Connecting the Dots for Awesome Activation

After last weeks Valentines Day foray loving your way to success, today we are in more familiar territory for most. That being Marketing and Sales working well together to deliver awesome activations.

In the good / bad old days (delete according to your outlook) Activation was a much simpler affair. It always started with a great idea and if you could convince your Sales Team to convince your Retail Customers of its merits, a multi-channel experience with TV, Outdoor, PR and obligatory special pack could be yours for the asking. As consumer touch points and shopping channels have proliferated, coordinating a successful activation has become a herculean task requiring internal and external teams to work much harder and more collaboratively to knit together an immersive customer experience. Let’s take a look at someone who does it really well (like CUB did with the Boonie Doll many moons ago – still a landmark achievement a decade on) and some practical ways in which we help our clients do it better.

Activation matters because it allows brand owners to influence customers’ experience of their brands, hopefully building positive associations and converting them to purchase and advocacy along the way. Everyone will have their own favourite example of brilliant activation. The MasterCard ‘Priceless Cities’ is a beauty. MasterCard know over half their customers live in cities. This is projected to rise to 70% by 2025. They identified 8 fields of engagement for target urban families including Shopping, Dining & Sports. The key insight however is that no two cities are alike in what makes something priceless. This allowed them to work from a global idea but tailor activations for each of its urban markets. The New York activation leveraged New Yorkers passion for the Yankees baseball team turning 20 free seats into 55 million impressions in 4 days.

Note the subtle evolution from MasterCard observing priceless moments to enabling priceless moments. Former CMO Alfredo Gangotena commented: “The essence of the ‘Priceless Cities’ campaign is relevance…It is very personal. What is priceless for you is not priceless for someone else.”

So from this example we can see what makes an awesome activation:

  • Start with a strong idea – be credible / be relevant / be contagious
  • Amplify the overall customer experience of brand
  • Provide value for consumers, shoppers, customers & the brand
  • Develop by cross functional teams working together
  • Be consistent and synergistic across all chosen channels
  • Execute with excellence and optimise in real time

Obvious right? So if Activation is so important and we know what to do, what’s getting in the way? Our clients commonly point to a number of barriers that prevent them delivering it in practice:

  • Strategy and planning are developed in splendid isolation. Often brand, customer, category and shopper plans compete for resource and support rather than being different expressions of the same intent
  • Stakeholder support is not invited or actioned early enough. This is critical given our retail customers are often the gatekeeper to the consumer and shopper
  • Sales & Marketing teams are struggling to keep up with skills, ways of working and collective ownership required to design, execute and optimise a consistent activation in an Omni channel environment

When this model is applied to Activation, a critical first step is helping organisations embed an integrated activation planning process. One that delivers value for consumers, shoppers, customers and brand owners alike. That value is derived from insights gained across the purchase journey. This in turn guides strategy and channel choice.

But great process alone does not equal great results. That’s why we build learning programmes where Sales & Marketing teams do collaborative action planning together on live brand projects, building skills and applying them in real time.

A CMO’s perspective – Tom Buday (Global Head of Marketing and Consumer Communication at Nestle)

“A big challenge with KitKat was about contemporizing it for the new reality of digital and social media while staying absolutely glued to its historical fundamentals. The Kit Kat iconic product design, the four-finger bar of wafer and chocolate, has remained the same for I don’t know how many years. The iconic packaging and logo has also remained essentially the same. The core fundamental selling proposition of KitKat, which is about bringing a smile to your break – the slogan is “Have a smile, have a KitKat” – have remained consistent as well for a long time. What has rapidly changed is the way the brand engages with consumers to bring the proposition to life when and where they’re receptive based on a deep understanding of how the target consumers are living their lives.

To give you a couple of concrete examples, we partnered with Google in allowing them to brand the Android operating system upgrade as KitKat. We developed a joint promotion with them that was highly successful worldwide. Until then, Google was using generic dessert type names for naming their operating system releases, and a big fan working at Google had the idea ‘Why not use KitKat?”

They contacted us through our advertising agency, JWT (J.Walter Thompson), and one thing led to another. No money changed hands between the partners but we arrived at an activation that was great for both of us. There was logic to it all even though the opportunity came to us with a little bit of luck. The team understood that, while people have been taking breaks from work or the daily grind forever, the way they are taking breaks today is very different. More often than not, when they take a break, they have a mobile phone with them. Why not exploit that breaking moment, exploit the branding partnership with Android, and see if we can bring a smile to people’s breaks in a Web 2.0 way?

It was very successful. Since that time, we’ve continued our partnership with Google. KitKat has among our best presences in social media across platforms and we continue to do well there. It’s not really a turnaround. It’s more a contemporization, staying true to fundamentals and adapting them to new realities.

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