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May 14, 2009
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Ben Daldry:Real-time feedback makes experiential even more powerful





All marketing functions in a brand owner's armoury must justify every penny spent in today's economic climate, and field marketing is no exception. Which is why it has never been more important for experiential and field marketing agencies at point of sale not just to deliver results, but to prove their worth.

While live marketers understand the consumer environment, much of this understanding is still based on speculation and interpretation rather than hard fact. It's a challenge, undoubtedly, for agencies given that the research readily available to prove field marketing's worth to prospective clients is far lower than is the case for other marketing disciplines.

Now, however, the tools are available for this knowledge gap to be closed, once and for all. For just as digital technology has re-shaped the media landscape for marketing communications, so it provides unprecedented potential to understand consumers more intimately as they move around in-store.

Real-time reporting

Speed and efficiency of field data collection has already been significantly improved through the use of laptops and web-based reporting systems. Thanks to the use of mobile network-enabled PDAs high quality digital information can be collected directly form consumers. This means that brand owners can access a range of data – such as consumer feedback, contact details, photographs, sound bites and even video – captured onto a PDA and transmitted in real-time to a web server making it available for instant analysis.

Wax Live did just this in a recent sampling campaign for the Cadbury chilled Desserts range (owned by Müller Dairy). Using a PDA-based data capture solution, consumer feedback surveys were used to support the event managers' daily evaluation reports. These were immediately transmitted to a web server where they were available for instant analysis.

Technology used in this way gives brand owners a deeper, more cost-efficient solution than the old paper-based approach. It generates far greater and better quality responses than can be achieved using traditional techniques. Performance of field researchers and variations in consumer response levels at different times of the day or in different locations in-store can be easily identified and optimised.

Building relationship
Most importantly, it is a quick and effective way of going way beyond one-off, face-to-face interaction with consumers to build on-going, mutually conducive relationships.

All too often, the potential depth of use of the data gathered by field marketers is overlooked. Yet many consumers are more than happy to answer further questions at a later date, and there is clear scope for brand owners to use customer contacts gathered in this way to start building live research communities.

Sony Entertainment Europe took this approach through its agency Experience during an experiential campaign for its SingStar and Buzz! games for PlayStation™3 late last year. Consumers' responses were monitored and pictures of them uploaded to a Flickr site that participants could access later that day. When asked, more than 90% of participants were willing to participate in further communication with Sony - a ready-made, opt-in community of consumers eager to engage with the brand.

Quick and easy wins
Compiling a database of consumer contacts for future, follow-up communication has never been easier. Many systems allow MMS, SMS and email messages to be quickly and easily sent to participants on the brand owners' behalf post-campaign.

By encouraging consumers to opt-in to participate in one-to-one follow-ups it is possible to demonstrate whether intent to buy did, in fact, equal actual sales. This is the sort of deeper analysis brand owners now need and will increasingly expect over the difficult trading conditions that lie ahead.

As important, is to be able to demonstrate more clearly and concisely the live marketing agency or field researcher's value. And the potential to use digital data capture and follow up messaging to better evaluate just how campaigns work, is clear.

It has never been easier for brand owners to build relationships with their consumers. Through building that relationship and managing it effectively it's possible to create a living, breathing research and marketing resource - a clear demonstration of how investment of time, commitment and budget in field marketing can pay its way and to help grow its share of total marketing spend.

Ben Daldry is managing director of data capture software solutions provider Hand-i


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