Sunday, November 15, 2009
Manan Shamihoke, XLRI Jamshedpur
Martin Baird, author of ’Guaranteed Results’ said, "Most people receive 4,000 messages per day, so a lot of creative thinking is needed if you're going to get noticed. I think most marketing efforts aren't nearly innovative enough." This observation led to the development of Ambient Marketing.
Ambient marketing is defined as marketing or advertising wherever customers happen to be, part of the immediate surroundings. The main idea is to create a loud mind-buzz using extraordinary marketing techniques and which can be used in conjunction with mainstream traditional media, or even as a stand-alone activity. Increasingly, it is now being bundled into the burgeoning out-of home, non-traditional media space.
Types of Ambient Marketing
Ambient marketing appears in various forms all around us. Most of the companies today try to find routine activities done by the target group and they are then targeted in an unusual manner while doing those activities. Spar Restaurant, Mumbai had giant clam shells scattered on the local beach. When people opened the shell, they found a piece of paper marketing the restaurant’s seafood festival. The campaign was an instant hit as it involved the customer in the experience.
Even though today most of the companies vie for unusual media, Ambient Marketing can also be done using conventional media in an unconventional manner. For e.g. the following billboard ad by Formula toothpaste had generated interest in onlookers.
Charles S. Gulas and Peter H. Bloch (1995) specified that ambient scent has the ability to influence consumption activity. In their research, when a pleasant ambient scent was introduced to one section of a casino, slot machine gambling significantly increased compared with non-scented periods in the same area. However, any ambient marketing campaign must be related or relevant to the environment/ambience around. Location based advertising (LBA) uses location-tracking technology in mobile networks to target consumers with location-specific advertising on their mobile devices. A London based online and phone bank, First Direct, sent a text message to about 33,500 of its customers, who lived in surrounding areas, to tell them about their offer. This was followed by running displays in the involved outlets and also advertisements in newspapers.
Strengths and Challenges
Criticisms and Challenges
The difference between ambient and experiential marketing is not clear. According to some experts, ambient exists only in non-traditional media formats without direct interaction; and experiential actually interacts with the consumer engaging them directly. Others believe that experiential, ambient, whatever we want to call it, the challenge is to make it happen at the street level.
Another major criticism is the present lack of measurement. Most ambient research to date has focused on the qualitative not quantitative aspects, so it continues to fall short of the type of data that most clients and media planners expect.
Further, it is directed more towards a set of people and hence cannot replace mass marketing. Some experts feel that it can be used only in restricted environments like universities and shopping centres.
One of the major challenges that ambient marketing is facing is that of sustainability. As the “unexpected” factor is one of the major strengths of ambient marketing, so any program cannot run for a very long time as it would become a little passé and more mainstream once consumers become aware of it. Washroom advertising is one such media that has transcended ambient and entered into the mainstream arena and, as such, has lost the element of surprise that initially made the medium so effective.
Mccrindle Research, in its report on Marketing with Diverse Generations has mentioned that the current generations learn by an interactive and multi-modal method. Thus spontaneous, multi-sensory and participatory stimuli appeal to them & messages delivered through experimental, ambient type marketing work best to them.
Ambient marketing is about getting integrated with the social environment of consumers in such a way that it catches people’s attraction without having them to look for it. The research also says that peers, friends and social factors were the biggest influence in the lives of 51% of Generation Y. Further, any marketing for the current generation must be fun & entertaining, cool & desirable and new & innovative; all of which are the main reasons behind the origin of ambient marketing.
The precise challenge of becoming expected and mainstream actually drives ambient specialists to continue to evolve and push the boundaries. It is a changing landscape where people come up with new and interesting ideas of how to reach a consumer and thus it evolves with the community and with innovative ideas. Also, the issue of becoming more obvious and less effective is not isolated to ambient marketing alone; almost all the marketing mediums today, be it billboards or Internet are facing this problem.
Another advantage of the medium is that it doesn’t require a substantial monetary investment; it rather needs more time, energy, information and imagination. The nature of being applicable anywhere, anytime provides this media the best prospect to innovate & keep reinventing itself.
In order to find out the “perceived effectiveness” of Ambient marketing over conventional marketing, a primary research was conducted in the form of a survey. The first objective was to find out if people pay attention to the conventional media or not; followed by finding people’s perception about the need for new/innovative media to market products. Also, the difference in the recall rates of conventional and ambient advertising was to be found.
A survey was conducted in which apart from asking questions to fulfil other objectives, the respondents were shown two advertisements to get data related to the third objective. First one was a print Ad of Lipton Tea in a newspaper and the second one was a photo of an ambient marketing campaign by Lipton Tea with bushes cut in the form of huge tea cups and Lipton tea tag hanging from them. The respondents were then asked about which one of the two advertisements they would be able to remember for longer duration. The data was collected from 49 respondents.
Out of the 49 respondents which filled the survey, 19 were working professionals while 30 were students. Age wise, 27 belonged to the age group of 21-25, 18 to 26-30 and 4 to the group of 30+ years.
59.18% people said that they do pay attention to billboards while outside but only 36.73% said that they pay attention to print ads while reading a newspaper and not searching specifically for ads or promotions.
When asked about the need for a marketer to use new and innovative ways to catch people’s attention, almost all people agreed.
People were also asked about the medium that they notice more and hence are better in creating awareness. The results clearly show that though people do notice the conventional outdoor media, they also feel that anything different or unusual would capture their attention more. The results are shown in the alongside graph. Finally, a direct question was asked about comparing the two advertisements shown above and their preference in terms of the Ad they feel they’d be able to recall more clearly, afterwards. The results clearly show that ambient advertisements are preferred over conventional advertisements. Qualitative inputs from the research specify that people find these advertisements better to recall because of their atypical nature. This again is congruent to the above results that consumers can be attracted better by using unconventional media.
The secondary as well as primary research both show that now Ambient Marketing is the way to go for companies if they want to attract more and more consumers towards their products and brands. The consumers have got used to of the presence of the conventional media and hence the recall value of the same has gone down. Even consumers expect that marketers employ newer and innovative tactics to capture their attention.
However, Ambient Marketing as a field has a long way to go before it can be considered as a mass media. The drivers that give fillip to Ambient Marketing are innovation, creativity, unusualness, fun and the ability to coalesce with everyday life of consumers. At the same time, the uniqueness and rarity of these campaigns create a mark in consumers mind and help the brand to increase recall. So, marketers must be careful not to overuse this medium as no consumer would like to find an advertisement everywhere he looks, no matter how different it is from previous works. Marketers should also come up with diligently defined metrics which can help companies measure the return on an Ambient Marketing campaign.
With brands across telecommunications, FMCG and financial sectors (and even the likes of movie production companies) spending on ambient campaigns, it could be that the market here is only just starting to realise its full potential. Inevitably though, without a robust measurement currency in place, it is a niche that will have to fight for a smaller slice of many brands' marketing budgets than traditional media.