When the DPAA trade association held its Fall Global Summit in New York City, the agenda for the day-long event on Digital Out Of Home was so jam-packed with top brand CMOs, agency CEOs and expert DOOH ecosystem partners that only a two-part article could convey even a topline of the takeaways. And, as you can read in Part One, those takeaways from the heads of Microsoft, Wolverine and FreshDirect Marketing are still timely. The "bleeding edge" omnichannel marketing, as you'll read here In Part Two, of Adidas, Claire's and CVS, illustrates how out-of-home advertising (OOH) should be a solid part of the mix, how generational shifts impact consumer engagement tactics and how retailers are listening much more closely to all customer demos. (Watch the complete videos via the DPAA Summit page.)
Omnichannel marketing seeks to flow messaging cohesively across all platforms. These savvy marketers leverage the metaverse, or creator content, or purpose-driven marketing --- and, of course, OOH -- as parts of the whole. They show how to create a seamless, integrated experience for target audiences, always considering the customer's needs, mindset and certainly location.
A Metaverse Master Class
Adidas: Erika Wykes-Sneyd, Global CMO, Adidas Originals, Collaborations and Basketball, offered practically a master class on the Metaverse -- an increasingly important element in an omnichannel strategy.
The pandemic not only drove consumer habits of navigating virtual worlds and gaming environments but honed the ability of a brand like Adidas to create 3-D apparel and footwear when physical samples were hard to get. Overall, "consumer growth is exploding in the Metaverse," she notes, and "the virtual wearables market alone is going to be $147 billion soon … and anyone who's a celebrity will have a digital wallet and profile pictures."
Wykes-Sneyd pointed out that Gen Z is an important cohort of this brave new Web 3.0 world. They are, she advised, "coming up with updated values, changing the paradigms of how we're going to consume, how we're going to create, and how we're going to collaborate in the future." She cautioned that sustainability and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) are "table stakes for this generation" of digital activists and they want businesses to authentically generate opportunities around these areas.
For example, influencer marketing is something that Gen Z no longer trusts "and can see right through." A simple hashtag hint ("#ad") that a message is sponsored won't stand with them. Marketers have to find ways to be culturally credible, native and organic: "It's the rise of micro-communities and that's where smart brand marketers are going to be showing up next," Wykes-Sneyd said. Beyond showing up (phase 1) they must also learn how to drive community in Web 3, which ultimately drives business. To further their own meta-embrace, Adidas even moved community management to Discord "where we service 50-60K daily active users; it's a direct dialogue with the community … and we deprioritized Facebook."
That is, in part, why Adidas actually rushed to beat their competitors to the space. Their strategy was to "enter the open Metaverse to drive these new values and more deeply connect the Adidas brand with this new generation through community ... We wanted to do it in a credible way that drove them to talk positively and advocate about our brand, which is what we call brand heat." For now, that heat is not generated by a hard and fast activation, but by a link to membership with the brand: "If you're the holder of an NFT token, like the Adidas NFT, you now co-own a stake in the success of this project and there's monetary value to that."
Another example is a piece of virtual artwork co-created by some 30,000 Adidas fans, each of whom took a stake and contributed an image. Now, every time it's used or sold, Wykes-Sneyd explained, "in perpetuity, everyone that participated in this program is going to get a royalty check that's going to go right into their digital wallet. You can imagine they'd be stoked and thrilled to see this piece of artwork be utilized again, and it's a great way to also create advertising and conversation," such as in out-of-home content, allowing that art to be part of their omnichannel strategy across platforms.
The coming phase of the Metaverse strategy, she continued, is identity. Brands and consumers each have to determine how they're going to show up, what they want to be, what kind of traits they want to convey, and especially germane to Adidas, what are you going to wear? "People," she said, "are looking to find ways to connect with the greatness that they feel, which they cannot be in everyday life, and the Metaverse and these online communities help them to find that. So that's something that we're unpacking ourselves for how we can help and support creators and really unlock their true identity [that] they don't get to experience in everyday life."
Attendees of the DPAA Global Summit were lucky enough to get a step-by-step walk-through of Adidas record-setting entry into the Metaverse. But the lesson also underscored the imperative of conveying community across all planes. "You're going to start to see our brand show up in the real world," Wykes-Sneyd concluded. "We're moving back into experiential marketing, moving into community events, hosting spaces, trying to give bigger platforms to creators that don't necessarily have them at those spaces that separate the haves from the have nots, so don't be surprised when you see us at Art Basel!"
Keeping Ahead of the Zalphas
Claire's: The perfect segue to Wykes-Sneyd's presentation asserting the power of Gen Z was hearing how Claire's CMO, Kristin Patrick, and Canvas Worldwide agency CEO, Paul Woolmington, doubled down on reaching them, along with "Alphas," the next up and coming generation, even coining a name for their hybrid target audience: "Zalphas."
Patrick, who went from marketing at Pepsi, the once-dubbed home of "the new generation," to unpack how to reach an even newer generation, explained how she started by applying her Rule No. 1: "Understand the consumer and listen with empathy." And they've listened closely to a core group of young advisors, plucked from a loyalty program that has mushroomed to 14 million fans in two short years. Those insights have fed a complete brand refresh, making the chain more relevant and more prevalent, with expanded categories and retail footprint, embracing everything from going mobile with their trademark ear piercing to producing the ultimate in high-tech retail media at interactive flagship stores.
