Independents on frontline as brands take to battlefield

Brand owners are taking advantage of real-time feedback by focusing on the convenience store sector as they seek to maximise their return on field marketing investment.

Convenience stores are the new battlegrounds for brand owners using field marketing to reach local consumers across the fragmented but potentially lucrative independent sector.

There are more than 33,000 independents that marketers need to think about when they are creating field marketing campaigns for their brands, according to the Association of Convenience Stores.

Supermarket chains are also well established in this space, with an increasing number of Tesco and Sainsbury’s Local outlets on the high street, while The Co-operative’s £1.57bn purchase of Somerfield two years ago has created a convenience retail giant.

There is great potential to appeal to a wide audience by channelling budget into convenience stores, argues Laurence Clube, managing director of REL Field Marketing. He says: “This channel is worth about £29bn in the UK and is growing, so it represents a massive opportunity for brand owners. However, the route to market can be complicated and field marketing techniques are needed to realise this opportunity in a cost-effective way.”

The core field marketing sector has been hijacked in recent years by experiential work, but more traditional activities can still grow market share, improve short-term sales and raise brand awareness in an economic downturn.

Marketers are going back to basics to get the retail fundamentals right. They need reassuring that their products are visible on the shelves. Whether it’s an independent or a multiple, brands also need to know that branch managers at a local level are complying with the promotional merchandising activity paid for and agreed at the retailer’s head office.

Some specialist agencies such as REL Field Marketing are providing one-stop shops for the complex convenience shop market, providing brands with campaign advice, face-to-face visits to strategically important stores as well as traditional sampling activity. This is supported with direct marketing and telemarketing if the budget allows.

Simon Couch, director of field marketing at RPM, says brands are also embracing new and more cost-effective initiatives to engage with the independent sector. One popular idea is to offer store managers a £5 voucher if they can prove that they have promoted a particular brand in store.
“There is not a field operative in sight and the redemption level has been about 40%, suggesting the convenience sector is responsive and ready for these methods,” claims Couch.

Such ideas will not replace traditional face-to-face techniques, but they are helping brands to get additional fixtures into independent outlets at a time when budgets remain tight, he adds.

The larger supermarkets are more structured and tend to control their in-store activities centrally. However, the autonomy that independent store owners have to cherry-pick which promotions they support is quite refreshing for many brand owners, Couch suggests.

Core brand
Britvic, for instance, has asked agency Cosine UK to employ field marketing techniques to drive awareness and sales of its brands with potential but which currently have a small presence in the UK, such as global brand Lipton Ice Tea. Cosine UK’s sales and marketing director Jacqui Sheldon says: “We have a team of 15 people travelling to different conurbations making a big noise about this brand. The aim is to see if Lipton Ice Tea can become a core UK brand for Britvic.”

Competitive markets such as soft drinks can certainly benefit from field marketing. Another cut-throat sector is mobile smartphones where it is vital that brands educate the sales staff in the mobile operators’ local branches.

Avril Murphy, director of Microsoft’s mobile communications business for Western Europe, says educating retailers about phones using the Windows operating system is crucial. “Some 70% of smartphone sales go through the phone operators’ retail outlets. Field marketing helps us to get our message out in store through training, promotions and incentives. We use a fleet of merchandisers to make sure that Windows phones are prominently displayed in retail outlets.”

Another client who has experienced the benefits of using field marketing is Pete Markey, marketing director at insurance business More Than.

He explains: “The key is to set tight metrics around what success looks like and brands must be prepared to remunerate agencies for the right things to avoid campaigns that fail to engage with consumers.”

He suggests that brands can engage with the field teams by providing incentives based on the number of leads generated.

Convincing retailers that a brand’s field marketing should be seen in store works best when they can see the benefits. For example, Service Innovation Group’s (SIG) work on Conair Group’s BaByliss brands involves its merchandisers visiting Boots and Superdrug outlets to deliver and maintain the fixtures, install new ranges, manage and replenish stock, implement promotions, merchandise to an agreed planogram and display point-of-sale material. The field marketing team also educates store staff by giving brand presentations. As a result, SIG has earned enough trust to take charge of re-ordering BaByliss stock for Superdrug.

Gaining this sort of respect from retailers is the key to building long-term relationships between brands and stores. The new chairman of the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Field Marketing and Brand Experience Council, Steve Radford, has spent his first two months in the role creating a three-year plan to look at increasing understanding in three main areas: standards and practice, industry knowledge and insight, and how the industry markets and promotes itself.

The industry must make field marketing more visible to those advertisers that do not yet use the discipline strategically in their business, argues Radford. “We need to show how field marketing can be integrated into the wider commercial plan, which is something experiential marketers are good at,” he says.

In an attempt to improve standards, the DMA launched its Accreditation Scheme for field marketers but some agencies report that they view it as too complex. And the recession has meant that suppliers have been unwilling to divert resources to demonstrate they are meeting the best practice standards in the 19 areas set out by the DMA.

More agencies are likely to apply for membership over the next year, however, as more clients, including the Central Office of Information, insist all suppliers on their agency roster have industry accreditation.

But it’s technological innovation that will drive the industry forward. Real-time reporting from agencies is allowing clients to adapt their campaigns if their objectives are not being met, and with fast.MAP/DMA research forecasting that almost 50% of retail clients will invest more money on in-store field marketing this year, the discipline is continuing to demonstrate its worth to brand owners.


What is field marketing?

The main areas of field marketing are outsourced sales, merchandising, auditing, sampling, demonstrations, roadshows and mystery shopping. There are also support services, such as telesales, product handling and despatch. The core aim is to ensure that products are on shop shelves and consumers know they are there.

