Meet the young ringleaders

Setting up marquees at air shows and hosting launch parties for games and cookery competitions are some of the tactics companies are using to get out and meet their target audiences of young people and their parents

Party plan: field marketing and online will be used to launch WWE’s 13 game

A flypast by the Red Arrows, young men dressed as World War Two fighter pilots jumping into the cockpit of Spitfires and a frighteningly modern F-16 fighter jet are all part of the excitement at a local air show – one of the most popular family leisure activities in the UK. While the aeronautical acrobatics in the skies wow visitors, the tension is mounting inside a busy marquee where children’s model brand Airfix is staging a workshop of its products.

The Airfix Make and Paint experience is an ongoing event that the model-making brand takes to air shows across the UK. “We set up in a marquee and invite about 25 children and their family members to sit down, experience the brand hands-on and work on modelling our products,” explains Darrell Burge, marketing manager of Airfix at toymaker Hornby. “Many of them haven’t had a chance to model [products] before and the parents haven’t had an opportunity to see them, so it works on both levels.”

Airfix regards this type of field marketing as a valuable part of its development. “This is one of the marketing activities that has contributed to us selling nearly five times the amount of Airfix products in value compared to six years ago when we first took the brand on,” says Burge. “Equally important for us is that parents see the benefit of the activity and take that experience away with them, logging it for a future purchase.”

Typically including sampling, field marketing also covers the work carried out by temporary sales people and merchandisers who function as an outsourced part of a company’s sales team. The field marketing discipline is evolving from its early incarnation as a pure sampling function of the product or service to more branded activities with accompanying theatre at roadshows to experiential-style marketing, which is now common at festivals and other outdoor events.

Model-making: Airfix encourages children to try its products at its Make and Paint events

“Field marketing and experiential marketing can both be hugely powerful tools,” says Institute of Promotional Marketing chief executive Annie Swift. “If you can get a sample of your brand into somebody’s hand, or immerse them in a series of experiences that are related to your brand, your message is much more likely to take root.”

Home appliance brand Electrolux, CookIt! supports the Guild of Food Writers’ children’s cookery competition which is part of a hands-on children’s food and cookery education campaign. Six finalists aged 10 to 14 in this year’s annual cookery competition were invited to recreate their winning dishes in a cook-off at newly designed Electrolux test kitchens in Luton. “Electrolux is keen to support budding young cooks and to encourage cooking as a life skill,” says Electrolux UK trade and consumer marketing manager Anna Cox. “Children are customers of the future. This gives us an opportunity to showcase the latest technology to the younger generation and give them a chance to use them under supervised conditions.”

Cutting-edge electric appliances are not the only technology developments the average person is getting a firmer handle on now. One of the notable developments in field marketing at the moment is responding to the consumer adoption of social and mobile media. Last summer, McDonald’s ran a McFlurry Nice Cream Van summer tour, visiting festivals and summer spots across the UK and giving away free ice cream. The tour was supported by a Facebook page, encouraging fans to track the van’s progress and guess its next location.

With technology developing at pace, brands are working harder to identify and target the most relevant consumers. Leveraging a predominantly teen audience of passionate fans, games manufacturer THQ is capitalising on the rise of social media usage in its target group. Traditional field marketing techniques of using sampling and brand ambassadors have been paired with online networking to produce the launch campaign for its forthcoming wrestling game WWE’13. The game’s marque is rolling out a strategy of brand-sponsored house parties, a tactic that it claims turns fans’ living rooms into showrooms and party hosts into brand advocates.

Launching at the end of October, the campaign has been developed with branded party hosting specialist Come Round and targets young people aged 16 upwards. Five hundred chosen hosts will put on a party with nine other people bringing the total of party attendees to 5,000. “Parties really work with our teen audience,” says THQ senior product marketing manager for the UK and Ireland Mark Cook. “We have 120,000 UK Facebook fans for our WWE video game who are all very engaged.”

By giving them a copy of the game, which has an RRP of £49.99, in advance of its market release and a party pack containing wristbands, a toy wrestling belt and a fun collection of face masks, the brand generates a deeper engagement with the opinion formers. “We will run parties the Saturday before the launch and use the time running up to the official date to drive conversation,” says Cook.

Piloting its toddler-sized vending machine at kid’s festival Lollibop, healthy snacks brand Ella’s Kitchen is sensitive and savvy about how it reaches health-conscious parents and children. “Mums and dads are interested in what is best for their children and their enjoyment,” says Samantha Crossley at Ella’s Kitchen.

“Everyone is bombarded by brands all the time and to create any cut-through you have to make it as interesting and engaging for your target audience as possible.” The children were captivated by the playful aspects of the specially designed vending machine and their parents by the product itself, explains Crossley.

Field marketing remains one of the most powerful channels in the mix. By using sampling, selling and meeting customers, brands gain ground. It’s certainly not child’s play, but imaginative and enjoyable campaign activity that when skilfully executed, wins sales and brand reputation among parents and children.

