Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Ekrem Dupanović
Many of you wondering what the agency of the future looks like should look no further for the answer to this question than this interview. An era when the agency was included in the life of a brand only when it’s leaving the door of the company and going into the market is at its end. Agencies will have to be included much earlier, at the very beginning of creating a brand, and the conditions for its successful life in the market. Two years ago Sašo Pešev (New Moment New Ideas Company Skopje), in an interview for our portal said that the future of the world economy lies in the creative ideas of agencies, and that they should place more value in them. Mitja Tuškej from Ljubljana agency Formitas (and Direct Media Agency), in this conversation demonstrates it in a practical way. We talked about the campaign Start it up Slovenia that has achieved some big goals. Young entrepreneurs in Slovenia have realized that they can succeed even in Slovenia, and that there’s someone who will support them, someone who is powerful enough to push the boundaries. Slovenia received a model on how to solve the problem of the emigration of young people in whose knowledge the state has invested a lot of money. Spar got 12 new hit products on their shelves and finally found a way how to bring Millennials into their stores. POP TV launched a completely new show format and proved its strength through the successful sale of products that were first heard of in their program. Everything is possible when three sides agree. You can rarely see a project in which so many different parties meet their interests. When these 12 entrepreneurs develop their business and when the economy of the scale of their business becomes more significant, they will be Formitas’ new clients, new advertisers in the program of POP TV and new important suppliers for Spar.
In late November, when I met with Mitja and Mojca Randl (Director of Formitas) at the Sempl in Portorož, they looked very tired, as if a flood had washed them out. We sat down for a coffee, and they were unable to concentrate on the conversation, constantly talking about something that I couldn’t understand. These days, when I received the complete presentation of the project Start it up Slovenia, and the answers to my questions for the interview, I understood their fatigue, I understood what they talked about, and why they were making smiles on their faces with the last ounces of strength.
Read on and enjoy.
Media Marketing: Start it up Slovenia is a project that emerged as an answer to the problem of outflow of young people from Slovenia. How did you come up with this idea?
Mitja Tuškej: There are so many reasons and answers to different problems embedded in the Start it up Slovenia project. So much so that it’s difficult to draw one thing that stands at the top. The fact is that the project was a good answer to one of the major social problems in Slovenia, but also in the region, and that is that we are all losing young, highly educated minds, that young people don’t see their chance in our countries, that there’s no jobs for them, that the society simply doesn’t care for young people as it should. And, the fact is that this situation was one of the reasons that gave us one piece of the idea for the project. But there were many such pieces. Namely, an in-depth analysis of the market situation in trade sector in Slovenia revealed to us a mass of very interesting phenomenon. I’m always absolutely thrilled with all the things you can learn when you have before you the information about what individuals in the market are doing and all the rules that are derived from data – when you group individuals together into segments in different ways and then look at that in the long-term. Who buys where, why they buy where they buy, how they change their buying behavior, how they change their main supplier, when do they change it, who changes it first … you wouldn’t believe, dear Ekrem, that all this is written in Mediana’s TGI, You just have to know how to read the research! So, a lot of interesting things emerged, especially given the fact that things in Slovenia began to change again. The recession, which had resulted in a lot of significant changes in consumer behavior, is slipping away into oblivion. Some things that we have all but forgotten over the past eight years are returning. I will not go far in all this detail … the important thing is that we have established how strong one part (let’s say) of the young people are in terms of introducing their ideas among their peers, in their families, and that these young people are the first who respond to novelties and changes, that they are the ones who set the trends and spread them throughout the population. This was a very important insight – if our goal is to raise the value of the position of our client in the market, these young people are very important for us in order to be able to do that in the first place, and so we could secure our own long-term perspective through that.
In the next phase, we worked on the insight of the target group. We dived into the depth of their thinking and again found exceptionally interesting things about their behavior. For example, their relationship with a brand is very much different than that of other people. To them, it is essential what the brand does for them – does it resolve some of their issues, does it listen to them, does it talk to them … The analysis of this segment gave us valuable guidance in the choice of communication channels that are typical for them, which they trust and through which they connect. The circle was slowly closing … we needed to target young people … we had to do something for them … we had to change the modes of communication … we had to give them a chance to solve some of their major problems … At this stage of thinking, we came to the actual problem of the emigration of young people abroad and learned about the staggering numbers and the extraordinary increase in departures over the last few years. We wrote down all these details, and at one point they merged into the idea that we should find young people with entrepreneurial ideas in Slovenia, with concrete products, and enable them to put their products on the “big shelf” and give them every chance to get into the real business in a big way.
Media Marketing: Start it up Slovenia is a project of three partners. Who else joined forces with you in its realization?
Mitja Tuškej: Teams of the creative agency Formitas and its media agency Direct Media jointly came up with the idea of the project. None of this would have happened if we hadn’t received a brief from Spar Slovenia, and if Spar wasn’t our client for more than twenty years now. At the initial meetings we felt the magnitude of the idea and the good potential of the project that Spar and we were lacking. The third partner, virtually from the outset of the project, became Pro Plus, the largest media company in Slovenia, with its TV program Pop TV and all other television programs and media.
Media Marketing: What did each of the partners invest in the project?