"Consumers told us, 'I want apparel to go along with the accessories, and to decorate dorms and more content and information' ... and since the brand has always stood for self-expression and any way that you can express yourself, the consumer said, 'You have the right to play in those areas.' That permission empowered Claire's to become a purveyor of more than eye-popping make-up and tween fashion accessories, but 'a GenZ/Alpha pop-culture destination' that now includes entertainment from character creation to reality shows."
"This is not," Woolmington declared, "your mom's Claire's."
Your mom's Claire's was not as capable of using today's powerful data to deliver an omnichannel experience featuring state-of-the-art content studios to connect with consumers and "flip the entertainment model on its head," said Patrick, now empowering Zalphas, in return, to build some of that content. "That was hard for me as a marketer," she admitted, "because I want to be in control and have everything beautiful and glossy, but that's not what this is about. This is really about the creator economy."
The team also realized Claire's needed to be "on the bleeding edge of technology, because our consumers don't live in an analog world," and overhauled their approach to buying media, turning the brand over to the generation. So, in addition to generating buzz via high profile events like Fashion Week and innovative out of home, they encouraged Zalphas on TikTok, and built C-Studio to produce fresh content that both featured and informed the teens and tweens.
But the challenge remains: how to connect seamlessly between digital or physical stores and their presence in the Metaverse? Happily, Patrick pointed out that one of their biggest platforms is retail media at Claire's 3000 stores, across a stepped up footprint internationally. They are nesting products out of home in physical CVS or Walmart locations, and some products will be available in the Metaverse. "I can see some of the characters that we're developing [there] turning into plush or into movies," while some may get linked to their loyalty program or land a star turn on Roblox.
"I think that there's a huge opportunity for brands and businesses as they enter this space," Patrick asserted. But whether at a virtual shopping center or a physical pop-up ear piercing, Claire's will be connecting and communicating wherever Zalphas are headed.
A Healthy Approach to Marketing
CVS: In addition to being a retail partner for brands from Claire's to Kleenex, CVS has been a health partner in offering everything from prescriptions to flu shots. CVS Health Vice President of Enterprise Media, Diego Vaccarezza (pictured at top, right), spoke to DPAA President and CEO Barry Frey (top left) about how the retailer built stronger consumer relationships during the COVID frenzy and how they are continuing to gain trust.
The pandemic provided "an opportunity for the enterprise to come together at a moment of need and rally around purpose," Vaccarezza explained. "It made us feel that even as a sizeable organization we could still be agile. And it gave us the chance to introduce a lot of new people to the brand." For those going to the pharmacy for vital vaccines who were new to the store, CVS tapped into its ability to reengage, keep them in the mix, and tell the broader brand story. "That," he added, "has been really important. We came out of that as, I think, the No. 1 trusted retailer in the country."
Frey asked how the chain ties all the media and marketing together given so many products on the shelves and all the health care services. The answer was "strong segmentation" and determining the next best action to encourage those varied audiences to take. "There are heavy immunization campaigns during flu season," Vaccarezza said. "How can we engage folks that got a shot with us last year to come back this year? We think about retargeting, and the HIPPA-regulated yet allowable data usage in that space.
"From the CRM side of the house and our Extra Care loyalty program there's a lot of opportunity with the use of transaction data," he continued. "It's the underpinning of our retail media network that we launched two years ago ... CPG partners fund campaigns, we put messages in front of audiences, and then because we can see the transaction, we can provide that closed-loop measurement. On the other side of the house is the medical and health information. There are safe harbor opportunities, such as if you got a flu shot last year, I'm allowed to talk to you 1:1 about getting a flu shot this year, because it's a health service and a valid use of HIPPA."
On both sides of the house, though, Vaccarezza outlined examples of how CVS Health has "made bold brand moves" incorporating purpose-driven marketing.
For example, in addition to making headlines in 2014 by being the first in its category to cease the sale of tobacco, in 2018 they underscored their support of women's mental health by eliminating photoshopped ads in favor of "beauty in real life." A CVS Beauty Mark pledge mandated all retail media partners must include clear disclosure of any image enhancement. And since "leaving a seat open at the table to make sure that the consumer's voice is heard," and responding to surveys and social media, they've upped their services aimed at the well-being of women, almost in an omnichannel way:
In addition to absorbing the "pink tax" and dropping the price on CVS-brand period products, the chain is "thinking beyond retail with their mini-clinic by providing menstrual and menopause services; and Aetna is providing mental health services for women, so we're really kind of expanding in an area where health equity, particularly in underserved communities and the communities that are most important to us, is really a need for us to focus and again bring the full power of the enterprise into that space."
To complement it all, their marketing includes a healthy dose of programmatic -- from online to out of home -- to segment audiences as mentioned, "using dynamic and relevant creative, and," Vaccarezza explained, "running them all through a single platform that allows us frequency management to ensure that not only are we being efficient with the investments that we're making but we're also being courteous to our customers."
The common thread of powerful marketers -- from service provider to retailer -- is consideration for the overall customer in every location, platform, message or medium. The next DPAA Global Summit, coming October 10, 2023 again at Chelsea Piers, should be a another fascinating look at brand case studies and more innovation going forward.
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