Rhyme and reasons for field innovation

Brands are using creative field and experiential marketing strategies to talk to customers in an engaging way. The results are activations that add brand value and inspire long-term loyalty.

Above: Transport for London enlisted poets such as Raymond Antrobus (pictured) to write and recite poems about travellers’ bad habits that cause delays. The aim was to change people’s behaviour 

Brands are going beyond the usual sampling and demonstration techniques and are using an ‘at large’ approach to field marketing to reach out to new audiences.

Coca-Cola-owned Innocent Drinks has reasserted its entrepreneurial credentials with a run of TED Conference-style events called Innocent Inspires. The aim is to connect with younger consumers and communicate its brand values to a new audience (See Q&A, below).

“Our Innocent drinkers who know us from [the] Fruitstock [festival] for example have grown older and there’s a newer, younger audience in their 20s who don’t really know our brand’s story.

“The idea was to engage this younger audience by doing a brand-led experiential ‘activation’, which leads with the values that we hold close to our hearts as a brand, as opposed to doing something product-focused – more of a mass sampling job,” explains Jamie Sterry, experiential brand manager at Innocent Drinks.

“It’s easy to end up being product-led and functional with your activations, but it’s being brand-led and emotional that connects with people,” adds Sterry.

Innocent’s free series of five interactive events centred on discussions and debates around the brand’s key values of health, ethics, entrepreneurship, taste and creativity, and featured high-profile names and organisations such as London running team Run Dem Crew, dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah and DJ Rob da Bank.

Commuters are on autopilot when travelling. Something that interrupts their journey and is unexpected can be very effective

Similarly, home improvement retailer Homebase is hoping to forge stronger relationships with consumers by offering free services, such as garden design and home decorating, in some of its stores to differentiate itself from rivals. “Fifty per cent of customers come into our stores looking for inspiration and advice to boost their confidence when they are considering decorating a room,” says Jo Kenrick, marketing director at Homebase.

“We are also trialling an interior design service in four refurbished stores where trained colleagues visit homes for free to help customers bring a new look together,” she adds.

These services are part of wider plans to revamp Homebase’s image and help it stand out. Not only does this ‘at large’ approach to field marketing educate customers and add value for them, it can also change their behaviour.

Transport for London (TfL), for example, has used poetry throughout its transport network as part of a campaign to improve etiquette and cut down on delays across its tubes, trains and buses.

It claims that last year, 400 hours of delays could have been avoided by a few small changes to customers’ travelling habits and so launched a campaign, which ran this month, featuring 13 performance poets to bring this to the attention of its travellers. Writers such as Amy Acre appeared at major stations across the network, including London Bridge and Canary Wharf.

The Guardian’s pop-up coffee shop in Boxpark lets visitors talk to journalists face-to-face

Each poet recited specially written verses that focused on problems such as littering, holding open train doors and not letting other passengers off the train first, all of which can cause delays.

The poetry was supported by a special Tumblr page, with information about the campaign, video biographies of the poets, photos, competition entries and a series of posters. In the first week, there were more than 12,000 visits to the Tumblr page, 26,000 page views and the average visit duration was just over two minutes.

“The campaign used poetry as a way to advise customers of the simple steps they can take to help reduce incidents that delay services and affect everyone,” says London Underground managing director Mike Brown.

“The campaign is about education. The obvious way in for an organisation like TfL is to go out with something quite bland and vanilla, where we’re literally telling our customers what to do”, explains Miranda Leedham, head of marketing operations at TfL.

“We know that Londoners don’t respond to that sort of thing. That’s not how they want to engage with TfL. The campaign enabled us to talk to our customers without being seen to be hectoring them.”

The surprise element of the brand interaction helped to have a greater effect on consumers, she says.

We wanted to immerse like-minded people into a world of creativity, to connect with people on a deeper level, and hope they buy into the brand long term

“We know that the majority of our customers on the transport network, when they make their regular commuting journeys, do it on autopilot. Having something a little different that interrupts the journey and is unexpected can be effective.

“We’ve had lots of positive feedback on social media. Everyone is saying it’s good that we’re focusing on the things that are important to customers and doing it in a light-hearted and engaging way.”

Leedham emphasises that while entertaining, the campaign has a serious purpose.

“This sort of thing always has to be embedded in the core customer need. In this instance, there is a genuine benefit in changing their behaviour. We’re not just doing it to keep people entertained – that’s a nice by-product – ultimately it’s about changing behaviour.”

Another brand to invest in a more meaningful connection with consumers to positive effect is The Guardian, which opened a pop-up coffee shop, #guardiancoffee, in Shoreditch’s Boxpark pop-up mall in May (see case study, below).

Putting a face to the brand and adopting a personalised approach is becoming increasingly important for customers, believes Tim Hunt, marketing director at Guardian News & Media.

