At the start of 2005, Procter & Gamble's nappy brand Pampers launched its biggest-ever experiential marketing campaign: The World of Babies showcase.
The invitation-only roadshow - whose 20-minute tour through a 300sqm soundproofed structure examines the stages of a baby's development, using research by the Pampers Institute - is part of a £7m global campaign being supported with direct mail, print and online campaigns. Pampers also decided to complement the initiative with a UK retail-specific roadshow to run alongside it.
"Parents are so important to retailers," explains Pampers' head of market, strategy and planning for the UK and Ireland, Doug Bairner. "They spend at least twice as much per basket on average than other shoppers and we work closely with the retailers to manage the category proactively.
"We're hoping to help parents feel more connected with the retail environment, as well as the brand, by educating and informing them and therefore giving them an incentive to purchase."
Agency Loewybe won the pitch to handle the campaign's point of purchase element after Pampers decided to outsource the project to three brand experience agencies. Lime is handling the UK leg of the main roadshow, which started in Regent's Park, London before heading for Manchester and Newcastle, while Arc UK is managing in-store activity.
Loewybe devised an experience that would mirror the roadshow, creating a 16.5-metre caterpillar housing six "experience pods" which has been touring supermarket car parks since January. By the end of the campaign in April it will have visited 12 sites in 14 weeks, including Tesco and Asda stores in Coventry, Leicester and Blackpool.
One of the pods, decorated as a nursery, highlights the sensitivity of a newborn baby's skin and ties in with Pampers' New Baby range. The Learn Pod, where adults can try to write with wobbly pencils and put on an "impossible shirt", links in with the Easy Up products, and the Conquer Pod, which gives parents an inkling of how a toddler must feel in a bathroom that seems huge, promotes the Kandoo toilet wipe range.
Loewybe managing director Sharon Richey says: "The experience guides consumers, from expectant mothers to those with toddlers, through the various stages of the child's development. The caterpillar idea means we can control the consumer journey and each pod is interactive."
"The great thing," adds Bairner, "is that smaller stores can get involved too. We were a bit nervous at the start of the project that it would just be an idea for big stores but we worked closely with Loewybe to make it work for smaller stores with the foyer features." These "insight booths" are being rolled out in 110 supermarkets across the country.
As the roadshow has progressed, attention has turned to measurement and evaluation of its success. Richey says: "We've selected a control group and a test group to track the impact in terms of equity for both the booths and the caterpillars, and to measure the impact of the brand experience and the message the consumers took away. We will also be able to identify sales uplift.
"We're focusing on delivering a qualitative experience and the reach it can achieve. The reason we're so excited about World of Babies is that it's a genuine brand experience. There is no element of sampling at all in this campaign and it is all about the education and the experience."
"The feedback has been brilliant," says Bairner, "particularly from the first few sites at Leyton and Southport. We're also starting to see that come through in the sales results. There is a sales pod to remind customers of the promotions on offer and to act as an incentive to purchase but the education and insight the experience provides is the main thing.
"We didn't want to be too sales focused and would rather the outcome is that consumers are impressed by what they see so they are inspired to buy."
DESIGNING A CATERPILLAR
Design and production agency Running Wild handled the build element of the World of Babies retail roadshow. "We've worked with Loewybe on a number of projects in the past and on previous Pampers jobs, such as the Kandoo campaign. That gave us an advantage in so much as we understand the brand equity and the company's aims and objectives," says managing director Tony Freeth.
"We were brought in right at the beginning of the project. Loewybe came to us with its initial concept to see how we would go about transforming it into reality. We went to Geneva to see the big World of Babies lorries that form part of the worldwide tour and put the two concepts together to come up with a hybrid.
"We're very pleased with the finished product, especially as we had a tight deadline with Christmas inbetween. At any one time between five and 10 people were working on it. It was a challenging brief - you really have to work out the logistics like storage, transportation and the fact that it will be in the field for three or four months and needs to still look fresh and new despite being very interactive. A matt finish would have been easier but we wanted an eye catching high gloss finish with bright graphics and each individual pod is in the Pampers brand colours."