Digital has radically transformed how we connect with customers, and impacts the customer journey. There’s never been more pressure to deliver more for less.
Customer attention deficits are high. Markets are saturated. There is a need to extract more for less from the bottom line.
These are just a few of the challenges faced by brands the world over. The pressure is on and the experiential industry is not exempt. Activations agencies need to be delivering less ‘ho-hum’ and more ‘fresh and inspired’.
Why? Because, pushing repeat on old ideas just won’t cut it. Agencies need keep step with the prevailing trends and anything less than that means selling clients short on the true benefits thatexperientialcan deliver.
The rise of experiential marketing
Brands expect continuous rejuvenation and reinvention when it comes to their experiential campaigns – and rightly so – as activations agencies need to stay attuned to this.
More than just meeting expectations, agencies need to pay attention to and listen carefully to what clients are really saying, because the prevailing trends of the day are essentially a reflection of what brands are looking for.
The following five predominant trends are currently playing out in the activations space and when brands appoint an activations partner – it’s important to be aware of what’s hot and what’s not. Agencies that don’t recognise these trends are on a road of no return, and it can only end badly for the brand that partners with a ‘dinosaur’.
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1. Activation ROI essential to brand success
Gone are the days where the activations industry was “pretty”. Now, smart strategies are quantified with KPIs that may include reach, sales, uptake, conversion, digital engagement, share and penetration.
This way of operating signals a marked shift in thinking in the industry and those activations companies that are still focusing on ‘bells and whistles’ are fast becoming obsolete. Experiential marketers are not order takers – their job is to understand what outcome they are driving for a brand.
Business is under pressure and activations agencies must ensure their solutions are driving/supporting/looping into broader, outcomes-based strategies and solutions.
2. Portfolio versus stand-alone brand solutions
Historically, activation strategy was ‘siloed’ brand for brand, while today, cross portfolio/cross category thinking leverages differentiated positioning, which in and of itself is more consumer focused.
For example, a series of bread toppings within the same stable within an organisation may choose to position across the “sandwich consumption” space. Recognising that the same consumer may eat a jam sandwich today, but equally enjoy a peanut butter sandwich tomorrow. This collaboration across brands has a direct correlation with efficiency, and is a good approach to stretching and making budgets work harder.
More than that though, portfolio managers who are consumer-centric will understand how customers are making purchase decisions. Price deals are a good example of a portfolio pricing solution. For example, buy Jam and Peanut Butter for a discounted combo deal price.
3. Activation & sales – Integration creates efficiency
This third trend is about the necessity to integrate efficiency between Brand, Trade Marketing and Activation.
When done right, the integration between sales and activation can offer significant value to brands and serve both the interest of sales and marketing. It’s the perfect triangle. But, all too often there is a disconnect between the brand marketing and sales teams.
This is evidenced by the fact that Sales is all too-often not looped in as it should be, and Activation ends up with no product to sell. Or outstanding brand strategies are developed, which in some market places will not work if pricing strategies have not been aligned.
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4. Need to better understand the consumer journey
It’s important to remember that although activation can occur at the final closing of the sale, the consumer journey started long before that. Customer-centric activations strategies create greater value for brands and at the heart of activation is an understanding of the broader through-the-line consumer journey.
The reality is good marketing strategies are about that consumer journey and take into consideration how people shop and how a purchase decision is made. Thus, how content is consumed, how the consumer is influenced, and how they experience the world, are all part of the consumer journey. The activation’s brand engagement can drive feet in-store, disrupt or amplify the experience, as well as close the sale.
5. Strategic MSP activation partnerships
Historically, Master Service Providers (MSP) were not utilised regularly within the activations sector - but this may be changing; the move being to have all the consumer engagement solutions co-ordinated by the MSP.
Whereas previously, relationships with partner agencies would be co-ordinated by the client, the activations MSP now becomes the custodian that vets and co-ordinates all the consumer engagement partners on behalf of the client.
This results in there being a golden thread in thinking, strategy and service delivery. Ultimately, though, the aim is to deliver more seamless consumer experiences.
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An experiential campaign is a fundamental tactic to be considered when marketing products and services. For this reason it’s really important to know how to identify capable professionals you can partner with; an agency that’s always on top of its game because it recognises the current trends in the marketing world.
These are just a few of the more strategic boxes to tick when appointing an activations agency - and the list definitely doesn’t end here. But, these are the essential requirements against which to assess any agency’s understanding of the influences changing the marketing landscape. So, make sure the agency you appoint has kept abreast with these challenges; as neglecting to do so could be a costly error in the long-term.