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Adapt or die - Activation agencies: Keep abreast with trends, or risk becoming obsolete

Digital has radically transformed how we connect with customers and impacts the customer journey; there's pressure to deliver more for less; customer attention deficits are high; markets are saturated; and clients are squeezing budgets with a need to extract more for less. These are but a few of the challenges faced by marketers the world over. The pressure is on and the experiential industry is not exempt; as activations partners we need to be delivering less ‘ho-hum' and more ‘fresh and inspired'. Pushing repeat on old ideas just won't cut it.
Lauren Durant
Brands expect continuous rejuvenation and reinvention when it comes to their campaigns and we need to stay attuned to this. More than just meeting expectations there are common themes which start to form the prevailing trends of the day. Trends are about accurately reflecting what clients and brands are looking for, sometimes before the brand has even considered this for itself. And listening carefully to what clients are really saying, has informed my view of the marketing landscape and the trends I see emerging in the market today. The five predominant trends I have identified have not been dreamt up. But rather, are insights gathered from paying close attention to clients from all industries.

With that as the backdrop, these are the dominant industry themes/trends that will continue to play out in the activations space:

1. Activation ROI essential to brand success in 2017 and beyond:

As experiential marketers, we are not order takers – our job is to understand what outcome we are driving for a brand. Gone are the days where the activations industry was “pretty”. Now, smart strategies are quantitative with KPIs which may include driving reach, sales, uptake, conversion, digital engagement, share and penetration.

This way of operating, signals a marked shift in thinking in the industry and those activations companies that are still focusing on “bells and whistles” are fast becoming obsolete. Because business is under pressure, activations agencies need to ensure that their solutions are driving/supporting/looping into broader, outcomes-based strategies and solutions.

2. Portfolio vs stand alone brand solutions:

Historically, activation strategy was ‘siloed’ brand for brand, while today, cross portfolio/cross category thinking leverages differentiated positioning which in and of itself is more consumer focused. For example, a series of bread toppings within the same stable within an organisation, may choose to position across the “sandwich consumption” space. Recognising that the same consumer may eat a jam sandwich today but equally enjoy a peanut butter sandwich tomorrow. This collaboration across brands has a direct correlation with efficiency, and is an effective approach to stretching and making budgets work harder. More than that though, portfolio managers who are consumer-centric will understand how consumers are making purchase decisions. Price deals are a good example of a portfolio pricing solution. For example, buy jam and peanut butter for a discounted combo deal price.

3. Activation and sales – integration creates efficiency:

This third trend is about the necessity to integrate efficiency between brand, trade marketing and activation. When done right, the integration between sales and activation can offer significant value to brands and serve both the interest of sales and marketing. It’s the perfect triangle. But all too often we see the disconnect that exists between the brand marketing and sales teams. This is evidenced by the fact that sales is all too often not looped in as it should be, and activation ends up with no product to sell. Or outstanding brand strategies are developed, which in some market places (and no matter how much brand equity exists), will not work if pricing strategies have not been aligned.

4. Need to better understand the consumer journey:

It’s important to remember that although activation can occur at the final closing of the sale, the consumer journey started long before. Customer-centric activations strategies create greater value for brands and at the heart of activation is an understanding of the broader through-the-line consumer journey. The reality is good marketing strategies are about that consumer journey and take into consideration how people shop and how a purchase decision is made. Thus, how content is consumed, how the consumer is influenced, and how they experience the world, are all part of the consumer journey. For which the activation’s brand engagement can drive feet in-store, disrupt or amplify the experience, as well as close the sale. The necessity to evolve and refine the understanding of this consumer journey is also reflected in the shopper marketing structures sitting more prominently within the FMCG structures.

5. Strategic MSP activation partnerships:

Historically Master Service Providers (MSP) were not utilised regularly within the activations sector - but this may be changing. The move being to have all the consumer engagement solutions co-ordinated by the MSP. Whereas previously relationships with partner agencies would be co- ordinated by the brand team, and to a lesser degree at lead agency level, the activations MSP now becomes custodian that vets and coordinates all the consumer engagement partners on behalf for the client. This results in their being a golden thread in thinking, strategy and service delivery. Ultimately the move is to deliver more seamless consumer experiences.

I would be interested to know if you have any alternative viewpoints on the activations industry and the predominant trends. Share your thoughts in the comment box.

About Lauren Durant

Lauren Durant is an executive at Isilumko Activate. She’s been with the company since its inception and has contributed significantly to the evolution of the business to one of the market leaders in the activations space. Durant spends much of her time with clients, understanding their needs and assisting in the development of cutting edge activations strategies. Parallel to this, she mentors members of the team to do the same, often lauding the value of co-operation and communication – all of which contributes to the customer-centric culture of the organisation which is built from the heart and soul of its people.

About Isilumko Activate

Isilumko Activate (powered by Studentwise) is a company focused on facilitating creative, integrated one-on-one interactions between a brand and the consumer. With impressive credentials built up over 24 years in the in the industry, this level 1 BBBEE accredited company has a rock-solid reputation that attracts and retains staff that are as passionate about activations as the company’s original founder members.

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About Lauren Durant

With 23 years in the marketing industry, Isilumko Activate executive Lauren Durant has no difficulty helping companies build emotional connections between their brands and their customers through live events and crafted experiences. A left and right brain thinker, Lauren is always in beta and it's this combination that makes her a creative, yet strategic force in the industry.

Isilumko Activate's press office

Isilumko Activate
Isilumko Activate (powered by Studentwise) is a company focused on facilitating creative, integrated one-on-one interactions between a brand and the consumer.
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