Commentary

Fields Of Green

The path to brand success is clear these days: frequent, authentic, direct interaction with real live consumers. The question, of course, is how. Short of arming account execs with talking points and winning smiles and posting them in front of target consumers’ homes, what’s the best method for engaging consumers in a way that truly resonates with them? 

Field networks used to be considered the ugly stepchild to a campaign’s strategy and creative -- viewed as mindless execution against a backdrop of brilliant ideas. However, in recent years there’s been a tangible shift in this attitude -- brands are putting more and more dollars toward the field with an understanding that even the smartest strategy and cleverest creative will fall flat if backed by clumsy execution. Field Networks are the only way that big brands can act small by engaging consumers personally on a consistent basis nationwide, gather unique insights on their products and make changes to programs based on what is learned.

Not all field networks are created equal, however. For truly effective consumer interactions to occur, ambassadors in the field need to have in-depth knowledge of the brands they represent, and must truly love them. A quick review of a one-sheet in a taxi on the way to the event will not do. It is vital that every brand ambassador be recruited, trained, and 100% accountable. Ambassadors are the human representation of a brand, and one bad interaction can do irreparable harm to consumers’ impressions of it.

The good news is that this investment will pay off in spades: A dedicated and thoroughly trained field network makes all activations scalable, consistently excellent, and supremely effective in building real human relationships that can last.

Doesn’t that sound easy? It should because it is. That said, there are a few strategic guidelines that marketers should follow when building a field network to ensure that it is capable of creating the perfect execution.

Get serious               

When it comes to flawless execution of activations, attitude is everything. Never treat execution as an afterthought. Brands spend millions to do it right, so your attitude should match their financial commitment.

Don’t be just another pretty face

Sure -- it helps a brand to hire attractive people, but being beautiful isn't nearly enough. The key is selecting staff who are personable, knowledgeable, and love the brand as much as any account person. Brains beat beauty every time.

Put brand ambassadors on your team

Great brand ambassadors are created by making them feel like they are an integral part of your staff. After all, they are. Make an internal Web site, a newsletter, a Facebook page, or any type of place where ambassadors can post photos, swap stories, share brand information, and feel like they’re part of a community.

The devil is in the details

There are three core tenets to successful field network activation: rigor, process, and discipline. Go over everything with a fine-tooth comb, and when you’re done go over it again. Leave no detail unexamined. It’s not a sexy approach, but it works every time.

Beware the Law of Murphy

In this business, the only thing you can count on is that something will go wrong. Preparation is key -- you must anticipate every crisis and have a plan to handle it. Nobody is happy when the banners don’t show up or the fill-in-the-blank arrives cracked and unusable, but if you are prepared and ready to fix it, everyone will forget the disaster and only remember how the problem was solved.

Have a plan for clear results reporting

Every program you develop should have clearly identified KPIs (key performance indicators) so you know how to analyze your results. It’s imperative to have a robust, online reporting tool such as Salesforce -- so that all parties can clearly see results and then craft an actionable program evaluation accordingly.

Manage (their) money

If you waste your clients’ dollars, you flush your own profits down the toilet. In the heat of activation it can be easy to forget about budgets, but it’s vital that every team member keeps an eye on the bottom line at all times.

Get your geek on

Embrace technology. A few good gadgets can help you be more nimble and cost-efficient while delivering the best experience possible.

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1 comment about "Fields Of Green".
  1. Duane Andrews from Red Minnow , August 20, 2012 at 3:20 p.m.
    Good advise, which can be used in all areas of a campaign. I look forward to reading more of your articles.