Field of brand marketing dreams

Our panel of experts discusses the role of technology when utilising field and experiential marketing.


The Panel (l-r above)

My Ly, senior marketing manager at YO! Sushi (MY)
James Coad, marketing manager at ASUS (JC)
Hena Chandarana, shopper marketing controller at United Biscuits (HC)
James Chambers, retail marketing manager, Freeview (JCh)
Sara Trechman, marketing manager EMEA Glanbia Performance Nutrition (ST)

Marketing Week (MW): How are you using field or experiential marketing?

Hena Chandarana (HC): Last year’s Oddities biscuit launch is a good example of the connection between driving trial and sales. It was one of our most successful launches – achieving the fastest retail distribution for any product (79 per cent in five weeks) – driven significantly by field and experiential activity through our shopper marketing and activation agency Dialogue. We’ll be doing much more sampling this year to launch new flavours.

Sara Trechman (ST): Experiential will be crucial for our brands BSN and Optimum Nutrition. We plan our events around Europe’s biggest shows such as the public Body Power Expo at The NEC, Birmingham in May. We will also be at rugby events where players can sample the product and get sports nutrition advice.

James Coad: (JC): We’ve had several different campaigns and all of them tie in with our above-the-line campaigns. This will be the same tactic in 2013. We are running a ‘slacklining’ experience (the art of balancing on a strip of webbing tied between two anchor points, similar to a tightrope) in Bluewater, which iD Experiential designed. It features people doing incredible things with our laptops.

My Ly (ML): We’ve always had lots of fun with field marketing. The brand lends itself to people to dressing up as geisha girls, sumos and quirky Japanese game show hosts. Field marketing will also be an important part of our local marketing strategy. We use YO! Sushi sumos to give away free miso soup vouchers redeemable at the nearest restaurant. We can create a buzz, engagement and fun while tapping into the quirkiness of Japan and our brand personality.

MW: How does field marketing fit into the marketing mix for your brand?

ST: We spend around 25 per cent of our total marketing budget on experiential and this is growing every year.

James Chambers (JCh): Within our category, one of the challenges is the misinformation and confusion over how products and services differ. There is a need to educate as well as entertain, so experiential activity plays an important role in engaging directly with our audience.

If you want to truly connect with your consumers in person, a creative, integrated approach is needed that joins up with the above-the-line activity, social and in-store. Our latest experiential roadshow ‘Control the Choir’ was a concept created and executed by field marketing agency Gekko and House PR to promote the Freeview+ service in the run-up to Christmas.

JC: It’s important for ASUS to engage and educate consumers on the brand itself. High-value technology products must be demonstrated so consumers see as much of our range as possible and the fundamental differences between them. The difference can be as simple as showing the benefits of a tablet for casual media consumption or a high-end laptop while creating an immersive experience that brings the brand to life.

ML: It’s a core part of our local and national marketing. It enables us to try new things and, crucially, engage our own restaurant teams in the marketing campaigns as much as our customers.

Oddities have been a success for united biscuits

HC: Field marketing and experiential have been invaluable in disrupting shopper behaviour in-store. Oddities is a snack product merchandised in the cracker aisle – not a natural place for most shoppers to look for bagged savoury snacks. To drive trial and purchase, we prioritise sampling in or near stores, because it is most effective when people are already in buying mode. We also used experiential to bring Oddities’ fun nature to life at supermarket head offices and at trade shows.

MW: How important is data collection?

JC: We don’t focus our data collection on generating sales as we want to create brand awareness in the UK. When we do gather data it tends to be focused on how the experience has influenced that awareness. The data we collect measures consumers’ perception before and after the experience. By using a similar approach at each event we can see growth in brand attribution over time.

ML: YO! Sushi has market intelligence systems tracking every promotion at an individual redemption level. Field and experiential marketing shouldn’t be restricted to return on investment. Brands need to be brave enough for ideas to fail occasionally, otherwise we become overly cautious, predictable and ultimately a boring shadow of the brand that captured people’s imaginations in 1997, when it was founded.

HC: Understanding return on investment is important, so we work closely with retailers and their data agencies to understand the effect on store sales where activity takes place in the immediate, short and medium term.

ST: This is crucial for us. We have people on our stands capturing data on iPads and handheld terminals and this information feeds into our CRM programme. We see peaks in sales around public shows. We also carry out surveys before, during and after events to gather views on the brands.

JCh: Data collection allows us to gather information about individuals to enhance subsequent engagement and to assess the effect of a campaign. However, if the data collection process is onerous, it can quickly compromise a positive brand experience.

For Control the Choir, Gekko provided a team of six brand ambassadors who were on hand to discuss Freeview+ with shoppers, answer any questions, encourage them to enter a free prize draw and capture their details on tablet devices. We spoke with 67,000 consumers over four weekends.

MW: How do you measure the activity? Can you track the people engaging with a branded experience?

HC: The closer your activity is to the decision-making point, the more effective it is. When we did sampling with Oddities we could track our activity precisely from retailer take-up to sales.

