Customer journey starts in the great outdoors


Marketers need to reassess their view of the customer journey, according to new research by the Outdoor Media Centre (OMC) that appears to indicate the traditional path to purchase has become more circuitous because of social media and the internet.

The study, seen exclusively by Marketing Week, concludes that the customer journey is no longer a simple one in which consumers move from brand awareness through to planning, purchase and – hopefully – on to loyalty. “We’ve established that it’s much more complicated than that,” says OMC chief executive Mike Baker. “Instead of a linear decision, it is now fraught with feedback loops, stops and starts.”

There are, for instance, strong links between out of home (OOH) media and the planning stage of the consumer journey. According to OMC’s study, OOH stimulated more online search on mobile devices than any other marketing channel, including TV, press and word-of-mouth.

This is consistent with the way consumers are now searching for things, says Baker, who points out that the relationship between OOH and mobile, along with social media, is blossoming.

The research seems to reinforce the strength of this marriage with the consumers most responsive to outdoor advertising being young, mobile, urban, affluent and connected.

In a bid to make outdoor a two-way communication tool, the Microloan Foundation – a UK charity providing help to women in sub-Saharan Africa – recently ran an integrated live donation billboard campaign in conjunction with DLKW Lowe and Grand Visual.

“Using digital outdoor allowed us to tell the story about what our charity does,” explains chief executive Peter Ryan. “We were able to visually demonstrate how anyone’s donation could make a big difference to women’s lives in Africa in a way that would not be possible with static posters. Using a digital outdoor platform meant we could enable people to make an instant donation via a mobile phone.”

The speed and ease of donating, and the very public thanks that supporters received on the billboards, was a great call to action, says Ryan. The campaign also proved popular online, where the activity spread to social networks – illustrating the combined power of digital outdoor, social and mobile media. “Social media is a great way to continue a conversation and build a long-term relationship with customers. It allows you to leverage the original campaign and gain traction in online communities,” he adds.

An increasing number of brands are combining social media and outdoor to support customers along their decision-making process, points out William Grobel, a senior consultant in Deloitte’s marketing effectiveness team.

Bus stop
Sweet smell of success: McCain piped the smell of baked potatoes from its poster sites

“Outdoor could become a major supporter or disrupter along the customer journey – supportive by delivering one brand’s message and disruptive by interrupting a predicted journey of another brand’s customer journey,” he says. “A greater integration with social media and mobile technology would facilitate this change.”

Satellite navigation brand Garmin is one company that has been working hard to interrupt the customer journey in a bid to communicate the wider reach of its portfolio “beyond satnavs”.

This included its ‘Give a Garmin’ campaign in the run-up to Christmas, with radio ads, online and billboards. Working with Limited Space, there was also focused activity within shopping malls with lift interiors wrapped with 360 degree vinyls along with large digital HD screens which ran audible full-motion ads all promoting the wider product range. All the artwork was tagged with the Garmin URL to encourage further search and investigation.

Chris Merrell, head of Garmin EMEA marketing communications, says: “With outdoor advertising so close to the point of purchase, we have a real chance to mix up the customer journey. We don’t have colossal budgets so we have to be targeted. We also have to be sure that if we interrupt people’s journeys, we help them on their new path. That’s why we also dedicate substantial efforts towards online and social media to help and inform consumers who have been ‘disrupted’ by us.”

This correlation between an enhanced desire to find out more about a company on the back of outdoor advertising was picked up in OMC’s research, with 41% of the 2,000 people questioned wanting to learn more about a company after seeing an outdoor ad.

This means marketers often have to think in “a more sophisticated way about media and its place in their overall plan”, says Mark Hodge, head of brand at McCain Foods.

He adds: “A lot of brands are lazy with outdoor, using it as an extension of TV. They don’t understand the context of outdoor and the various states of mind that different sites can bring. Really great outdoor activity comes when you understand the consumer’s likely emotional state when consuming that media.”

Last month, McCain ran a campaign with JCDecaux in which bus shelters pumped out the scent of oven-baked jacket potatoes and dispensed discount vouchers. Part of a £1.4m campaign to promote its new Ready Baked Jackets, the plan was to “interrupt a captive audience” using touch, smell and sight, and then provide “the final nudge” towards purchase with the coupons. Hodge claims the new technology enabled McCain to increase the pace of the consumers’ journey to purchase.

As well as researching a product after viewing an OOH ad, 33% of those surveyed by OMC say they would look at a product following an outdoor ad. Some companies are leaving nothing to chance, though, and have started giving out products at outdoor ad sites.

Premier Foods recently dispensed cakes from poster sites to promote the ‘on the go’ snap pack format for its Mr Kipling brand. Marketing controller Mary Young says it was a great way to get the product straight into the hands of consumers and affect their purchase path.

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Piece of cake: Mr Kipling dished out cakes from its outdoor installation

The tools available to marketers today may be plentiful and constantly evolving, but MasterCard UK and Ireland head of marketing Paul Trueman cautions: “The fragmentation of the customer journey means we have to work a lot harder. Everyone now wants both scale and personalisation.

“In the old days, you could start with a piece of creative and work your way back. Now you need to start with the consumer, look at where they are on their journey and how you want to influence and disrupt that journey. That is a major shift but there is an opportunity to win bigger and better and to engage deeper with consumers.”

Xbox, for example, has sought to use outdoor environments to deliver enhanced brand experience and interaction – including the painted mural on the side of London’s Westfield shopping centre for the launch of the game Halo Reach.

But while disruption and enhanced engagement is a good thing, it’s important not to forget what Xbox EMEA head of media Paul Evans describes as “heartland territory” for OOH – a way of adding impact, scale and stature (see Viewpoint, above).

Outdoor’s greatest asset has always been its unavoidable mass impact. Consumers can’t turn it off, opt out or change channel. So while the idea of a linear customer journey may have long been a simplistic view – even in the old broadcast and analogue world – a more complicated journey does not necessarily mean the best campaigns must also be highly complex.

“The endgame is that you are still trying to get a message across to the consumer,” concludes Judith Denby, Krispy Kreme UK chief marketing officer, which is running an OOH campaign created by Addiction. “You still need to understand your consumer and know how to reach them.”


Paul Evans

Paul Evans
Head of media, Xbox EMEA

Consumers and audiences haven’t changed, but opportunities have. While shifts in consumer psychology are long-term, more immediate changes in behaviour can be driven through new, relevant opportunities and promoted by the digitisation of media.

We have always been social animals, but now we can more readily demonstrate that sociability every day and brands should be seeking to address social opportunities within consumer communication activities.

Similarly, social integration within outdoor activities provides the opportunity for brands to extend their campaigns beyond simple exposure – if the idea and creative messaging is strong enough. Social integration is not a prerequisite of any campaign but it should be strongly considered if community and advocacy goals are actively sought.

I have been a long-term supporter of outdoor and the multifaceted roles it can play for a client. We must never forget that its primary ability to deliver rapid national cover as the last true broadcast media is still incredibly relevant and necessary.

Disruption is still a good thing, and perhaps as the demands for brand attention increase over time, we will look to OOH to deliver this in spades.



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