In for the Long Haul

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

There was a time when promotion was the short-term tactic marketers drew upon to push the sales needle that extra bit needed to hit a quarterly or annual goal set by the corporate parent. After a big advertising blitz had defined the brand identity and put the product at the top of the consumer’s consciousness, a few leftover dollars would be allocated to tip the scale a bit further. Rarely, if ever, consulted about advertising or promotion efforts, most retail buyers would plan inventories around media schedules, with some minor adjustments for P-O-P or couponing that might cause an upward blip in the sales curve.

No more. Retailers — especially the big players like Wal-Mart and Target — dictate marketing practice now, and they are less interested in the consumer’s awareness of a specific product and more concerned with getting folks into the stores. This power shift explains in part the migration of marketing dollars over the past few years away from brand-image media advertising and toward in-store entertainment and events provided by promotion marketers.

But, according to former Wal-Mart CMO Paul Higham, promotion marketers still have a way to go if they are to truly partner with major retailers. “Manufacturers depend on short-term promotions. [By contrast] these days, retailers are more likely to do long-term branding,” Higham said last month in a keynote address he delivered in Chicago at PROMO Expo 2003. “Retailers are relationship dependent. [Wal-Mart founder] Sam Walton said, ‘It’s about the people, not the sales numbers.’”

Marketers have gotten a lot more savvy about the strategic role integrated promotional marketing can play in branding. Now less enamored with buying time or space in increasingly splintered media, they’ve emerged from the tactical-only ghetto to which promotions was allocated in years gone by. But Higham, and others operating at his level, have made it clear that the residual short-term thinking still applied to promotion needs to go. Brands and their agency partners need to put more thought and effort into giving their products and promotions “legs” that will help them live longer in the retail environment and especially in the lives of consumers.

In for the Long Haul

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Marketers mobilize with integrated, long-term campaigns that spend money to make money.

It takes a village:

Olympic sponsor Bank of America pulls out all the Australian stops this fall.

Having trouble getting that $5 million mobile marketing tour approved? Try enlisting the folks in p.r., event sponsorships, and advertising to spread out the costs. Still too expensive? Work in some minor year-to-year alterations and make it a three-year plan. Still not working? Add a batch of retail visits and mention it to the sales force.

That should get the show on the road.

It’s hard to find a marketer these days who thinks mobile marketing is a worthless effort. But finding a marketer who thinks the strategy can be cost-prohibitive is as easy as finding a customized van outside the Super Bowl.

“It’s clearly expensive. But to reach somebody one-on-one is expensive,” says Prevention publisher Steve Giannetti, whose magazine ran its first mobile program this year. “If you look at it as advertising and promotion and p.r. all rolled into one, then it’s worth it.”

Widening the campaign window is another way to soften the costs. “A full-sized tractor-trailer is a pretty huge investment, so a company needs to look at it long-term,” says Bryan Buske, chief operating officer of New Berlin, WI-based GMR Marketing, a pioneer in mobile campaigns. “Several million dollars over a few years is a lot more digestible,” adds Vince Parrinello, principal at Group III Promotions, Chicago. The trick is to find flexible designs that can tweak the vehicle without twinging the budget again.

Not that costs stop with the $75,000 to $500,000 required to lease the truck (that lower figure represents a vehicle with no customization and fewer options than a Yugo.) “It’s expensive to manage. There are staff training costs, salaries, hotels, per diems, fuel, planning, and site fees,” says Robert Lewis, ceo of Mobile-Media Enterprises in Atlanta.

“A multi-year tour can certainly run into the tens of millions of dollars,” says Timothy Flavin, director of sales for Spevco Inc., a Winston-Salem, NC, company that designs custom vehicles and programs. “But what’s a customer for life worth?” Lewis asks.

Therein lies the reason why more marketers than ever are loading up tractor-trailers, RVs, and vans and letting the rubber meet the road. “More brands are recognizing the breadth of deliveries that can be reached through a mobile platform,” says Lewis. “You’re creating a favorable brand environment that can lead to product preference, and that can activate increased purchase.”

