How can the marketing industry bring iron-clad return on investment to a brand’s product or service advertising campaign? Retail and commercial disciplines are a huge step in the right direction.
Making commercialisation a key focus of a communication strategy, alongside innovative creative treatments, can offer huge rewards to those looking for swift success. A successful strategy is about a strong retail performance where the growth in sales is a key priority.
Nowadays, more and more clients are finding this focus begins in the experiential field. Realising that campaigns start and finish with the customer means honest, face-to-face communication must be at the heart of everything they do. You only have to look at above-the-line activity to see creative teams taking inspiration directly from existing and potential customers, and their life stories.
Customers – the discerning, sometimes fickle, individuals which agencies and clients depend on. For all the ‘education’ the marcoms industry tries to impose on them, customers know they hold the ultimate power. The global economy and growth in digital access have produced a buyer’s market in many sectors, so brands and their agencies must work harder to win the customer’s favour.
So with customers and retail disciplines being central to success, how can the experiential industry live up to its headline billing?
At Undercurrent we look for strategies and creative disciplines that make our client’s brand famous by delivering:
• an integrated, commercially viable and experience centric/media neutral campaign;
• customer brand engagement and advocacy; and
• client confidence that budgets are being used wisely and achieving required sell-through levels.
As an agency, we have been working in the broader retail sector for over a decade and work alongside our clients to offer an ever evolving structure to our campaigns. This means looking at:
Planning: In a cluttered media ecology, it is vital to connect emotionally through relevant conversations. The campaign must cut through so our planning is rooted in three principles:
• Show not tell – work to understand the market by aligning strategic thinking with customer attitudes and competitor analysis to offer authoritative feedback to clients.
• Explore not dictate – run immersion and workshop days alongside clients to explore their campaign goals and to understand their long-term strategies.
• Entice not push – use innovation and demonstrations to keep clients at the cutting edge of comms planning.
Brand and creative: Consumers seek brands that share their passions, that connect with them creatively through sharing. Once engaged with the brand and a relationship is formed, the consumer will act through shares, likes and conversations (and then by joining the campaign as an advocate).
Delivery, insight and evaluation: The devil is in the detail – meticulous planning of campaigns is key. So is long-term evaluation.
You need to be a fan of big data with the analytical and interpretation skills to get a true understanding of consumer trends to then tailor comms strategy to genuine wants and needs. Live data allows you to refine campaigns as they unfold. Markets and products change quickly and you must have the ability to react immediately.
There are six key disciplines in our integrated campaigns:
Live experiential: Keep experiential at the heart of everything. Creating memorable experiences encourages people to form a relationship with a brand. Show, don’t tell – great live experiential is a two-way conversation between brand and consumer.
Digital amplification: Offer ways to extend a campaign online and provide reliable data to track engagement and evaluate campaign performance.
Social reach: Use social media to build interaction. Whether it’s a platform for sharing experiences with friends or a way to continue the brand conversation, use social to bring a vital dimension to campaigns.
In-store and POS activity: Work in retail environments to offer hands-on demonstrations of products and to answer customer questions, this is hugely powerful in the modern digital age. The ‘clicks and mortar’ retail model has effected an explosion in store-led sales in the past six months. One of our clients reports that its European digital retail workforce (over 6,000) was fundamental in achieving sales results that were through the roof in the peak trading period, 2014.
Traditional consumer and corporate PR: Always be aware of the traditional consumer and corporate PR aspect to experiential activations, as disaster planning and negative publicity must be addressed when pushing the boundaries with innovative creative. Indeed, PR stunts and forward-thinking corporate comms can be a fantastic asset if well planned into the wider strategy.
Internal communications: Work with clients’ internal teams to encourage staff engagement and communicate their key messages. A genuinely integrated campaign will always embrace the brand’s best and most vocal advocates – its staff.
Philosophy in action
Pulling the above strategies and disciplines together successfully can put most agencies on the road to fully integrated campaigns but clearly, implementing these is not the most complicated set of skills to master. With the correct talent in the room, most aspects can be easily achieved, so how does a growing agency achieve truly successful experiential campaigns?
The answer is simple – creative. The piece that brings everything together and the magic dust that all great experiential agencies must have in abundance, is strong and innovative creative. Due to the growth in the experiential industry over the past 10 years, there is a lot of brand clutter in the field, and this competition has led to some great (and some not so great) sets of creative treatments.
For an agency to deliver their client exceptional ROI, the philosophy, strategy and disciplines above are a great starting point. However, we must always ensure that the creative is engaging and above all innovative. After all, our customers’ feedback and evaluation is honest and instantaneous, so there is nowhere to hide.