Is your brand consistently showing up in the right time and place the join (not interrupt) the lives of your fans & consumers? Do you have a way to continue the conversation after they buy — or even a way to get it started? These are fairly critical question to answer, and ones we’re going to take a look at today with Luke Prokop, Director of Business Development for Arrowhead Promotion & Fulfillment. An industry leader, APFCO has helped countless CPG & beverage brands accomplish exactly that for over 35 years now.
It’s an interesting question and one we think about a lot here at APF. To enter the conversation with consumers today it is critical to enter in a manner that is organic or in a way allowing the consumer to control the process. With so many disruptions in the market place today the purchase experience and the manner in which companies like Amazon utilize information and details from consumers really should turn not only competitors but MFR’s and consumers heads alike. That is why we at APF position ourselves to allow the consumer to engage us. We ask a simple question of whether or not this promotion is something that would entice them to buy a particular product and they then offer to start the conversation with us. It really is a powerful tool especially when speaking in terms of the beverage industry as many of the products sold inside this vertical are two stepped to consumers so unfortunately the MFR is completely kept out of the loop from the consumer. We find that consumers are looking to have a direct relationship with the folks they buy from and we offer a way to initiate conversations with consumers while allowing the MFR the ability to expand loyalty and increase sales with both existing and new consumers.
So: Let’s not be shy…how can your team help bring this type of smooth, integrated “phygital” vision to life? I know you’ve got quite an arsenal at your disposal; tell us about it.
Well back in 1983 when my Grandfather started the company we had one client 3M, and they asked us to help them expand their market penetration inside a handful of retailers through the use of rebates. After 3M came a few other companies and they started to ask us to expand our offerings beyond rebates. Those offerings now include: Rebates, Coupons, Sweepstakes, Call Center Services, Warehouse servicing for sampling and kitting, gift with purchase promotions and product storage, eCommerce, and Loyalty platforms to name a few.
Its important to note that everything we do today has been a direct result and testament to our hard work and dedication we have for our clients and their consumers. This work allows us to meet our client’s consumers where they are and that, we have found, is extremely important. Many consumers prefer to use digital however a lot of them still prefer the physical methods of use as well. We at APF strive to have a conversation with the consumers where they are. Organic holistic conversations is what we work for every single day here.
And who are some of the leading beverage brands you’ve worked with on this/how did it work out? Don’t be shy, call our members out for making great decisions and getting great results. I’m looking at you, friends at Bacardi and E. & J. Gallo Winery 😊
In one particular case we found and eliminated over a million dollars in fraudulent activity from all sorts of issues like expired coupons, rebates, and wrong manufacturers etc. The process endeared APF to the client and expanded our offerings internally there.
Other cases included utilizing the data received in manner to coincide with a particular brand’s KPI’s. In the case I am thinking about we built a platform specifically calling out certain data points and offered the client back the information in manner useful to their sales reps in the field. The information allowed them to capitalize on quick to market solutions which ultimately increased both sales and brand loyalty. The strategy used here is very useful for companies needing a quick jolt to sales or brand loyalty as it can coincide with purchase motivated consumers at times near holidays or some other tidbit of information we present from the data collected.
The last case I want to talk about is our flexibility and being able to capitalize on the quick to market solutions. For instance a brand came to us with an idea they had after sorting through some data they received from us and discovered a vacuum in their industry to capitalize on. They had a week to get a web page built accomplishing their goal. Generally we say it takes us about 2-6 weeks to set a program up like this but the time table was much shorter. Instead of passing on the concept saying the time frame was outside of our comfort we rose to the challenge and built the program for the client and everything went off without a hitch. The client was happy and the program ran was extremely successful and is now part of their everyday strategy.
Much of what we do here at APF is specific to the brands we work with allowing them to accomplish exactly what is in their strategy.
If you don’t mind, I think we as marketers always like to take a little peek under the hood as well. What do you think is core to your team’s ability to deliver on so effectively on these programs? I suspect the powerful brain trust helps – but are there also particular insights you’re working against (that we may not be privy to)? And speaking of insights – what kind of info do you feed back to brands during/after the campaign?
What makes APF unique in the industry is a couple things.
The first and what is most important to us is we are located in a small town in Minnesota. We are a pillar of our community and also one of the top employers there. Our roots run deep as we are a third generation family owned business. Additionally we are women owned and located in a HUB zone. We take pride in where we come from and our employees take pride in the work we do. Furthermore everything we do happens within the systems located in our facilities allowing us to control the process from start to finish keeping tight controls over the consumer information we collect on behalf of the clients we represent.
Another item making us unique in the industry is our team of 25 IT professionals under our hire. Much of this industry is rooted in a couple things. Protecting consumer data and eliminating fraudulent activities from consumers. Our investment in our IT professionals does a couple things for us that really do make us unique and makes us one of the only companies in our industry a one stop shop. We utilize a high tech high touch approach and I would argue there is not a single company out there as good as what we do from an accuracy, security, and protection standpoint. We utilize a plethora of technologies and a filtering process to accept submissions on behalf of the client while keeping the turn times brief to capitalize on the growing need for instant gratification.
Our company is dedicated to continuous innovation and adaptation. This allows us to remain flexible to the constant change in the market place. The flexibility allows us to meet the needs of our clients while offering a knowledgeable perspective to help accomplish our clients exact goals.
Looking ahead…which of the many tactics and/or supporting innovations do you think will most effectively help marketers join lives and bridge that physical/digital divide for the long-haul? (e.g. technically advanced contests/promotions, use of AR, couponing/rebating, etc.)
We are members of a handful of associations which help us stay abreast to the ever changing landscape of the marketplace today. At one of those meetings this year we discovered an interesting trend. Coupons and rebates will increase substantially in the coming year or two. I believe the fact was something over a 90% increase. With that being said we know some innovation will come to see the increase realized.
We believe Digital Coupons and rebates are the answer and as such we are leading the way to see this method come to fruition. Digital coupons and rebates for reference refers to a completely digital transaction between the consumer, the retailer and the manufacturer and is to not be confused with the print at home options available in the marketplace today. We are currently working with various professionals in the space to see this coupon mode realized. The challenge is whether or not we can get manufacturers and folks like our clients to apply pressure to retailers in an effort to make this type of coupon become mainstay.
Another area we find very interesting is the use of NFC technologies to enhance consumer experiences both in store and at home. We currently work with some partners one of which I believe is an eBev member to accomplish just that.
The last thing I would like to touch on is AI. AI is and will continue to be a large part of our process. It is not and for the foreseeable future will not be the only method as it just is not refined enough in order to accomplish what we do. Don’t get me wrong AI is very useful and has created great efficiencies for us but at this stage cannot be used as the only mechanism for approvals. There are too many variances between retailers, dealers, online stores etc. for it to be the sole mechanism to approve incentive based marketing tactics. We are constantly evolving our AI here at APF and we have great breakthroughs on a daily basis. However, the more we discover the more we realize just how difficult it is to encapsulate all of the various retailers across the country especially when you consider the small family run businesses.