Magazine article Marketing

Demonstrating Digital

Magazine article Marketing

Demonstrating Digital

Article excerpt

When digital TV was launched last year, electrical retailers were already up to speed on its benefits thanks to the support of an army of field marketers.

The digital revolution is upon us and, if nothing else, it has put a smile on the face of most electrical retailers.

The autumn arrival of satellite SkyDigital and terrestrial ONdigital, both backed by multi-million-pound ad campaigns, has been very effective in getting people through shop doors.

Digital technology is a major advance, but the availability of extra channels is just part of the story. A film can now be transmitted with staggered starting times, so viewers can tune in when it suits them. Interactive services are promised and pin-sharp reception - an issue in some parts of the country - is also part of the package.

Retailers have not been slow to suggest that this might also be the time to upgrade to new wide-screen or fiat-screen TV sets, or think about DVD players, digital cameras, or surround-sound audio.

"In the public's mind, digital means better, but only because of their exposure to compact disc players, which have probably been their only experience of it," says Nick Thomas, spokesman for electrical manufacturer Philips. "Then, late last year, there was this plethora of new products - DVD discs for playing films, satellite digital, terrestrial digital. It is an awful lot for consumers to take on board."

That goes for the retail trade, too. Faced with a raft of new technology and a bemused public, the first priority has been to ensure that store assistants know what they are talking about, and that means a training blitz. It has been the perfect time for calling in the field marketers.

Preparing retailers

Both SkyDigital and ONdigital relied on field marketing agencies to bring retailers up to speed quickly. "For us, it is a way of reaching the front line; it is the obvious solution," says Sophie Langham, SkyDigital's head of training and development. "You can come up with the most wonderful marketing plans, but if the people in the store selling the product don't know what they are talking about, those plans won't work."

Philips plans to appoint a field-marketing specialist to supplement its own retail training department, and Pace, the market leader in set-top decoder boxes, will from text month be represented in the field by the agency PMI.

But the broadcasters' needs were arguably more pressing than those of the hardware suppliers.

In just a few months, the two networks had to train retailers to sell a totally new concept. Some aspects weren't finalised for instance it's still not clear when ONdigital will carry Channel 5.

ONdigital, unlike Sky, also faces the handicap of being a new company, unknown to the trade.

Also significant is that the arrival of digital TV involves electrical retailers in a new type of selling.

Yes, they still have to sell the right set-top box to decode the signals, but what the consumers are buying are not black, chrome or wooden boxes so much as a package of programmes. It's software as well as hardware.

"We're dealing with 5000 retailers, and that number will go up," says Matthew Seaman, director of distribution marketing at ONdigital.

"Different stores have different needs. The independents are often seen as experts. They may have quite a lot of knowledge about the technology, but need information about what we offer.

"In the multiples, where you'll find part-timers and a greater staff turnover, you may need deeper training.

"Faced with this, field marketing was critical. Our field marketing agency, FMCG, was virtually the first appointment after our brand agency."

Crucial early involvement

Kate Cart, FMCG's managing director, says the ONdigital plan had been decided early on.

"We went through a long pitch phase at a time when their office was almost non-existent and their management structure chart had lots of vacancies. …

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