65. Olga Samama on Tour de France, Street Marketing vs Advertising and Risky Business Models

Brand Activation Consultant for CBAOlga Samama has 13+ years experience working with brands to organize strategic marketing and brand activation campaigns to maximize media exposure and touch as many consumers as possible.

How does your job fit into the branding process? I work with brands to do brand activation. Brand activation is a marketing program focused on engaging consumers at the time(s) during the year when they are most likely to be receptive to the brand’s communication.

Brands that have been in business for years will have a thorough brief, however markets, competitors, and consumer demands are constantly changing and in need of being updated. Therefore even when brand gives us their brief we still need to go over it with them just to make sure we clearly understand their objectives and that we have all the necessary information to meet their goals.

We begin by building a consumer program around the many different points of consumer contact – for example:

  • At the point of sale – the final 100 meters in the consumer journey just before they reach the product on the shelf and at the cash register
  • Landing pages, websites and banner advertising on other websites
  • Special events such as street marketing campaigns
  • On key websites and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram
  • Contextual marketing

Brand activation involves the promotional mechanisms of several principles such as a giveaway, a sweepstakes or a loyalty program, a special event, etc.

For example, earlier this year we were hired by McCain’s Potato Chips to organize a brand activation. So we partnered with Tour de France to reveal their brand refreshing strategy with the objective of touching as many consumers as possible. To do this we coupled a decorated 18-wheel trailer truck platform with a tractor and potatoes positioned alongside the Tour de France advertising caravan as well as point of sale activation at 200 different hyper-markets across France and gave away free samples to ensure the product made into the consumer’s homes. During the three weeks that the Tour de France was held, we had the unique opportunity of being in direct contact with clients as well as the media exposure.

Total exposure for McCain’s potato chips are still being processed, however we know that sales were up 20% during that time period.

What are some brands that you have worked with? Lipton Iced Tea, McCain’s Potato Chips, Smartbox, Signal, Tropicana

As a small startup, should I invest my limited advertising budget on an advertising campaign or on a brand activation campaign? I’d recommend you first understand your consumer market enough to identify the one or two peak seasons in the year when your consumer’s would be most susceptible to your message and likely to purchase your product/service, and then using the best means possible to interact with them during those times. During the rest of the year – your brand’s ‘down time,’ you play with the traditional advertising techniques such as banner ads.

What are a few misconceptions brands commonly have about your industry? That brand activation might not be as strong as a classic media campaign – instead of investing 500,000€ in a street marketing plan, they can make one television advertising.

In terms of awareness, engagement and quality relationship building, street marketing can be just as – if not more – powerful than an advertising on television. Before you throw all of your money into a TV ad, consider a street marketing solution.

What are some problems brand have distinguishing themselves from their competition? If a competitor is outspending you in advertising, then look to public relations rather than trying to compete in advertising space.

On a budget, don’t have an objective of ‘making buzz’ and ‘going viral.’  Don’t think “I want to distinguish myself from the thousands of other competitors, and do it on a small budget.” And for two important reasons:

  1. With so many brands competing for exposure today, ‘viral’ content without significant marketing investment has little chance of actually going viral.
  2. Consumers don’t talk about and share brands; consumers share things that interest them. Instead of thinking “how can I go viral,” a better question to ponder is ‘how can I create content that consumers want to talk about and share?”

Have you ever had a client that had an outdated business model but wanted a modern branding strategy? It does happen that agencies meet clients with certain marketing objectives, however don’t have the stock, business model, or distribution capabilities in place to handle their marketing objectives.

For example, there was a brand that prided itself with being ‘100% all natural’ and everything about their product was ‘ecologically friendly and bio-degradable.’ This is a great and noble branding strategy to have, however the problem was that 1) their brand promise and unique selling proposition obliged them to sell their product at prices nearly 400% higher than their competitors – prices that consumers just weren’t willing to pay, and 2) their packaging design wasn’t adapted to the French consumer’s expectations.

That company put all their hopes and budget in creating an advertising campaign hoping their product sales would take off. The ad didn’t perform as they had hoped, and in the end the company was left with a warehouse full of unsold and soon-to-expire products that would have to be thrown away.

So they quickly tried to adapt their branding strategy with public relations portraying them as a luxury item, however by that time it was too late. The viability of their branding strategy and business model should have been addressed long before they poured money into advertising.

I want to do your job, any advice? Start in a big agency, preferably in a foreign country just to open the door and get the feel of it and learn how the business works. Then later you can open your own company or go freelance.

Recommended reading (in French):

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An interesting example of a Milka brand activation campaign:

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