Innocent Inspires was a brand-led experiential initiative intended to engage with younger people unaware of Innocent’s story

“The more things become digital, the more important the personal element becomes, and the more some kind of brand experience, some sort of living embodiment of brand values is important – for us and any other brand,” he says. The coffee shop enables people to get much more involved with the brand, meeting journalists contributing content and voicing opinion.

“We have comments below most of our online articles. One of the things we did in the early weeks of #guardiancoffee was to post a box on the bottom of the columns by journalists such as Polly Toynbee and Aditya Chakrabortty to say ‘if you’re interested in the debates raised by this article, instead of commenting online, come down to #guardiancoffee, meet the journalist and carry on the debate’.”

It may take more effort and money but forging a more meaningful face-to-face interaction between consumers and your brand, providing useful insights and adding value, are likely to mean they engage better and prove more loyal.

Case Study


Launched in partnership with EE, #guardiancoffee is a coffee shop in pop-up mall Boxpark in London.

“There was a huge tech theme going on in and around Silicon Roundabout and we wanted to get amongst it,” says Tim Hunt, marketing director at Guardian News & Media. “The idea was about how could we embed journalism in the heart of the tech community.

“I was keen to provide an interesting, experimental space where Jemima Kiss [head of technology at The Guardian] and other tech journalists could meet and talk to people and do interviews with start-ups or interesting companies,” adds Hunt.

Visitors are immersed in The Guardian brand in several ways. Tables have iPads giving access to Guardian Witness to upload stories or photos, or the Guardian’s iPad app, which showcases its digital content.

There is also an interactive data wall with information on technology stories from The Guardian and localised tweets about what is going on in and around #guardiancoffee.

“We’re interacting differently and openly with the audience. It means a two-way conversation, people getting involved in the stories, the publishing of the story being the start not the end, and allowing people to engage in the debate,” says Hunt.

It also has ties to the brand’s history. “The Guardian started in coffee houses in Manchester in 1821, so this is a 200- year-old idea,” says Hunt.


Jamie Sterry

Experiential brand manager 
Innocent Drinks

Marketing Week (MW): Why did you launch Innocent Inspires?

Jamie Sterry (JS): We were working off the insight that for many young people these days, they don’t have a lot of trust in business and long-term career opportunities. We wanted to do something different and inspire them.

MW: How does Innocent Inspires add value for young consumers?

JS: We wanted to immerse like-minded people into a world of creativity or taste, to connect with people on a deeper level. That way, hopefully, they buy into your brand in the longer term because you’ve managed to form a stronger bond.

Videos, articles and interviews with speakers have also been curated into a hub, the aim of which was to have a hub of amazing, inspirational content that is relevant to people and our brand.

MW: How did you measure the success of the event?

JS: The campaign has just finished so we haven’t conducted our full evaluation. With activity like this, there’s a danger in measuring it only on the amplification of the event – how many video views is it going to get or how many people will read about it. While important, it was only one key measurement.

How you measure the depth of engagement is always challenging. We’re trying to improve brand love, but how can you measure love of anything?

We have to rely on anecdotal feedback – asking people after the event what they thought of it.

MW: Is it important to educate, as well as entertain?

JS: Whatever environment you’re activating, whoever you’re talking to, you have to be relevant and add value. In somewhere like the festival environment, there is scope to do something fun that gives people seminal moments. But at the same time, we’re able to do events that add a bit more educational value. It’s easy to end up product-led and functional with activations, but it’s being brand-led and emotional that really connects with people.

The big three challenges

1. Deeper engagement

Jamie Sterry, experiential brand manager at Innocent Drinks says: “Even though we’re not connecting with that many people on the night, we want to make it an immersive brand experience, so people come away from it thinking ‘wow, I’ve never gone to anything like that before’ and are genuinely inspired by it.” Tim Hunt, marketing director, Guardian News & Media says: “The idea of having a physical space or product for some brands is important. It allows people to feel like they can engage with it, whether or not they actually go there. Particularly with content – we have events, masterclasses, product launches. People feel like they’ve got a more personal relationship.”

2. Adding value

Jo Kenrick, marketing director at Homebase: “Our goal is to help everyone live in a home they love. Offering a free interior design service in some of our stores is one of our latest steps to encourage as many customers as possible to reflect their personalities in their homes. These sorts of services are part of our drive to help and support people in the UK to make their home just the way they would like it to be.”

3. Measuring success

Miranda Leedham, head of marketing operations at Transport for London says: “You always have moments where you worry whether you’ve made the right call, especially on something like the transport network, which is an important part of people’s daily lives. In the first instance we monitor using hard measures – that’s the base level of data we’ll be looking at. We have tracking in place, looking at how many people are aware, what the attitudes are towards the campaign and claimed behaviour change.”


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