Field marketers are manoeuvring social media tactics into their experiential campaigns to drive their power and achieve greater endurance.
Social media is giving field marketing a new lease of life by enabling brands to extend the shelf life of campaigns after face-to-face engagement.
Coca-Cola used the technique this summer in Israel at its Summer Love festival. The soft drinks brand placed internet-connected check-in points around the site, where people could log into Facebook using facial recognition technology and post details of their experiences.
Coca-Cola isn’t the only brand using technology to integrate the virtual and real world experience as part of a field marketing push. Dessert brand Gü also combines social media with face-to-face contact in its marketing strategy.
Gü senior brand manager Joseph Liu says: “Field marketing is a great gateway to online, 24/7 brand interaction. Offline-to-online delivery mechanisms allow brands to continue the conversation with consumers beyond the actual physical event, thus extending the ’life’ of the activity.
For example, if a QR code facilitates consumers ’liking’ your brand on Facebook, you can then continue to engage with that consumer long after the field marketing activity is over.”
Citroën UK national events manager Neville Staines agrees: “If you run an event or field marketing activity and you don’t tap into social media, you’re missing a trick. Face-to-face engagement is very effective, but it shouldn’t be in isolation.”
Citroën ensures its digital and field strategies are closely aligned to make the most of the available “technology assets” – elements that can help the company get more bang for their buck from field marketing activity. Staines says: “It costs a lot of money to put on an event in a shopping centre, but you can amplify the impact massively by combining it with online activity such as games and competitions.”
However, integrating field marketing with other channels can mean it becomes much harder to determine the value of any given project. Calculating a return on investment is difficult but not impossible, with measurable targets as important as for any other marketing channel.
Timberland UK marketing manager Hannah Scotchmer says measuring the effectiveness of any live activity isn’t difficult if it is prioritised from the outset [see Brand in the Spotlight, below].
She says planning should include how the activity complements any wider campaign, and the number of customers reached, the effect on brand perception, and the reaction to the live experience should be questions that are asked.
With social media especially, there is plenty of accessible data – video diaries, blogs and Facebook comments, for instance. Almost half the people experiencing Nivea’s ’Million Moments of Closeness’ campaign (created by Life Agency) go online to continue their experience with the brand – and that means the opportunity to develop relationships with those consumers and send messages beyond just the benefits of the products.
That is not to say explaining the product’s features is not important – especially in markets where it is difficult for brands to differentiate themselves. Take the white goods sector. Electrolux head of marketing Graham Bremer says field marketing allows consumers to “roll up their sleeves and experience the appliances”.
Currently, that experience includes the opportunity to dine on top of the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels in one of two Electrolux ’Cube’ restaurants. These restaurants will be popping up all over Europe in 2011, allowing guests to learn from top chefs and specialists preparing meals using Electrolux equipment, providing a link between the professional and the domestic eating experiences, says Bremer.
Viewpoint: Hannah Squirrell, associate director for marketing and ecommerce, Bennetts
We have witnessed a real lift thanks to our field marketing work over the past 12 months or so. If you’re a biker, you would have seen the brand in the trade press, but we wanted to get out and be right there with our buyers.
To start with, we went to some of the Sunday cycling meets, turning up with the Bennetts Babes, a bucking bike and stacks of goody bags. These were such a success that our only regret was calling it our ’Sunday Service’. We ended up renaming it ’Bennetts Live’ so we could run it any day of the week.
We go to national cycling events but we also put a lot of effort in to the local meets – some days we’ll be out at the local Matlock bikers’ meet handing out our goody bags.
One of our key principles is never to ’sell’ at these events. If people want a quote, we direct them to the website. We have also positioned ourselves as a specialist in bike insurance, so we don’t use agencies in our activities – it would be disastrous if we couldn’t answer detailed questions about our policies relevant to bikers.
The result has been a 29% increase in bikers recalling seeing us ’in the field’, and despite not selling on our stands or during our trips to bike meets, our sales are up 31% year on year in a very difficult and competitive market.
More recently, Electrolux launched a mobile training academy for its AEG brand, which enables it to demonstrate its new range up and down the country. Bremer admits this required a high initial investment, but is expecting the unit to be “worked hard” in the next couple of years.
“You can’t do field marketing on the cheap, but what you can do are things that represent good value for money,” he says.
Having the right people to answer customers’ detailed questions is important, too, to avoid undermining a potentially valuable campaign. Promotional staff have their role, but on-site staff should be equipped to offer in-depth information. Electrolux uses its business development managers for AEG events. Bremens explains: “You can do more damage than good if the people engaging with consumers can’t answer detailed queries about the products.”
