In with the on-crowd
Media-savvy consumers â€“ wise to the tactics of print and screen advertising â€“ are usually quite happy to be promoted to in an on-trade environment, says Box Marketingâ€™s Graham Abbott. This unique channel can dramatically alter not only the way your brand is perceived but even the way it is consumed
In the past there existed an unwritten contract between consumers and commercial broadcasters. The basis of this contract was that consumers watched 50 minutes of free broadcasting in exchange for viewing 10 minutes of advertising. There was a similar agreement in place with commercial radio stations and newspapers.
However, all of this has changed. Consumers are taking increasing control of broadcasting and publishing. They also decide on direct marketing and new media. Advances in technology, such as replay TV, mean they can cut advertising out of programming altogether. What is more, they are becoming more cynical about marketing messages.
Now that consumers have so much attitude and power, they must be treated correctly. You have to talk to them on their terms â€“ and, if you get it wrong, there arenâ€™t many second chances. But, what all consumers welcome are relevant promotions. They want to try new products and, if there is an appropriate incentive, they will happily opt into propositions. Nowhere is this more true than in the on-trade.
Effective promotions in pubs, bars and clubs can generate spectacular results. It often makes you wonder why some brand owners invest millions in making brand promises via advertising when they can demonstrate promise to best effect in the very environment in which buying decisions are made.
Promotions have the ability to shape the future of brands. They can stimulate trial for new or relaunched brands, focus on switching away from competitor products, create new branding and change the way in which drinks are consumed. Promotions are a very flexible medium that can be used both tactically and strategically.
Creating trial for brands is one of the simplest and most successful uses of promotions. This can be done in several ways. One of the most aggressive and effective methods is to put field teams into outlets selected through customer profiling and offer to exchange rival drinks for your own brand. Load it with a discount or premium incentive, and you can get whole bars to change their drinking habits in minutes.
Of course, it is not necessary to be quite so overtly aggressive. Indeed, such an approach does not suit all brands. But using field marketing as part of sampling campaigns can be enormously successful. Not only does it present the product
in the best possible way, but it creates a Pavlovian situation. Consumption of the brand in question becomes front-of-
mind information whenever making buying decisions in that particular bar.
Changing the way in which a brand is perceived and consumed would appear to be a major challenge. It is something that
is difficult to do through advertising because the best you can do is advise consumers of change. Promotions, however, allow consumers to demonstrably experience it.
For example, Diageo has changed the â€œshotsâ€ image of tequila brand Cuervo through a series of tactical exercises that placed it as a long drink using cola as a mixer. This is something that created greater frequency of sale and better brand positioning for the long term.
Most notably, Diageo singled out Islington in London as a key area for activity, not only because resident drinkers fit their brand profile, but also because there is a great evening influx into bars and pubs from outside the area that is also of the right match. All of Angel Islington Underground station was branded, including poster sites and ticket barriers. Brand ambassadors handed out promotional leaflets and guided consumers to branded rickshaws that took them to pubs in which Cuervo and cola was served, and prizes could be won through promotional games.
A good example of changing the perception of a drink and encouraging its consumption in a different way, the Cuervo promotion led to higher frequency of purchase and the shedding of any binge brand image.
As well incentivising consumers to see brands in a different way and change their spending habits accordingly, it is also important to influence the behaviour of bar staff when possible. Staff that do not â€œbuyâ€ a promotion will not sell it effectively to consumers.
Even the simplest collection-based promotion is devalued if the person behind the bar has to be reminded to hand out the collection mechanic or does so begrudgingly. It is important to remember that bar staff are brand ambassadors.
You only have to consider the example of cider brand Magners, which persuaded bar and pub employees to add ice to cider, to understand the significant impact they can make. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to use a more sophisticated approach. Gordonâ€™s Gin â€œPerfect Serveâ€ campaign is nearing its 10th year and is a template for the education of bar staff. Perfect Serve is based on teaching staff to present Gordonâ€™s Gin in the most attractive way using branded merchandise. It also encourages staff to suggest that consumers order a double measure in order to get the real benefit of a long drink. To make sure the education programme works and the presentation to consumers is correct, Gordonâ€™s has also used mystery shoppers.
Things to remember
So what is the secret of a good promotion? First of all, define objectives and criteria for success; match venue to profiled audience and agree a budget. The creative phase follows, but bear in mind that promotions must abide by the Code of Advertising Practice. There are other elements to check, such as local by-laws and PRS licensing if you want to use music, or the Gaming and Lotteries Act if you intend to use instant wins or prize draws.
The key is to make propositions relevant. Communication should appeal to target consumers and match the brand. The incentive used should create appeal, but the most important factor is the way in which the brand itself is presented. The brand must be seen as the hero, and the reward with the premium as an added extra. In fact, good sampling campaigns do not necessarily require an additional incentive to alter consumer buying habits.
And, whenever possible, test campaigns. Testing allows fine-tuning before committing to promotional activity. You can never test too much to make sure promotions work when rolled out. db May 2006
Graham Abbott is the director of on-trade distribution specialists Box Marketing