With more companies on tour, the need to create attention-grabbing content is paramount to success, experts say. “It has to be much more than a vehicle. You have to offer programming that’s exciting,” says Jason Vargas, director of new business development at Chicago-based Marketing Werks, which handles such tours as the Hershey’s Kissmobile and the Schick Shaving Shack.

Excitement needs to be generated not only among consumers but among the brand’s various marketing communications teams. “A lot more companies are integrating [mobile programs] into their marketing communications – advertising, consumer and trade promotions, Web sites,” says Vargas. “It helps them justify their costs.”

It also helps attract the retail and media partnerships and overall press coverage that can make or break a program. For every Wienermobile that draws crowds simply because it’s a huge hot dog on wheels, there are 10 tours that wouldn’t draw flies if they didn’t have supporting components. “If they’re going to get the full value out of a program, everybody has to buy into it,” says Parrinello. “Ninety-five percent of a program’s success is in the pre-sell, and that takes a very concerted effort.”

Cause for celebration

These days, marketers are using a few basic strategies to make sure their programs meet with approval both at the budget meeting and in the theme park. Cause overlays “can be critical” because they give brand-leery local press a legitimate reason to cover the event, says Lewis, who worked with New York City-based Ketchum to help Kraft Foods’ Maxwell House build 100 homes with Habitat for Humanity – and generate more than 100 million consumer impressions – in a ’97 and ’98 effort. “You can get a lot more exposure for not much more money.”

The Kissmobile always stops first at a city’s children’s hospital before making scheduled appearances at retail outlets and kid-heavy events. The program also takes photos of visitors in front of the vehicle in exchange for a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Pennsylvania-based Hershey Foods put a second Kissmobile on tour this year in a program that originally was only supposed to run in 1997, the candy’s 90th anniversary. “The first one was such a hit, we were getting calls from all over the country,” says Hershey spokesperson Judy Hogarth. The 11-month tour will run through about 100 markets before it ends in December.

Selling points

Companies are increasingly using mobile tours to help with trade promotions, either as an add-on to a consumer-focused schedule (visiting accounts on Friday before hitting the amusement park on the weekend) or as the primary goal. “Adding the retail component lets a lot of companies justify cutting their media [spending] to do it,” says Julie Guida, managing partner at Marketing Werks. It’s also a way to fire up the sales force, establish stronger bonds with retailers, and even produce some incremental sales.

Prevention used it as a way to lure sponsors to this summer’s Healthy Lifestyles Tour, which served as a brand-building effort for the magazine, says Giannetti. “We put money into it, too, but clearly we needed [outside contributions] to make this work.” The May-through-October effort hauled along 12 big-name partners including Johnson & Johnson, Monsanto, and Rexall Sundown.

Prevention wanted its program to make “people walk away feeling that they benefited from it, that it wasn’t just promotional stuff,” Giannetti says. Working with Integrated Marketing Services, New York City, it developed a plan to offer $200 worth of free health tests such as body-fat analysis, bone-density testing, and a facial-skin screening. Sponsors passed out product information and samples.

A 48-foot trailer with a 14-foot testing lab set up shop in the parking lots of more than 60 supermarkets and drug stores including Albertsons, Eckerd, Meijer, and Giant Eagle outlets, which gave sponsors sales-lifting displays inside. (Stores were required to set up displays to earn the visit.)

The tour kicked off in New York City with a May 1 appearance on The Today Show, and generated local media coverage almost everywhere else it went, says Giannetti. That added 20 million impressions to the 200,000 consumers who experienced the tour live.

The vehicle will be on the road again next year, with cholesterol and blood-pressure testing and stops at hospitals added to the program. “The big costs are in the first year,” says Giannetti.

Friends along the way

When it comes to media coverage, partnerships guarantee exposure.

Atlanta-based Cartoon Network has been running mobile programs for years as part of efforts to increase ratings. The latest campaign was Cartoon Cartoons on Tour, an 11-city summer campaign trumpeting the cable network’s Friday night original-programming block. Promo agency RPMC, Calabasas, CA, handled.

Partnering with Comcast Cable, Cartoon Network stayed a week in each market, primarily targeting smaller cities such as Mobile, AL, Chattanooga, TN, and Monmouth, NJ, “because we wanted to be a bigger fish,” says marketing manager Jennifer Johns. Comcast supplied 200 promotional spots at each stop and sponsored premium giveaways at events. A local radio station was tapped in each city to host a sweepstakes offering a trip for four to Bora Bora. (The deals included media buys.)