Bennetts Bike Insurance associate director for marketing and ecommerce, Hannah Squirrell, says it would be “disastrous” if her team were not able to cope with specialist biker questions from potential customers in the field [see Viewpoint, below].
Indeed, field marketing is rarely just about getting the product into consumers’ hands; rather it is helping consumers get a better understanding of it and, sometimes, changing their perceptions. As Dermot Ryan, joint director at E-Lites, the electronic ’cigarette’ brand, told Marketing Week recently.
“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,” he says. “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.”
Getting products into consumers’ hands may work well for product brands, but what about other sectors, where companies provide services rather than goods to their customers?
DFDS Seaways provides crossings between Essex and Esbjerg in Denmark and from Newcastle to Amsterdam. PR and advertising manager Catherine Jowett says field marketing is more of a challenge when consumers can’t sample a product on the spot, but it can offer opportunities to inspire people with new ideas – in DFDS’s case, a “ferry break”.
“It’s a chance to make people aware of cruise breaks and the parts of the service they may not have known about.” Field marketing lends itself to the kind of messages that are hard to get over in a press ad, she adds.
But even if ads are effective, there can still be a key function for field marketing. The government’s stop smoking campaigns have long used iconic billboards and television ads, but helping people change behaviour takes a more hands-on approach. That’s why the likes of NHS Greenwich are running roadshows to allow people to ’test their lung age’.
The automotive sector is also using field marketing more widely than previously. Timberland’s Scotchmer explains: “I’ve seen an increase in field marketing from the automotive sector, which makes total sense. Engaging directly with someone who is in the market for a new car through memorable brand theatre is going to stand you in better stead than ploughing money into other media.
Especially when the consumer can get a feel for the car’s features – and know it will have room to comfortably accommodate the whole family including the dog.”
Citroën is one of those ramping up its activity, most recently with its involvement with the Brighton Festival Fringe. The partnership – using agency The Tailor of Shoreditch – extends beyond a traditional sponsorship, says Staines, with the challenge being to weave the car brand into the fabric of the event.
“We wanted to generate test drives and deeper engagement with consumers,” he explains. He says the company achieved that, but the follow-up through social media had a “big impact”.
Staines feels the automotive sector could push the boundaries of field marketing even more, especially through the use of social media. But he argues that the sector is ahead of the times in this department.
“The competition in our sector is huge, especially because of the incredible pace with which new models are being produced. That means we are continually having to do something better for our customers. It also means spending a lot of time, money and effort on engaging people in different ways,” he says.
Whether it’s Brussels or Brighton, cookers or cars, it is clear that brands see field marketing as a vital gateway to real-life consumer engagement, which is even more important now the strategy can be accelerated and expanded by the use of digital media.
As Timberland’s Scotchmer concludes: “From my experience of social media so far, relying on it solely to drive sales is a risky strategy.
But for building a two-way dialogue that enables you to build a better understanding of your consumers, it’s a fantastic tool. As is experiential. So it’s only natural that the two have found a natural affinity.”
Q&A: Hannah Scotchmer, UK marketing manager, Timberland
Marketing Week (MW): You’ve recently been to Camp Bestival with your Earthkeepers Power Camp. Has this been a busy year for field marketing?
Hannah Scotchmer (HS): Yes. The appetite for live marketing has been stronger in the past year than perhaps it has in recent ones. We’ve taken the Power Camp, which was created by our experiential partner Sense, to both Bestival and the Cornbury Music Festival.
We’ve also just finished a very different live experience: in Plymouth we’ve been using a specially designed over- turned boat to drive awareness of our sponsorship of the Spanish Olympic sailing team and our range of boat shoes.
MW: How innovative are brands being in the way they approach field marketing?
HS: There’s a huge amount happening – from a brand like Coca-Cola using Facebook recognition technology to our own Camp. New developments in technology [like Facebook facial recognition points] are offering consumers more exciting experiences and fuelling the ’wow factor’ for many brand experiences.
MW: How do you ensure that field marketing fits with the rest of the communications mix?
HS: It can be used as a one-off standalone, tactical execution if there is good reason to do so. But often it works best when integrated with wider campaign channels.
Above-the-line marketing drives and raises awareness – sparking consumer interest and product recognition – then experiential engages the consumer in a more personal and often memorable way. It can create an experience people will remember for longer than the 30-second TV spot and perhaps drive immediate behavioural change.
Social media then goes on to extend the dialogue with the consumer – building advocacy, dialogue and word of mouth as they share their experience among their peer groups.
MW: Has technology opened up field marketing to a wider variety of brands?
HS: A number of brands have switched on to the power of field marketing outside of traditional areas such as FMCG and technology. I’m a little surprised not to have seen more from the finance sector – live marketing could help brands rebuild consumer trust and formulate the robust social media strategy that so many banks are hankering after.