A Study of Field Marketing Across Europe - Part 1.1

A Study of Field Marketing Across Europe - Part 1.1

Defining Field Marketing

Wikipedia defines Field Marketing as “a traditional discipline in marketing, it involves people distributing, auditing, selling or sampling promotions on the field”.

This definition sketchily mentions core activities, plus one distinguishing factor from other marketing disciplines: Field Marketing is about services executed physically by people.

The Handbook of Fieldmarketing: a complete guide to understanding and outsourcing face-to-face direct marketing, written by the Grand Dame of UK Fieldmarketing, Alison Williams and marketer Robert Mullins in 2008, brings the aspect of outsourcing into play: “Field Marketing is the outsourcing of a sales or marketing project to direct, face-to-face marketing which explains, educates, and influences the customer to affect future purchasing decisions, either ongoing or as a short-term fix”.

Not only does Field Marketing include both sales and marketing, outsourced Field Marketing also always had stakeholders both from the sales and/or marketing departments on its clients’ side. During the course of time this evolved to include trade marketing or today shopper marketing as well as even IT, and evermore increasing procurement. Field Marketing has always been part of the evolution of structures/functions and roles on the client side and for better cooperation it constantly evolves into mirroring clients’ departments, functions and roles.

With the rise of modern retail, sales has essentially become a B2B business, mainly manufacturers applying external field forces to cover retail stores in order to secure distribution and placement.

The marketing or promotional part largely coincides with the rise of modern retail and can be considered to be B2C marketing due to direct interaction with shoppers (on behalf of manufacturers or retailers).

There is no common standard wording for Field Marketing or Field Marketing disciplines/activities across Europe. While for example in Western Europe BTL (below-the-line) is associated with advertising and describing the creative and conceptual part of promotion activities,

Large parts of Eastern Europe also define the services involving people interaction as BTL. And even the word Field Marketing itself in combination with a country name oftentimes does not deliver search results on Google, while distribution, sales, merchandising or promotion combined with country name do.

Accordingly, local business associations or organizations come in a lot of guises as well, usually with a sub-discipline allocated to a larger local marketing association (most often direct marketing). In fact, research shows only three countries are combining the sub-disciplines of Field Marketing under one umbrella and operating with the word Field Marketing: France with SORAP (Syndicat National des Organisateurs et Réalisateurs d’Actions Promotionnelles et Commerciales)5, DFMA (Dutch Field Marketing Association) in the Netherlands and the UK with its own promoting organ FMBE (Field Marketing and Brand Experience).

In all three countries field sales, merchandising, and promotional activities (sampling, demonstrations) as well as audits/mystery shopping are subsumed under the umbrella of field marketing. While there are many sector or skill-set specialists (or specialists in certain categories) in Field Marketing, a majority of Field Marketing agencies across Europe regardless of what wording for the discipline they use, are full service agencies, providing more than three services out of these four sub-disciplines—sales, merchandising, promotion as well as auditing/mystery shopping—as part of their core activities.

Field Marketing Service Provided

These sub-disciplines can be stripped down to more specialized services: e.g. promotion includes such diverse activities as sales promotion, degustation, sampling, road show, event/experiential, sales can encompass direct van-sales, area managers with a regular set of customers to visit, or tactical sales drives, merchandising includes rack-jobbing, re-shelfing, inventory services, regular order taking, auditing is data collection and measurement of an in-store situation, while mystery shopping is testing a service or an experience.

Field Marketing has evolved with the rise of modern retail

Field Marketing not only historically evolved with the rise of modern retail, Field Marketing has constantly been adapting to changes and (r)evolutions in retail, meaning subsequently the service requirements either asked for from retailers themselves or required/allowed from manufacturers by retailers.

While during its origins there had been a clear divide between sales reps visiting for order taking (or to introduce new products, or negotiating secondary placements), while merchandisers replenished shelfs and promoters did sampling or tastings in combination with sell-out activities to consumers, lines nowadays have become blurred.

A modern day “brand ambassador” delivers hybrid services

These services include checking availability, doing regular re-ordering, taking care of planograms, training store staff on new products or activities, spending time on approaching shoppers, plus in all cases collecting data.

However, Field Marketing has never exclusively depended on modern retail, Field Marketing has also always branched out into other channels like HoReCa, convenience or even wholesale as well as highly specialized B2B trade.

In addition to defining Field Marketing along the lines of disciplines or activities or subservices, an advanced approach is to define Field Marketing by the solutions provided. 

This topic will be covered in Part 2 of our series on Field Marketing Across Europe. Coming soon!