Digital age awaits embrace

Bluetooth has taken e-promotions to the next level, but Richenda Wilson discovers that brands are reluctant to invest in new technology because support systems remain behind the times

A host of new techniques for data gathering and ever-more accurate demographic information are ensuring that all forms of marketing can be more accurately targeted and measured than ever before.

Promotional and field marketing, in particular promotions that use vouchers, have seen dramatic developments. The spread of Bluetooth-enabled devices and the fact there are more mobile phones than people in the UK mean than prospective customers can be contacted in unprecedented ways.

“Providing secure e-mail vouchers that can be printed and redeemed in store has been available for several years,” says Mike Garnham, chief executive of field agency MSF. “The same is now true of text messages. MSF can use mobile transmitters to distribute text messages with vouchers to all Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones within a 200-metre radius. This means store entrances and other appropriate locations can be targeted for voucher distribution.”

“As with any modern marketing, innovation is at the core of all the best field marketing,” believes Cameron Day, new business development director at Iris Experience. “Using technology and innovation in a relevant way can make a boring piece of marketing activity relevant and engaging.

“Everyone who came to our Sony Ericsson Ibiza Rocks nights got a succession of Bluetooth content hyper-tagged to their phone including drinks vouchers, access to the VIP lounge and ring tones. Audience members left the event with an amazing experience but also the ability to forward on content from the night to their friends, increasing awareness and continuing the brand experience beyond the gig itself.”

However, there is a danger of being seduced by the idea of the new technique and allowing that to overshadow the aims of the activity, warns Allan McLaughlin, agency services director at BD-NTWK, which carries out field activity for Nintendo to encourage trial of games consoles.

“Nintendo wants to generate excitement about the games, not the technology, so we do not use technology as a mechanic to drive trial,” says McLaughlin.

The methods used are very much dictated by the age of the target group, adds Garnham at MSF.

MSF and specialist grey market agency Millennium conducted extensive quantitative and qualitative research of the over-50s to discover their attitudes to sampling and how it can best be supported by other media.

What was found to work best is local media, such as supermarket newsletters delivered to the home. Local newspapers and word of mouth were also considered good sources of information.

Packaged goods

Older internet users have transformed the way in which some retail sectors operate – 80% of the grey market buys holidays and travel online, but they don’t yet consider the internet a good source of information about packaged goods, according to MSF.

Daniel Todaro, managing director of Gekko, adds: “When marketers are deciding which channel to use, they must ensure it matches the product being promoted and the channel the target consumer is likely to respond to.

“Marketers must take this fragmented and varied audience into consideration when embracing new technologies because these channels will only appeal to tech-savvy consumers. For promotional campaigns that rely on field marketing to support consumer footfall in store, marketers must be careful to avoid the scattergun approach so often found in ‘call to action’ promotional campaigns,” adds Todaro.

Matthew Coles, partner at Cardinal Research, is also a fan of traditional methods. “The most successful techniques for driving attendance at events are conventional flyers on campus, posters and so on.

Fixed location

“These work well when events are in a fixed location with a captive audience exposed to pre-merchandising. This is the case with on-trade events like the Malibu Soundclash activity in student unions, which have sold out in advance based on positive word of mouth from last year.

“The one kooky technique I worked on which stands out is hardly new media, but very innovative,” adds Coles. “By giving limes to young people moving around a town centre on a night out, along with an incentive to purchase, Bacardi achieved the holy grail of liquor promotions – they drove people to an outlet, prompted brand switching and added positively to the brand’s equity. ©”Retailers want more customers, not brand switching. Taking the prompt to attend an event away from the location where it is due to happen is one highly effective way of achieving this, he says.

Aside from driving consumers to the site of a field exercise, new technology can aid other elements of the activity, such as offering accurate and fast feedback on a campaign.

However, Doug Smith, head of field marketing at Momentum, warns: “Clients are reluctant to make the most of the technology on offer because they often feel that the costs outweigh any potential benefits. They are not prepared to invest in more accurate data-capture mechanisms. This is mainly down to companies turning to field marketing for a quick fix rather than seeing it as something that should be integrated into a longer-term strategic campaign.”

Why should they invest more? asks Sharon Richey, managing director of experiential agency BEcause. “You have to ask whether it will add value and is it a must-have or a nice-to-have? Real-time reporting is more expensive so it has to be worthwhile.”

Data regurgitation

Richey adds: “Reporting back on the activity is essential. But you shouldn’t just regurgitate data, you need the human touch to analyse what the data is telling you and how you can improve future activity.”

“Any intelligent brand should always be working closely with its field marketing agency to analyse sales data from retail partners,” agrees Todaro at Gekko. One element of field marketing activity that is absolutely essential is communication with retailers before campaigns, both to access customer data and to ensure sufficient product is in stock.

“The weakest link in any in-store campaign is the communication between the head office marketing department and internal store managers,” believes Joel Kaufman, managing director of Link Communication.

Simon Couch, director of field marketing agency Phiz, part of experiential agency RPM, adds: “You have to engage a retailer’s duty manager and show how you can add value to the business. Experiential agencies can fall down on the supply chain side, not ensuring that there is enough stock in store.”

It is also useful to build mechanics into the promotion that allow you to talk to the consumers afterwards, adds Bruce Burnett, chief executive of experiential agency i2i. Customers can also be encouraged online, where they can be given incentives in exchange for information about themselves. He predicts a rise in this sort of activity as the mobile internet becomes more widespread.

But Burnett warns against jumping in to use new mechanics before the supporting technology is really there. Sending barcode vouchers to mobiles may be cutting-edge but will it enhance the activity and justify the added expense? 

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