How is field marketing carried out?

Field marketing teams will work locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. The supplier is responsible for training and managing the team to ensure the client’s objectives are met. Field staff collect data from every piece of activity and give feedback to the client, often in real-time, so campaigns can be amended on an hourly or daily basis.


2010/11 predictions

Laura Leonard, Account director, Momentum Instore

Field marketers will use more robust analysis tools to translate in-depth data relating to a campaign into a payback model. Clients will demand firmer return on investment information if they are to get internal sign-off for field marketing budgets. These tools will help generate activity in the traditionally difficult convenience store market. Historically, budgets have been reserved for the big four grocers because ROI has been easier to demonstrate thanks to electronic payments data.

Simon Couch, Director of field marketing, RPM

Field marketers have always strived to achieve “optimal customer contact” on behalf of their clients. Sending an operative into each store can be an expensive business, so in future brands must correctly balance this contact with supporting telephone and direct mail campaigns to increase retailer coverage and reduce costs. This will make positive ROI more attainable.

Tracey Bagshaw, Managing director, Service Innovation Group (UK)

Retailers as well as brands are increasingly using field marketing teams for specialist in-store work. They want merchandisers with local knowledge of – and good relationships with – stores close to where they operate. We are also being asked by clients to do a lot more retail staff training, particularly on specialist products. Stores that have high staff turnovers also require ongoing training support to ensure that knowledge and experience isn’t lost.

Sharon Richey, Managing director, BEcause

I expect to see sampling campaigns continue to evolve in many different shapes and forms over the next 12 months. At the top end of the scale will be those brands seeking a far richer brand experience. The key for these brands will be to correctly identify what “layers of experience” need to be added to a core sample. It will be essential to have a defined set of measures.

Phil Harvey, Chairman, JPMH

T-Mobile has started something of a trend with its “Life’s for sharing” marketing campaign. Over the next 12 months, we will see more of this coming from other brands – for example, hit squads will increasingly surprise and delight, and they will engage with consumers on their level with creative sampling. It is performance-style marketing that we believe is a benefit in helping buyers to engage with brands rather than forcing the sellers’ message down a suspicious public’s throat.

Liz Richardson, Director, Closer

Whether we are doing field marketing or experiential work, clients will want more data about consumer behaviour and the effectiveness of their campaigns. We have recruited data analysts into our team because if you can crack data and evaluation then this discipline will become even more powerful and the budgets will be there. Clients will always need face-to-face interaction with their customers.


Market research in numbers

  • Industry estimates put the value of the field marketing sector at about £700m a year.
  • The industry employs about 40,000 people and many field reps work for more than one agency.
  • Some 17% of marketers across all sectors use field marketing to acquire customers and 14% use the discipline for in-store promotions.
  • Some 49% of retail clients will spend more on in-store field marketing in 2010 than they did last year.
  • A European survey to be published later this year reveals that Germany leads the way on brand sampling with up to 90% of supermarket outlets using the technique. In the UK the figure is up to 40%.

Source/ fast.MAP/DMA research 2009; Sales Service International


10 suppliers you need to know

1 CPM (UK)Part of Omnicom, CPM is a big player in the field marketing sector delivering more than 80,000 face-to-face contacts a week for big brands including Mars.

2 Headcount Worldwide Field MarketingPart of WPP, Headcount has more than 3,000 field staff on its database. It has worked with The Environment Agency and Warner Home Video.

3 Phiz Field MarketingPhiz is the independent agency launched in 2007 from within the more experiential RPM Group. Its clients include Heineken UK.

4 MomentumFormed as Northern Display International 35 years ago, Momentum works for Procter & Gamble brands. The company is also behind Boots’ revamp of the merchandising for its beauty department last

5 Service Innovation GroupSIG is a European service group that enables brands to run pan-European or local field marketing campaigns. Its clients include Siemens, L’Oréal and

6 IMS Field Marketing IMS was the first field marketing agency in the UK to achieve the DMA Field Marketing Best Practice Accreditation. Clients include Colgate-Palmolive.

7 FDS GroupFDS has been trading as a field marketing company for nearly 25 years. It was initially established to promote brands within duty free outlets on ferry routes throughout Europe. It counts AOL, Danone Waters and Asda among its clients.

8 REL Field MarketingResource Experience Limited (REL) was formed in 1995 and is now owned by the international Photon Group. The agency specialises in the grocery

9 Cosine With clients such as Britvic, Barclaycard and BT, Cosine is a sister agency to CPM within the Omnicom

10 Contact Field Marketing Solutions Founded in November 2002, the company now has one of the industry’s largest staff databases. Recent clients include Mersey Rail and Procter & Gamble-owned


Top tips you need to know

  • Be clear about what activity you want to carry out and what products and services are involved. Define the campaign’s objective and make sure you set targets. For example, is it a sales campaign?
  • Hold a face-to-face briefing with the field team and consider whether members require any specific qualifications or should undergo any product-related training. Be sure to provide the field team with sales and communication materials.
  • Work out how many store locations you want the team to visit and where geographically the budget will be best spent. Agencies can help a brand to make the most of its retail call list.
  • Set a timescale. When do you want the activity to go live? And when should it be completed?
  • Be clear about how you want the results of the field activity to be reported. Do you want them posted, faxed, sent via email or available to access via a portal?



Case study: Barclays

MaryLou Costa

Barclays’ brand valuation has jumped by more than 50% from £5.24bn last year to £8.12bn, which perhaps may not be reflected in its move of just two places from eighth position last year to sixth in the Brand Finance table. The total company value has more than doubled since last year to £34.73bn.