There was lots to talk about at the recent launch event for WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit 2020. Here’s six takeaways from a panel with Eve Sleep’s Cheryl Calverley and Birds Eye’s Steve Challouma.

Resist the siren call of performance marketing

In the FMCG world performance marketing is effectively all about price promotions, according to Challouma. Yes, there are pack activations and shopper marketing but discounting is the big one. “Your long-term aim as a marketer is to reduce your reliance on that,” he says. “By strengthening the brand you sell more at full price.”

Calverley points out that Eve Sleep may be a DTC brand but it will only grow by becoming more than a digital brand; that means more of a physical presence – with partners – and with that comes more emphasis on brand building. “Extended search is not going to help us sell a mattress in Next.”

Address the media maze

“The primary motivation is to maintain reach,” says Challouma. To maintain the sort of penetration his FMCG brands command it’s not about targeting and programmatic. BVOD, where consumers are choosing to watch, is a more engaged experience, he notes, than linear TV which might just be on in the background. At the same time he’s conscious of the need to ensure brand safety.

“We’re not maxed out on reach,” says Calverley, who has started using commercial TV channels to promote the brand, but she can’t afford to take too long a view. “Next year, my challenge is going to be how do I continue to build reach in a really efficient way. How can I brand build in performance channels. Context plays a big part in that.”

Thinking of itself as a wellness brand gives Eve Sleep many more places to play, and she’ll be creating messaging that “talks to the context” rather than using programmatic to “chase an audience around the internet”.

Challouma isn’t enthused by connected TV where his experiments to date haven’t shown any payback. “I can imagine with some brands in some niches, it can be very, very relevant,” he allows, “but the incremental effort – investment, tailoring of assets, personalisation – versus the return doesn’t wash versus just getting more reach and more weeks on air.”  Calverley concurs: “It would have to come down an awful lot in price for it to start to cut in.”

The marketing role remains essential

Calverley says she moved from marketing roles in big organisations to life with a startup partly to find out if she was actually any good at it. “When I first arrived I did a little bit of tidying up and the numbers promptly nosedived.” After a few weeks, she relates, the CEO gave clear orders to “untidy”. And that’s the big difference: in her new business, up to 70% of revenue is driven by marketing. “I can see the impact of yesterday’s spend,” she says. “All we are at the moment is our marketing – and my job is to change that and make the [brand] equity stronger.”

At Birds Eye, marketing is “fundamentally embedded into the culture”, says Challouma, who notes that the business’s biggest customers, the supermarkets, are also its biggest competitors, in the form of own-label. “Without brand, how do you justify our peas being a 120% premium to Tesco’s peas?” Part of its growth model is built around having distinctive brands, which not only command that price premium but also instill a sense of pride among employees.

Understand what to measure

“The holistic analysis we do is econometrics, because that gives you the whole picture: how much of your volume is driven by media, broken down by time and by campaign,” Challouma explains. And don’t forget the effects of things like distribution, price, weather, he adds. Ultimately, it’s not about one particular metric but rather how you triangulate across a number of relevant metrics.

When it comes to assessing the long-term impact of brand building efforts, he references volumes sold on deal: “how many people you’ve persuaded to pay full price for your product versus having to discount it.” Over the past four years he’s shifted the Birds Eye business from selling 60% on price promotion to 43% “and the impact of that, in terms of profitability, is incredible. It transforms and that releases more fuel to be able to invest in long term.”

It’s easy for marketers to get confused between marketing metrics, business metrics and communication metrics, Calverley observes. “Strength of brand is not an abstract marketing indulgence; it equals profitability.”

Everything is part of the brand experience

A campaign that wins a Cannes Lion Gold doesn’t help much if your fishfinger coatings are falling off, Challouma remarks. “Experience for me is every minor interaction that a consumer has with the brand from seeing an ad to how a product is featured on shelf and pack design – which again is another critical bit of the mix that tends to be ignored – all the way to in home and the experience of opening the product. All of these micro things have a massive experience.” He also considers portfolio mix, how modern recipes are, the sort of vegetables used – “it all adds up”.

As a DTC brand, people initially experience Eve Sleep online, but a best-in-class shopping experience doesn’t differentiate the brand or product, Calverley notes; there’s also the delivery process and the product experience of actually sleeping on the mattress and these are areas where customer perception is crucial. “We are very reliant on TrustPilot, their reviews, there’s an instant feedback loop for our experience.” And follow-up questionnaires with buyers assess if they’re sleeping better on their new mattress: a Sleep Wellness score is the essential internal metric relating to brand experience.

Adapt to the conscious consumer – within limits

The conscious consumer is “probably our single biggest focus,” says Challouma. “We see that a massive opportunity in our category, because frozen food is going from a category that was like a poor relation – an apologetic, standby purchase – to something that is very, very relevant.”

All the fish Birds Eye uses is sustainably certified, for example, helping to build credibility with this consumer. “Next year, we’re going to be investing in some big category messages around how frozen can help you reduce food waste,” he adds.

Eve Sleep aims to be as sustainable as it can be, Calverley says, but it can’t compromise on the quality of sleep consumers will get. “I could use hemp mattresses and you’d spend way more but you’d sleep worse,” she points out. 

Both Cheryl Calverley and Steve Challouma contributed to the WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit 2020. Read more of their views on what to expect next year here.