A 14-foot-long “Stickermobile” visited high-traffic kid sites Tuesday through Thursday to drum up interest for the main event, a Friday-night preview of new fall shows at a major park. For that, a 60-foot-long tractor-trailer was packed with an inflatable theater, characters, and chairs that blew out – literally – to become a 62,500-square-foot wonderland.

Hoping to attract 500 kids for each screening, Cartoon Network found itself divvying up the goodie bags for as many as 3,500 tykes.

The tour “is probably the most work-intensive part of our strategy, and it doesn’t reach as many people as our on-air or in-theater programs,” says spokesperson Joseph Swaney. “But the impact with kids creates a real lasting impression, and it also creates tremendous goodwill with our cable operators.”

Down Under wonders

The easiest way to draw both media and crowds is to create a tour that is itself newsworthy. Charlotte, NC-based Bank of America did that this fall with a program that leverages its status as an official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Teams. In September, it launched the Bank of America Down Under Tour 2000, a 48-market event that brings the Australian experience to the 99 percent of Americans who won’t get anywhere near Sydney this January.

The massive tour, which runs until the Olympic Games open on Jan. 15, will cover 18,000 miles over 21 states. Two 53-foot rigs are transporting a mini-village boasting a 40-foot-by-45-foot movie theater that’s a replica of the Sydney Opera House, a simulator ride, a museum of aboriginal art, an Olympic memorabilia store, and an Ayers Rock climb. The village’s total imprint is 120 feet by 130 feet.

Along for the ride are 10 Australian “ambassadors,” two road managers, a pair of tour managers, and a p.r. person, plus day-labor hired in each market and advance teams working the phones back at headquarters. Although “we certainly think it’s big enough to be its own event, the tour will piggyback local events in some cities, according to Dockery Clark, Bank of America’s director of Olympic sports and event marketing.

The Down Under schedule is the same in each city: A private party is hosted for top bank customers on Thursday; school field trips are conducted on Friday (schools are invited ahead of time and mailed educational packets in advance), with a party for associates and customers following in the afternoon; the tour then opens to the public on Saturday and Sunday.

Down Under’s theme is heavy on Australia, light on Olympic athletics, and extremely light on Bank of America imagery.

“We think it’s strong enough without being overbearing,” says Clark. “The greatest benefit is the brand-image enhancement. Who would have ever thought a bank would bring them this?”

As far as mobile marketing goes, everyone wishes they were an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

First launched in 1936 with a midget named Little Oscar as its driver, the Wienermobile has become an icon of American culture. Though thousands of marketing-powered vehicles have hit the road in the last 63 years, none have able to make as lasting an impression on consumers as the motorized frankfurter. “It’s become a brand unto itself,” marvels one agency executive.

The program has come out of retirement twice: Gas rationing during World War II kept the Wienermobile in the garage for most of the 1940s, and the company’s decision to focus on TV advertising rather than upgrade the fleet sidelined the tour from 1977 to 1986. Public reaction to special appearances commemorating the vehicle’s 50th anniversary in ’86 inspired Oscar Mayer to launch a new fleet two years later.

Although its place in history is solidified with a display in Detroit’s Henry Ford Museum, its place in Madison, WI-based Oscar Mayer’s marketing program is far from over. “People love to have their picture taken with the Wienermobile,” says spokesperson Claire Regan.

Despite the Wienermobile’s revered status, Oscar Mayer hasn’t been sitting on its buns and letting the concept go stale. (Buns, by the way, were first added to the design in 1958). A fleet of six 27-footlongs created by renowned automotive designer Harry Bradley launched in 1995. The program added a cause overlay this year, teaming up with the Second Harvest National Food Bank Network on a Share the Smile effort to collect donations for local organizations. Three Chicago agencies – GMR Marketing for the tour, BSMG Worldwide for p.r., and Davidson Marketing for P-O-P and sales communication – handle.

The March-through-October tour hit more than 200 cities and connected with 700,000-plus consumers, according to Regan. Frankly speaking, that’s a wiener.


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