Brand Experience: Taking experiences in-store, and sales out
by Mike Silver (@stretchmike) In the world of brand experience, campaigns are divided into two camps: those that drive awareness and affinity (equity), and those that move product off shelves (sales). Whatever the reason, this divide unfortunately may lead to division within organisations between ‘brand marketing’ communication and ‘trade marketing’ communication. Isn’t it about time we start joining the dots from head, to heart, to wallet before it’s too late?
How we got here
If we look back in the history of commerce, the notion of “brand” was really only introduced to marketing by Jay Walter Thompson (of JWT fame) in 1900, when he commissioned an advert aimed at the general public to educate them on the value of trademarks (brands). Prior to this, the focus was upon selling and more selling. Somehow, over the past 100+ years, marketeers have become seduced with brands, often to the detriment and neglect of its relationship to sales.
In South Africa, we tend to be guiltier than most other markets. When it comes to brand experience-lead campaigns, KPIs are often too soft or irrelevant from a business perspective. By this I mean that maybe your product launch might make it into the right publications or your logo may appear on the correct event poster, but what was the hard commercial benefit? Our friends up north are a lot stricter. Organisations such as Unilever measure each and every brand experience campaign in the UK, rightfully obsessed with wanting to measure the ROI of what may be perceived as a ‘fluffy’ medium. For SA brands, it’s often still okay to show clippings or event databases — which lack any effective post-event CRM or sales strategy.
Forgetting in-store engagement
Now going to the in-store side of things, often the reverse problem exists. The obsession with moving product off shelves is often done to the detriment of the brand. Prizes and ‘win airtime’ on pack promotions are sometimes as far as brands go. At best, you might have a student in an ill-fitting dress trying to shove toothpick-stabbed cheese cubes and flyers down your throat. This seems crazy when you think of the sort of money dropped on external brand experiences!
To uncover why this happens, we return to the organisational divide between sales and marketing: Brand manager: “You, Mr Trade Marketeer, just focus on selling more nationally and let me worry about brand love through my overly priced margarine pop-upstore, taking place in one of the country’s few ‘LSM 3-5’ malls.”
These two channels have to co-exist and speak to one another to have any chance of a successful journey from consumer engagement to consumer acquisition. As such, both trade and equity campaigns should ideally by signed off by both stakeholders.
Getting it right
Let’s look at some successful global examples. When Cadbury developed its “Say It with Chocolate” activations, it saw a huge opportunity to drive this amazing product-customisation campaign in-store. It was like taking candy from a baby and the retailers loved it! No doubt the logistics of this sort of campaign was impossible without trade/brand collaboration.
Going the other way round, Trident offered consumers the chance to party it up (at its expense) as a year-long guest blogger, visiting festivals around the country over a 12-month period. Your entry currency to win? Product. With as many purchases as possible to give you the best chance of winning. While only one or two consumers may only have won this incredible prize, millions were exposed to (and intrigued by) the on-pack, in-store and digital elements of the campaign. It sure as hell beats airtime!
In tougher and tougher markets, brands need to start asking themselves harder questions before briefing their agencies. Vague or conflicting objectives will result in vague campaign measurables that can’t be hidden behind. As our friends in finance count the rands and cents like never before, continuing to ignore measurable (and memorable) brand experience campaigns might lead to you being past your sell-by-date sooner than you think!
Mike Silver (@stretchmike) is managing director of Stretch Experiential Marketing (www.stretchexp.com). He established Stretch — a communications agency specialising in developing strategies and concepts for integrated brand-experience campaigns — after working in sponsorship consultancy and experiential marketing in the UK. He contributes the regular “Brand Experience” column, focusing upon broader integrated ‘brand experiences’, to MarkLives.