Human face of brands receives an e-makeover

Field marketing may be an unrivalled way to get products into the hands of consumers, but our expert panel tells Lou Cooper that it must be an integral part of the marketing mix.

  • Ross Webster: Managing director of sales, European markets, The Weather Channel
  • Dermot Ryan: Joint director, electronic, ’cigarette’ brand E-Lites
  • Sarah Hurle: Customer marketing manager, Unilever
  • Aimee Reason: Brand manager for Mentos and Smint, Perfetti Van Melle
  • Samantha Crossley: Senior brand manager, Ella’s Kitchen

Marketing Week (MW)/ How have you used field marketing over the past year?

Ross Webster (RW): Our most recent effort was a ’brolly drop’ in and around London. We distributed branded umbrellas to on-the-go consumers to remind people that The Weather Channel’s digital products are at hand online, or on our mobile site and apps.

Dermot Ryan (DR): We’ve used field marketing extensively at busy commuter stations throughout the UK for two main reasons to raise awareness and achieve sales. We extended an initial one-month campaign because the feedback was so positive.

Sarah Hurle (SH): In March we did in-store sampling at The Co-operative to communicate that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is going to be 100% Fairtrade soon. This was a significant piece of activity as Fairtrade credentials are very important to the The Co-operative customer.

We are about to launch a hot sampling campaign in The Co-operative stores for Flora Cuisine a healthier alternative to traditional cooking oils. Demonstrations will show how versatile the product is and aim to inspire people with recipe ideas.

Aimee Reason (AR): Our current Mentos Gum on the Run experiential campaign features a 3ftlong pack of Mentos visiting key landmarks and tourist attractions in each of the nine cities we’re going to. People can also track the pack’s progress on Twitter, where they are given clues to its location, and win prizes if they guess correctly. We also have a Facebook page.

This type of marketing is an important part of Perfetti Van Melle’s strategy across the majority of its brands. Mentos’ current activity forms part of an integrated marketing plan, which also includes TV, outdoor and retailer-specific support in the brand’s largest marketing spend to date.

We are using field marketing to drive awareness and trial the new Mentos gum range, showing its quirky personality.

Samantha Crossley (SC): In the past year, we launched the Ella’s Explorers Feed Our Senses campaign in 12,000 nurseries. We want to help babies develop healthy eating habits and help reverse the health and obesity crisis in children.

Nurseries that signed up to the campaign were given resource packs containing activities linked to the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, designed to stimulate all of a baby’s senses through food play.

We have had stands at the Baby Show at Excel, Earls Court and the NEC in Birmingham for the past two years. Little ones can play in our squishy vegetable patch while we give parents a free sample of baby food when they sign up to become a friend of Ella’s Kitchen.

MW:What are the benefits of experiential or field marketing? Does it change people’s perception of the product?

RW: Getting in front of the consumer enables them to experience a brand in a way they can’t through a digital medium. It is an important part of the marketing mix.

DR: Sampling is very important for a product like E-Lites [battery-powered non-tar ’cigarettes’ that can be smoked indoors] because it’s vital that people experience the product. Digital provides sales and helps awareness but people need to know what E-Lites feel like. We are asking people to change a smoking habit they may have had for many years by using them.

SH: You can’t beat the face-to-face interaction that in-store sampling provides, with its warmth and personal communication. That does not mean that digital communication isn’t important, but it needs to be integrated.

AR: Mentos recently expanded its product range into chewing gum, which means it still has some way to go in building a strong brand positioning.

Field marketing helps address brand perception. Before we briefed Sense, our experiential partner, we did blind consumer taste tests in which Mentos Gum outperformed the market leaders on several flavours when consumers voted on its overall taste, texture and length of flavour. However, perception among people who haven’t actually tried Mentos Gum isn’t where we wanted it to be and we knew that sampling could address this.

SC: The key benefit for Ella’s Kitchen with field marketing is to support our brand proposition of being “good in every sense”. It helps us communicate this in a relevant way to mums and dads.

MW: Can you measure the return on investment of this kind of marketing?

RW: The return on this type of investment can’t be measured in the way that you’d measure a direct response campaign. However, it is important to ensure these types of tactics are working. For us at The Weather Channel, it is a matter of building brand awareness and getting people to use our digital products. As a result, we closely track those metrics and determine the correlation with our marketing efforts.

DR: The way to get the best from this form of marketing is to ensure that the E-Lites product is demonstrated in a positive manner. In terms of return on investment, sales are certainly taken into account but the return isn’t always monetary. The increased awareness we are achieving is hugely valuable.

