18/09/2018 | MRM, promotional marketing, Institute of Promotional Marketing, campaign management, procurement, marketing services, shopper marketing

Big data, too many TV channels & consumer expectations - how the world has changed in 25 years

In concluding our review of 25 years of Promotional Marketing, we were keen to get a rounded view by speaking to some of our client brands. We asked for their thoughts on the changes they’ve seen over the period. We sat down with Helen Robertson, Senior Brand Activation Manager at Butchers Pet Care; Kevin Trever, Marketing Procurement Specialist at Tata Global Beverages and Michelle Harriman, owner of Dot and I.

With more than 75 years’ experience across 15+ major UK brands – their answers make for interesting reading:

What pressures are brands facing, compared to 25 years ago?

Michelle Harriman, from Dot & I feels it’s all about transparency. ‘Brands have to showcase their values - their processes, provenance of ingredients, sourcing, ethics…no more hiding behind a big corporate, everything is out there and is visible for all to see.’

Kevin Trever feels the changes have been more around the amount of data that brands hold and the challenge of cutting through the clutter. ‘The amount of data available is scary, the problem being there is too much. The golden nugget is in getting the relevant bit - who’s going to buy / do what (and when).’

And it’s not just data that presents challenges as well as opportunities, the mix of media is seismically greater than 25 years ago. Kevin goes on to comment, ‘1992 was the year when you only had 5 live games of football on the TV a year - not per day! And then BSKYB came into the market, originally launching with just 5 channels. Now the internet suggest there are at least 370 TV channels!’

As a consumer, we’ve all adapted how we shop – what are the key changes you’ve seen? 

Trever notes the move away from bricks & mortar traditional retail as he remembers how ‘one company I worked for moved from less than 1% of sales online to over 35% within a few years in the mid-2000s.’

Michelle adds, ‘Word of mouth has always played a big part in consumers buying habits – do you buy the same washing up liquid or washing powder your mum used? I know I do’. But Michelle also sees how technology has given the power to be a brand ambassador to consumers, ‘User-generated content - the modern day ‘word of mouth’ – gives us reviews and rants, advice, forums, and videos which all pass on the consumers’ journeys and experiences. They are now our brand ambassadors and do the marketing for us!’

Trever, was once told that phones would disappear by the year 2014! He takes over the story. ‘In my view it happened 2 years earlier, especially in the south, when the phone became an app on a hand held device. “Phones” then changed from their core objective to make a call and the focus moved to photos, music , social media on the move, internet, ecommerce.’ And as many of us will testify to, Trever gets frustrated that ‘when you do need to use it as a phone it says “poor signal!”. Whatever happened to the Nokia 3310 and Snake? 

Helen noted the differences in how we access brand promotions. ‘….now we access promotions on apps, websites via our mobile phone, social media shares, by signing up to brand or discount e-newsletters – the list is endless.  This is the new norm in 2018’.

Whilst she agrees with Michelle’s view that word of mouth is still influential, she feels consumers are less loyal and are far more price/promotion savvy, adding ‘I can’t remember the last time I went to Pizza Express and didn’t get 25% off my bill (restrictions apply… of course!).  Vodafone are always offering prize draws on their app, I still receive regular vouchers from Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and I use comparison websites that offer me an incentive to use them.’ 

From a brand owner’s perspective, how has technology changed how you engage with your consumers?

Michelle loves (and loathes in equal measure) the immediacy of technology, commenting ‘…gone are the days when a letter arrived on a consumer services desk and they had 28 days to respond – consumers expect a reply within 24 hours otherwise they’re on Twitter’ but she recognises the positives that dealing effectively with a complaint can have on a brand as consumers will forgive depending on how a negative is handled.

Trever feels the use of big data is having an incredible effect on brands as ‘companies have more data on you than ever before and more opportunities of getting that critical marketing message to you, at home, in the middle of your favourite program on the move.’ However, he adds in a word of caution that, ‘technology and the fact that so much data is captured every second of the day, can lead individuals to feel that Big Brother is watching them.’ 

Helen reflects on how the team at Butchers are adapting and reacting to technology. ‘As a company we like printed coupons in the main.  They are the weapon of choice if we get a consumer complaint, but we also like to put a digital version in to our newsletters.  We offer vouchers through retailers and have toyed with the idea of “buy 2 get something free” as a concept, partnering with a retailer.’

Butchers Pet Care have a dedicated Brand Activation Team, designed specifically to bring their campaigns to life for the consumer and Helen feels that in the last five years, personalised promotional marketing has really taken a hold, thanks in part to the named Coke bottles as it resulted in increased sales for the first time in over a decade.   Helen gives her view – ‘Last year we decided to try our hand at personalisation.  We gave away a personalised can of dog food with their dog’s name on it to the first 1,000 consumers to respond.  We launched it on the 30th November with a single post plus a £5 social media ‘boost’ (honestly), expecting the promotion to last 3 weeks.  We closed the promotion just 90 minutes later. BOOM! An added bonus was that less than 5% of the people who applied, unsubscribed from our newsletter.

What do you remember about your first years of working in Brand Marketing – what stands out for you?

Helen is first up on this question and feels that nowadays, we are a sophisticated bunch; ‘gone are the days (for the main part) when we filled in little forms in magazines, posting them off but when I was a kid I knew a woman who truly loved traditional promotional marketing.  She was forever buying magazines, applying for weird and wonderful things to win.  We used to drop off her entries at the local post box once a week for her, and there would be at least 5-6 envelopes.  She won (among other things) a washing machine and some cat food – this I remember clearly as she didn’t have a cat.  I think she was partly addicted to the adrenaline high of winning, no matter what it was!’

We didn’t like to point out that here at MRM we still receive around 1 million postal competition entries every week….

Having spent 25 years plus in food marketing, Michelle asserts that brands still form a key part of our lives. ‘I remember the monthly data arriving into the office and filling our desks with huge, thick folders – data was a powerful tool and formed a huge portion of the marketing budget analysing market and consumer behaviour. Fortunately although the importance of data hasn’t changed over the years, the delivery and dynamics really have!

25 years ago there was no direct data link or automatic installs into your spreadsheets and reports – it took an absolute age to extract your brand’s KPIs by flicking through pages and pages of tiny numbers and lining up columns until you reached the week ending figures you needed.’

For Trever, he can’t get his head around the damp squib that was the “Y2K” doom and gloom – ‘the millions that was spent to stop planes dropping out of the sky…yet all that happened was my camera lost its date. Thinking about computers, I remember my first laptop - while it would fit on your lap you needed to be Geoff Capes to carry it! It cost an extra £1000 to have a 20MB hard disk, upgraded from 10MB, it would struggle to store a single photo now…’


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