its normal environment you must ensure the brand values are still conveyed.”

From a different angle For instance, analysing EPOS data across an eight- to 12-week period either side of a campaign at a selection of stores can provide interesting results, while quantitative data using consumer questionnaires provides an insight into people’s attitudes towards a brand before and after any work.

“Above-the-line campaigns have huge research budgets behind them and clients need a similar commitment to field marketing because spectacular instant sales rises do not tell the whole story,” says Raisley managing director David Foster. “Clients need to be clearer about the objectives of the activity so the findings of any research can be used to improve results next time.”

The importance of evaluating campaigns to refine future promotions is not lost on the experiential marketers at RPM, who worked with research company HPI Cardinal to show Grand Marnier marketingâ¢manager Pierre Garbolino how his money could be better spent.

Learning the lessons RPM planning assistant Sofia Fogelfors says more clients are realising the importance of regular evaluation. “But there has to be a commitment from the start and the objectives must be understood by client and agency,” she says.

At market leader CPM, managing director Mike Hughes has teamed up with sister Omnicom company Hall and Partners, a market research business, to help his clients keep track of costs.

Hall and Partners has devised an ROI model based on the responses a person might give to a campaign and how they react to a brand. The model can be adapted to the needs of a particular client, its industry sector, the products being promoted and the type of promotion.

“There are clients who take a leap of faith and understand that if you cross a retailer’s threshold and invest in the right kind of field marketing, sales will improve, but there are an increasing number who are demanding a lot more detail,” says Hughes.

While pre- and post-event external research will help companies make informed decisions on future field marketing, there must also be an internal reporting system in place to share the results of any analysis. There are a number of people in any company who will be keen to know how the budget was spent and the real return generated.

A question of judgement With so many different parties involved in devising and implementing a field marketing ⢠campaign, from creative agencies to store managers, it is hardly surprising advertisers can find it difficult to obtain a truly accurate picture of how effectively their money is being spent.

To bring some clarity to this market, an increasing number of agencies are offering a managed service where they oversee every element of the work so the client pays just one fee.

One such company is Link Communications, which has set up a network of 70 local teams based in towns and cities across the UK. This immediately reduces the travel and accommodation expenses clients can face when organising a national campaign. This approach also provides brand managers with teams of promotional staff that have the same accent as the people in the target market in a particular region.

Flexible friends Another company offering a managed service is Sales Activation Solutions (SAS), recently appointed by Sainsbury’s to manage all its in-house branded sampling. SAS supplies fully equipped promotional stands and has a partnership agreement with live marketing agency Carbon Marketing, which provides promotional staff.

“Field marketing is cost effective, but it can be difficult to control expenses. The capital investment to run a national campaign is huge and many brands cannot afford to build all the rigs they need and pay thousands of pounds in site fees. We own all the stands, which are modular, and can put together a national promotion in the top 200 Sainsbury’s stores in just two weeks,” says SAS chief executive Ian Taylor.

Carbon Marketing managing director Wendy Hooper says clients can also reduce their costs by taking part in a multi-branded road show, where non-competing brands share a four-pod platform.

Team effort She adds there can be disagreements over who pays for what on the platform, especially if one company requires electricity and another does not.

Most brands understand the benefits of field marketing, but they may not always appreciate the importance of keeping a close eye on how every pound is spent. If they do, there should be enough money left in the kitty to celebrate the results of a successful campaign. Cake anyone?

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