SH: A thorough evaluation is done for each Unilever campaign. It isn’t always possible to see the effects of sampling in isolation, but the Ben & Jerry’s campaign by our marketing agency 3sixteen is an example of the benefits of in-store activity. The stores where sampling took place had an uplift in sales of more than four times the control stores.

AR: Absolutely. Sense tracks effectiveness across areas such as sample distribution, promotion participation, experience interaction, word of mouth and, of course, sales. It also tracks ’soft’ measurements such as shift in brand perception, reaction to a live experience and increase in awareness.

Mentos is a relatively young brand in the UK, therefore we have to make our marketing budgets work hard to achieve strong brand objectives. It is always a balance between creating the right experience and the number of consumers reached.

MW: How does this kind of marketing mix with the rest of what you do, be it PR, social media or traditional advertising?

SC: This activity is a key part of Ella’s Kitchen’s plans to help us develop healthy eating habits that last a lifetime. We’ve supported it through PR and social media to drive awareness.

DR: We work closely with our digital agency Zeal to maximise exposure online, encourage maximum click-throughs and drive sales of E-Lites. Sampling is a good way to introduce people to the brand, but for them to come back and buy again, we need to be highly visible on the web and make our shopping process very clear.

SH: We ensure that all consumer comments from digital channels are fed back into the overall shopper insight, which in turn helps with the planning process for future marketing campaigns.

AR: Field marketing creates an ongoing dialogue with consumers, long after the moment of interaction. Experiential activity can often be the catalyst that gets people online as they look to share their experience with friends and family. Brands then have the opportunity to create and build long-term relationships through two-way communication.
Our current experiential marketing campaign is hitting the streets at the same time as Mentos Gum is also advertised on national TV and an outdoor poster campaign is launched.

MW: What new technologies are you using to engage your target consumers?

SH: This very much depends on which Unilever brand we are marketing and its target audience. For example, we work with The Co-operative’s retail media team to develop campaigns that engage their customers, and have recently started working a lot more with their membership database to target consumers with relevant digital offers and promotions.

DR: The technology we want people to focus on is what is in E-Lites cigarettes that makes them superior the ease of use of our products. At this stage, that’s the priority. You have to be careful that any additional technological interfaces you introduce are not distracting, intrusive or time-consuming for the people you want to talk to.

Getting in front of the consumer enables them to experience your brand in a way they can’t through a digital medium

Ross Webster, The Weather Channel

MW: How do you ensure cut-through among in-store and event-based field marketing teams?

RW: Relevance is key. Reaching consumers with a message that resonates, and delivering it at the right time, will help ensure the message gets through. Using an innovative delivery mechanism to grab their attention also matters.

DR: From the very beginning, we recognised the importance of getting our branding and message absolutely right. Everything we do is clear, consistent and impactful. We’ve secured exclusivity at events such as the Gadget Show Live, which has been helpful. We also try to ensure that our teams on the streets are friendly, approachable and proactive, without being pushy.

SH: Unilever works with 3sixteen to produce campaigns that have strong visibility. This is backed up with a clear call to action, strong promotional offers and well-trained staff to maximise the impact and ROI.

MW: What do you predict will be the key issues or developments to affect the sector in the next 12 months?

DR: There’s a lot of clutter in the traditional and even the digital marketing spaces. You have a lot of competing voices that struggle to distinguish themselves. As a result, I think field marketing will be increasingly important. It’s a chance to meet with your customers, interact with them, present a human face and convey the company’s values in a credible face-to-face environment.

SH: Continued integration across the marketing mix will play a big part over the next 12 months. Many brands are still likely to use traditional field marketing, but as we have seen over the past year the increased use of digital to add a new dimension, for example augmented reality, will continue to grow.

There will be an increase in social and digital media activity working with field and experiential marketing

Aimee Reason, Perfetti Van Melle

AR: We’ll see an increase in marketers demanding to see detailed evaluation of any budget spent on experiential activities.

The other key development will be an increase in social and digital media activity working with field and experiential marketing. We’ve already seen some great examples of their harmonious marriage over the past year or two from Doritos offering consumers the chance to shoot real Dodgeballs at real people from their PCs, to Marmite becoming the first brand to use Facebook to sample product.

Digital is still in its infancy and will only become more inventive over the next 12 months. It’s up to the experiential industry to harness it and create even more engaging consumer interactions, onand offline.

SC: Field marketing will become more important in bringing a brand’s proposition to life for consumers creating a real point of difference from competitors.

As this activity develops, measuring the return on investment of this will be key. It will be interesting to see how social media impacts on field marketing and moves it away from more traditional activity in a new, interactive way.

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