JCh: We’re not about the hard sell, but creating empathy and understanding of the brand. It’s the uplift in positive sentiment that we look for. The Summer of Sport campaign in 2012 is an example of how we measure such an effect. After the activity, Freeview jumped from 20th to 14th in the YouGov Brand Index bi-annual league table.

ST: We track sales through our website and work with e-retailers, who know when we will be at an event and carry out experiential activity, and they report on sales numbers. Social media is also important to assess the conversations people are having about our brands.

Yo Sushi
YO! Sushi lends itself to fun field marketing

ML: We can track everything efficiently and effectively but sometimes we may choose not to. For example, we’d rather let people dance with a life-size Ramen [noodle] pot because it brightens up their day without always feeling like we need to thrust a leaflet into someone’s hand and demand an email address or postcode.

JC: It can be difficult to track return on investment as we don’t sell direct. We therefore measure the activity with the customer engagement from brand ambassadors who will be effective in communicating the brand along with marketing collateral delivered.

MW: How are you using technology to enhance users’ experiences?

ML: During our sumo-themed miso soup promotion, we used Twitter on location to ask local businesses to tweet us if they wanted us to pop into their offices with free goodies.

We were instantly bombarded with requests. This meant we could engage with people in a fun way and move around the area visiting local businesses once the peak traffic had died down at the high traffic commuter locations where we started. For the businesses that we couldn’t get to, we followed up their request with a visit the next day.

JC: We want the focus to be on our products with ‘hands-on’ demos with consumers. Last November, we activated a two-week nationwide roadshow targeting students to promote our ZenBook laptop.

The concept was that the ZenBook provides a stress-free working environment. Our experiential stand allowed consumers to tweet to receive mugs of herbal tea, while interacting with the laptops.

JCh: When creating an experiential campaign, it must be rooted in certain fundamentals: the location, the people and the activity itself. We’re using technology to ensure that the engagement we have with consumers is as seamless as possible, while fully integrated. Gekko’s brand ambassadors utilised tablets for quick and easy data capture, which could then be used to inform the promotional activity occurring in-store. Brand ambassadors were also able to ‘click & reserve’ products for our customers.

MW: What other new techniques are evolving in field marketing?

HC: It’s often less about ‘new techniques’ evolving and more about understanding

what works really well from a sales perspective, while still building the right amount of brand story into your activity. It’s interesting to leverage retailer data to understand shoppers and connect with the right ones at the right touchpoints, for example issuing coupons at the till.

JC: Mobile will continue to be a key trend. Experiential is uniquely placed to capitalise on this because it provides useful experiences for consumers and takes advantage of the increasingly sophisticated, networked technology that consumers carry around in their pockets. There is also an ongoing trend towards more photo and content sharing sites that are becoming increasingly popular.

ML: With the growing importance of social media, there will be a stronger partnership and integrated approach between this and field or experiential marketing as brands continue to experiment and test ideas.

MW: How do you make sure that what you do has a lasting effect?

ML: By doing it regularly, constantly innovating as well as surprising, delighting and rewarding customers and ensuring it is always part of our thinking and strategy for every campaign.

JC: The experience element will have a lasting effect if we ensure the product is the focus but it ties in with a great experience that will stick in consumers’ minds. Shoppers remember if they go shopping for a pair of jeans and end up slacklining across Bluewater.

HC: With the Oddities campaign we used the right prompts and messaging in-store to give the brand the best possible visibility in the aisle and in secondary siting. We also used online sampling and blogger engagement to ensure the brand was introduced to people who do not frequently go physically shopping. A repeat campaign this year will ensure we build on this.

JCh: Creativity, fun and imagination must be at the heart of a campaign to achieve that initial engagement. If the activity isn’t interesting, consumers won’t take part. Once you have their interest, effective and efficient integration across all possible touchpoints will foster a lasting effect. Christmas campaigns can be the most challenging with the added stress of the season.

With Control the Choir, our priority first and foremost was to create a fun way to distract them and alleviate that stress. It was a form of escapism. The ability to pause and rewind a live choir with a giant, novelty remote was a head-turner and a unique experience.

MW: What will your challenges be this year?

JC: As a technology brand, our market is evolving rapidly. This year we are seeing a focus on touch products including tablets and touchscreen laptops together with the already launched Windows 8. Our challenge is that people will need to get ‘hands-on’ to differentiate our touch experience from the competition. Another challenge is always how to get consumers engaging with the product.

We cannot hand out hundreds of laptops therefore any experience must really relate to the product.

JCh: Shopping is still a family activity and people genuinely want engagement and entertainment. The challenge for brands is to offer something creative and interactive without becoming too hung up on traditional forms of measurement.

ST: We want to replicate in the UK the growth we are seeing in markets such as Germany. Experiential activity will help us achieve this.

ML: One of our challenges is to address the misperception that YO! Sushi serves only raw fish and cold rice. We will trial simplified point of sale materials to help new customers feel less intimidated about trying our sushi for the first time. There will be a quick visual guide explaining our four simple steps to dining at one of our restaurants.