Q&A Organix

lucy jackson

Lucy Jackson
Organix senior brand manager

Marketing Week (MW): How important is field marketing in the marketing mix?

Lucy Jackson (LJ): It is really important to execute the right marketing mix for the relevant campaign. One size will not fit all. For Organix, our experiential activity was a key part of a wider campaign that we recently created to generate awareness and drive trial of our Mighty Meals range. A key part of the field activity was to ensure mothers and children could see and experience our foods.

MW: Why did you choose the Lollibop festival to launch the live marketing element of the Organix Mighty Meals brand?

LJ: Working with Carbon Marketing, we looked at various options but Lollibop stood out as a great opportunity to create a real brand experience – it’s up-and-coming and we felt it would be perfect for the campaign.

Meals on a wheel: Organix at Lollipop

MW: When targeting the children’s sector, what kind of things do you consider?

LJ: Our category offers a really interesting shopper versus consumer dynamic, so it’s important to understand who we really want to appeal to. For us, that’s first and foremost mum and we always focus on talking to her in a transparent, honest and engaging way.

MW: How has the campaign developed since the initial launch at Lollibop?

LJ: After launching at Lollibop, our campaign hit the road visiting multiple retailers around the country to unlock the sales opportunity. The inflatable tent that gained so much attention at Lollibop stood out at the various retailer sites and we were so pleased with the activity that we repeated it this year.

MW: What have you achieved in terms of sales results?

LJ: The campaign was a great success for us and we achieved our targets in terms of sampling. In the stores where we sampled Mighty Meals, we saw very strong uplifts, hence we repeated the activity in 2012.

Case Study

Tomy – toy story

The concept of child’s play is taking on a whole new meaning with the marketing strategy at toy company Tomy, which uses field marketing across a number of its core brands to secure a connection with its target audience of children and their parents.

“Doing field marketing as part of the mix is really important because there is so much choice within the toy category,” says Tomy head of European marketing Joanne Gray.

Playing ground: K’Nex promotes science, technology and maths modules in school

“Having that hands-on experience both gives children a better idea of what they like and parents the reassurance that their child is enjoying the product.”

Working with The Young Engineers, a charity that works to promote science, technology and maths modules in schools, Tomy delivered its Making K’Nexions marketing activity. The K’Nex building toy, which is designed to challenge children in science, was used in a task that saw them design and build local landmarks. “From a pure marketing point of view, the initiative makes great PR because it is so visual,” comments Gray. “Some of the designs were amazing.”

Likewise, the learning and education credentials of Tomy’s Tomica brand are tapped into through a range of field marketing activities staged within renowned cultural institutions, including the Science Museum and the National Rail Museum. Events take the form of a play day, where children are given the opportunity to have fun with the train toys while the sales opportunity is maximised by co-ordinated promotional activity in the museum’s stores. “The Tomica is a train system and is quite a big investment for parents,” notes Gray. “So this sort of work that demonstrates the play value really gives parents the reassurance that their children are going to get enjoyment out of the purchase.”

Field marketing activities such as these have a big impact on sales, claims Gray citing sales increases of approximately 10 times the normal level of the Tomica product from the Science Museum shop on the days when Tomy runs its events.

Tomy’s Pokémon toy launch in spring 2013 will follow a similar strategy. “With Pokémon, a property that sees children engaging with the desire to collect and battle, there is a rich opportunity to do something engaging from a marketing perspective,” comments Gray. “There are so many ways to reach kids these days, including online and television, but the hands-on experience is the one they will remember the most.”

Top Trends Predictions

heather devany

Heather Devany
Brand Activation Group,
Direct Marketing Association

Children won’t be children forever – they’ll soon be buying for themselves. Brands, therefore, seek to establish loyalty before children reach the age they choose for themselves. As it is their parents who are buying right now, this could mean brands creating experiences that appeal to children – even if the products are aimed at adults.

adam margolin

Adam Margolin
Marketing director
Martin McColl Retail Group

From where we stand, field marketing is a growing opportunity. One of the best ways to engage somebody with a new product will continue to be by talking to them. Sampling and connecting with people around a product is more likely to interrupt the shopper and get on their radar.

mary-annabel karmel

Mary Jones
Head of marketing and publicity
Annabel Karmel

A store or a shopping centre only provides a certain percentage of shoppers who are mothers, whereas parent-centred shows allow brand marketers to be highly targeted. Field marketing is a valuable way to meet customers directly and then drive them to social media.

justine mumsnet

Justine Roberts

Sampling and event days work well as brands get their product or service into the hands of the target market and also potentially harness the power of peer-to-peer recommendation and viral marketing.

Top Tips: DOs and DON’Ts

Do ask for opinions and listen to the answers when researching this area

Do get your product into people’s hands

Do encourage peer-to-peer recommendation

Do be identifiable as a marketing campaign and make the commercial intent clear

Don’t target food and drink at children under 12 years old without parental consent

Don’t pigeonhole consumers into set categories

Don’t ignore feedback



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