Sainsbury’s decision to rewrite its rulebook so that it can control who carries out merchandising in its stores got the field marketing industry into a bit of a tizz.
Frustrated by the sheer number of field staff walking through its doors, Sainsbury’s has decided that from April 8 only personnel trained in its “ways of working” will be allowed in.
In a letter to suppliers, Sainsbury’s trading director Mike Coupe stated: “We have a significant number of callers on our stores and the feedback from staff, plus my own observations, confirms this activity can be time consuming and not always within Sainsbury’s guidelines.”
The timing of the announcement is not ideal for agencies. The sector is trying hard to convince brands to use the discipline more strategically and not view it simply as a short-term marketing bolt-on to solve problems when campaigns go wrong or sales need a sudden lift.
The worry is that other multiples will also introduce tighter merchandising controls. If this happens, brand owners who were considering spending more on this discipline or entering the market for the first time might decide to hold fire until it becomes clearer exactly what they can and cannot do in store.
Two agencies to benefit from Sainsbury’s decision are Cosine and REL, which won a competitive tender to be the retailer’s preferred suppliers. They will compete with each other to carry out suppliers’ merchandising inside Sainsbury’s stores, while Cosine has also been given sole responsibility for taking brands’ sales teams and, significantly, rival field marketing agency staff, through Sainsbury’s new Accreditation Programme.
The fact Sainsbury’s has felt the need to introduce its own set of standards is something of a kick in the teeth for the DMA’s Field Marketing Council, which has recently launched its own best practice scheme.
CPM UK managing director and FMC chairman Mike Hughes says the council is now seeking a meeting with the supermarket.
“There are many details to be clarified in relation to the exact nature of the way the Sainsbury’s scheme operates and we need to understand this in more detail,” says Hughes. “It is also our intention to talk to major retail groups, including Sainsbury’s, about the advantages our field marketing best practice scheme could bring to their businesses and how it can be developed to meet their needs when it comes to in-store merchandising.”
The first agency to achieve the DMA’s accreditation, which evaluates agencies against 57 performance areas, is IMS. Its operations director Steve Radford says the industry is improving standards, which is benefiting everyone, including retailers.
“Some organisations view field marketing as being reactive in nature, which it can be if reacting to or averting in-store disaster, but only viewing and using it in this way is doomed to fail,” he says. “The ideal format for field marketing is to use regular ongoing activity in the most important stores, based on past sales analysis, and increase the scale of work as necessary. Accreditation proves to the retailer that an agency is run to high standards.”
Jacqui Sheldon, sales and marketing director at Cosine, does not believe Sainsbury’s move will lead to merchandising within supermarkets becoming more complicated or bureaucratic. She says the changes will actually help brands get a better return from a visit to a Sainsbury’s store, in terms of planogram compliance, point of sale and stock replenishment.
“Brands that do little field marketing now have a clear route into Sainsbury’s and will have the confidence to do more in-store merchandising,” she says. “Being more strategic does not mean a campaign has to be complicated. This is all about working with the retailers to be smarter when it comes to field marketing.”
Point of purchase
As marketing budgets come under pressure, brands cannot afford to overlook how they support products at the point of purchase. It could mean that suppliers in sectors that have traditionally given a low priority to field marketing, such as pharmaceuticals and financial services, decide to spend more.
“Packaged goods brands have used field marketing strategically for years but some other industries have not always appreciated the benefits,” says Doug Smith, head of field marketing at agency Momentum. “High-calibre promotional teams can do a lot to drive brand awareness in store.”
This is a view echoed by CPM’s Hughes. “Many businesses are now realising that face-to-face contact with the consumer is the most effective way to boost awareness and maximise sales,” he says. “It is why companies need specialist agencies to handle ongoing national campaigns.”
Field marketing can also help change consumers’ perceptions of a brand. When research told Kraft Foods that Dairylea was not considered particularly cool by children or their parents it organised roadshows under the banner Dairylea Freestyle Action that involved 57,000 children taking part in skateboarding, BMX riding, basketball and dancing events. To add some extra “coolness” Kraft booked Team Extreme, a group of the UK’s best skateboarders and rollerbladers, to perform. According to Kraft’s agency Closer, 34% of respondents subsequently felt more positive about the Dairylea brand.
To ensure a field marketing campaign is successful, brand owners must develop a close relationship with major retailers, yet brands must also connect with smaller stores throughout the UK.
Agency Reach is launching a service called Reach Global Connect, which will enable brands to integrate data gathered from different interactions they have with convenience stores.
“We would call a store to discover the opportunities for the client, follow this up with direct mail to act as a teaser, call again to take an order and if that was not successful then we will visit the shop,” says Reach development director Matt Lloyd. “This keeps the field costs down because it is a more scientific approach and we know where to focus our efforts as well as gathering lots of valuable data.”
Another agency busy gathering information on stockists is Box Marketing. It is building a profile of 60,000 pubs that will be available to brands from February. “There is an analysis of the products each outlet stocks, sales volumes and details of the profile of the drinkers and how often people visit,” says director Graham Abbott.
The emergence of the mobile phone is allowing brands to think differently about field marketing, especially around core activities such as sampling.
Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) helped coffee brand Douwe Egberts encourage sampling via text messaging as part of its Café Switch TV campaign. MIG head of marketing services Tim Dunn says mobile technology can be taken into the field. “Brands can print a text number and keyword on the sample wrapper, which the consumer can pass on to a friend or family member, who would then also receive a free sample.
“The use of mobile is a cost-effective way to extend the life of a field marketing campaign because it expands the activity well beyond the street or store. Mobile is also great for data gathering and people who receive a free sample after texting are often happy to answer survey questions via text message, both about the product itself and where they live and shop.”
When times are tough for brands it becomes even more important they can get closer to their target audience, which means easy access to the places where people shop. The changes in how supermarkets view the many merchandising teams entering their stores means agencies and their clients will just have to start thinking more strategically.