As consumers across the globe—and especially in China—are faced with an overwhelming amount of information and products available across a growing range of platforms and technologies, figuring out what influences their purchase behavior is an increasingly complex and daunting task for brands. In order to gain a measurable return on investment in this hyper-connected world, marketing strategies need to be focused on the key “tipping point” moments that influence consumer behavior, according to Geometry Global Chief Creative Officer Jon Hamm.
In an interview with Jing Daily at the activation agency’s Shanghai office, Hamm recently discussed his company’s “pivotal ideas” concept, which focuses on “changing the way people act versus changing the way people think” when it comes to crafting effective marketing campaigns.
“In any decision that we make or any journey that we go on, there’s a moment where we change—where we go from liking someone to falling in love with someone, from being indecisive to making a decision,” he explains. “And that moment, that tipping point, is an area that we believe that brands and products need to own.”
Hamm joined the agency in November 2014, shortly after after it was launched in 2013 by WPP as an autonomous network encompassing the activation agencies of Grey Group and Ogilvy & Mather, as well as the marketing and experiential agency of JWT. Now the world’s largest activation agency, the firm has offices across Asia, including in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong.
The “pivotal ideas” concept is relevant globally, says Hamm, who states that it is key for generating a real return on investment. “All clients that we speak to across all categories in all markets are demanding to know how they can turn brand love—and clients have traditionally been very good at creating brand love—how they can convert that into an action.”
They key to converting a favorable opinion of a brand to an action to purchase it comes through mapping a “consumer journey” both online and offline through a strategy the firm calls a “purchase decision journey.”
The purchase decision journey is a “map that reveals a story of why people do what they do and the stages that they go on on that journey,” says Hamm, “so if somebody’s buying a handbag, or a car, or a dress, or whatever it may be, that in that journey that they go from—from stopping to think about that to going in the store and purchasing that—there will be a number of different experiences they’ll go on along the way. They’ll talk to their friends, they’ll read something online, they’ll look at a piece of content, they’ll read something in a magazine, and what this approach does for us is allow us to see that journey holistically and understand it.”
From there, he says, the company runs analysis to figure out “what is the most important moment on that journey” to craft its message. For example, he notes that the brand recently created a campaign for a sportswear company based on research that found “people think about updating their sports apparel when they’re thinking about their performance, and the time they were thinking about their performance was when they were thinking about their social data.” As a result, the company created a campaign that allowed them to redeem the results on their exercise-tracking gadgets for in-store rewards.
This use of both digital technology and in-store marketing is part of the firm’s focus on an omnichannel approach. “Technology is the connective tissue between everything that we do,” says Hamm, who notes that mobile is crucial and social media “is a huge influencer that drives people in what they do.”
This is especially true for the luxury industry, which Hamm says is especially influenced by social media. When asked about how “pivotal ideas” work for luxury compared to mass-market brands, he says that “the method of evaluation is exactly the same,” but “the difference is merely about the level of consideration, which tends to be around cost. The higher the cost of a product, the greater the consideration.” From a creative point of view, this means that “what we need to do to change the behavior—the force behind it—needs to be greater.”
One example of the level of behavior change possible with this approach was the company’s work with Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to convince the population of Colombia that an invasive species of fish harming the ecosystem of the Caribbean—the lionfish—could become a culinary delicacy. The firm worked with top chefs across the country to add lionfish dishes to their menus to make it the hot new ingredient in the country’s culinary scene and spark enough demand to create a supply chain from scratch. With a focus on local cultural influences, it also worked with the Catholic church to get clergy leaders to promote eating the lionfish during Lent.
The process of discerning what makes consumers reach a “tipping point” to make a purchase is “about human anthropology more than anything else,” says Hamm, who emphasizes that the approach is about responding to consumer demands in a genuine way. “We have to create things that people want to lean into and engage with. If we don’t do that, then they can ignore us,” he says, “so we have to create something that has an inherent value.”