THE ART AND SCIENCE OF ENGAGING ADVERTISING
By Rebecca Meiser, Contributor, Shopping Centers Today
In one of the more striking images from Westfield Corp.’s spring campaign dubbed “Come Play,” a 20-something woman in a ruffle-sleeved, emerald-colored dress sits at a fancy dinner table. In one hand she holds a champagne glass. In the other she grasps a children’s bubble wand — with which she sends up a stream of bubbles that drift off toward the ocean.
All the advertisements in Westfield’s new campaign, which launched nationally during the first week of May, picture adults adorned in apparel and accessories from Westfield retailers and engaged in some sort of child’s play. “What I think is unique about this campaign is that we are a shopping center company, but we are not talking about shopping in the campaign,” said Heather Vandenberghe, Westfield’s chief marketing officer for U.S. business. “There’s a call to action visually, but we don’t talk about shopping; we talk about the way you are going to feel when you are at the property.”
The official tagline is, “Shop, Eat, Drink & Play.” As with other shopping center firms across the globe, much of the Westfield marketing strategy in recent years has been aimed at helping reposition shopping centers as destinations, and not just somewhere to go for retail shopping. “We want to celebrate the creativity of what we’re putting forward with our properties,” said Vandenberghe. For the recent story line, Westfield chose to focus mostly on the “play” aspect of its brand. “In spring you are coming out of the doldrums of winter, and you want to be outside and playing,” said Vandenberghe.
The campaign was unveiled in April at City Year, an educational fundraising gala in Los Angeles, of which Westfield was a sponsor. In keeping with the theme, the marketing team came up with the idea of having an electronic-claw toy-grabbing machine. Instead of toys, though, the team asked retailers for gift cards and giveaways that the attendees could try to win. The lines for a turn were long. “My daughter kept trying for a gift card to [shoes and apparel seller] Vans all night, which she loves,” Vandenberghe said. “She was very unhappy that she never won.”
Westfield will bring the toy-grabbing machine to several of its properties this spring. The company will also be launching hopscotch competitions and large-scale ticktacktoe games. This on-site engagement aspect of advertising has long been important to shopping center marketing strategies for drawing traffic, says Karen Fluharty, founding partner and chief strategist of Montville, N.J.–based Strategy & Style Marketing Group. In the past, though, marketers were unable to collect much data on a promotion’s overall return on investment, Fluharty notes — beyond checking for any increase in the day-to-day sales receipts, or accounting for the number of shoppers volunteering personal contact information. They were unable to tell if these shoppers ever returned after the promotion’s end, or how much of an effect the marketing had on shopper loyalty to the center. But advances in offline marketing-attribution systems — which use such things as “geo-fencing” digital technology — can track the movements of shoppers after they have left a promotion, by means of the GPS systems on their phones.
“Offline attribution is the coolest thing ever for marketers,” Fluharty said. “Say we’re opening a Vera Bradley store in the Lake George [N.Y.] market; we are then able to draw a digital ‘geo-fence’ around the Vera Bradley store or the entire shopping center. We then create digital advertising. Once a customer opens that digital ad on their mobile device, we are able to capture that device ID. We can then tell you after 45 days [that] x number of consumers saw and opened the ad, and the number of consumers who crossed your lease line with that phone in their hand or pocket.”
“Marketing has long been thought of as an art, not a science. But now we are finally able to apply technology and science to the marketing of shopping centers.” (-Karen Fluharty)
Offline attribution works most effectively when a center has something new, fresh and newsworthy to offer, like the ticktacktoe board or the toy-claw promotion, Fluharty says. And today marketers are able to show, in real numbers, the effect of that promotion or event or opening. “For marketers, developers and asset managers, that means we can take a certain dollar amount — say we spent $30,000 to promote something within a shopping center, and say that, as a result, x number of people responded,” she said. “That’s somewhat of the holy grail for CFOs, who are looking at marketing budgets and asking, ‘How do we know this works?’ Marketing has long been thought of as an art, not a science. But now we are finally able to apply technology and science to the marketing of shopping centers.”
And this is exactly what shopping centers are looking for with their new campaigns. “We are looking for engagement,” Vandenberghe said. “We want to see increases in the number of people on social media engaging with us. We are looking to increase dwell times and [to] get people into the properties. After that, it’s up to the retailers to do the rest.”