Mitja Tuškej: Each of the partners in the project invested all their knowledge and resources that created the optimal combination. We, as an agency, invested all our knowledge in the field of communication: our complete knowledge of everything on the topic of the target group, the idea of the project, the complete design, texts, huge amounts of content on social networks, enormous coordination of all project participants – the project involved more than 90 people. Spar gave its part of the pot. They put at the disposal their shelves and place for sale and promotion in the 13 largest Interspar centers in Slovenia. They gave communication space and support through their own communication channels. It is also important that they invested the extraordinary energy of a large number of their employees during the project – and it didn’t last from the appearance in the media at the end of September last year to the end of December, but in December of 2015. During that time, a lot of effort, knowledge and energy was invested. Together with selected entrepreneurs we came to the fact that their products could be placed on the shelf – meeting all the technical and technological conditions, with proper declarations and all permits necessary to be placed on the shelves of a large retailer. Pro Plus invested all their knowledge in production. The production team was phenomenal and exceptional. They also gave their best. Start it up Slovenia shows were made in a completely new format. Such a show format has never been used anywhere until now. All new. All the details of every episode were made from scratch…
Media Marketing: How was the project implemented?
Mitja Tuškej: Today, when we look back at the project, we all have the impression that it was realized with incredible ease. But it was not all easy – problems popped up – but without any doubt, I can vouch that the project was truly completed one hundred percent. The fact is that everyone got an incredible amount of positive energy which took us through all the obstacles that occurred here and there, and were always overcome with maximum optimism and with the desire of all participants to find the best solution. As I have already said, more than 90 people were included in the project! That’s an extremely large amount of different opinions, different desires and different energies. But with excellent coordination of the project, and with clear holders of the project in each of the partners, things really took place without major problems. The key people in the team have given their absolute maximum. The work flowed literally 24/7, whole year round. How much positive feelings were imbued in the project, and how much we were all connected can be illustrated with this: one part of the project participants suggested that we should all get together before the shooting of the final episode, for a little mingling. Not only were everyone up for it, but not a single person was absent at the party. Director of Spar was there, the director of Pro Plus, the entire team was there, all the entrepreneurs, cameramen, designers, the woman in charge of technology, head of purchasing, make-up artist…
Mitja Tuškej: Two channels complemented each other all the time, and they “cooperated” excellently. One communication base was linked to the 10 episodes of Start it up Slovenia which were broadcast every Sunday from October to December. They presented the project, participants – the 12 entrepreneurs – and their journey through the business life. From the idea to the shelf. Their products were presented, their experiences, their encounters with customers and, ultimately, their meeting with the director of Spar, Igor Mervič, who explained them Spar’s business mission. In the last episode the hit product was selected – the product and the brand with the best results. The second channel, which played a very important role along with the TV, was digital. On this channel, communication flowed through 14 Facebook pages, eight Instagram profiles and on Twitter. Here the communication was completely in-sync and focused, almost daily. We succeeded to include consumers in communication to the maximum – the target group, all those who from the very beginning to the end gave a very important and great support to the project. The project was also presented on billboards and on different portals and sites. Everywhere very focused and targeted.
Media Marketing: How did the other Slovenian media react?
Mitja Tuškej: The response of the media was remarkable. Number of reports about the project was really great. Bloggers also reacted, which was a confirmation that in terms of communication, the project was really well done and managed, and that we had managed to do something that pulled you in, something that was promising and something that really touched the emotions of the public.
Media Marketing: And how did the wider Slovenian public reacted?
Mitja Tuškej: At the end of September, when the project went public, we organized the ‘opening’ of the project in the largest Interspar store in Slovenia. All entrepreneurs came to the opening of “their” shelves. On that occasion they were addressed by Director of Spar. The point of his message was that we have all passed a certain path, and that by working together we reached an important stage, where the products of those twelve entrepreneurs are on the shelves. From now on, everything is in the hands of consumers. They will decide who is good, who is better and who is the best. Consumers are unique and fairest jury. They will be the judge and the jury.
And so it was. It was awesome to see the reactions of consumers after every show in which individual young entrepreneurs were presented. The exceptional reactions reflected in sales of particular products, in the comments on social networks and in the extraordinary rise of friends on all Facebook pages of the entrepreneurs, and even the project itself.
Media Marketing: What did the 12 Slovenian entrepreneurs included in the project offer?
Mitja Tuškej: Already in the call for proposals, which we had announced in the beginning of the year, we started searching for the right products that you can hold in your hand, eat, put on and place on the shelves. The offer was varied. We searched for a good idea, innovation, something different, something that gives something new to the offer on the shelves of Spar. I could start listing them from anywhere, since they’re all very interesting. I personally most like the urban garden Urban Planty, a product that is totally in trend and in a great way satisfies the desire of people in cities to have a small garden with spices in their apartment, on their balcony or a terrace. Consumers best responded to an equally trendy product called Nelipot: deodorant that is completely natural, without a single gram of chemistry. Their promotion in stores was truly original, as they offered consumers muffins stuffed with ingredients of their deodorants. The results were remarkable. Great story also comes with the brand Tattoo care – a balm intended for the maintenance and care of tattoos. It is a niche product, but it turned out that niche of the people with tattoos is not small. People also went crazy for the 20 Chocolate brand – chocolates which are made from the start with total control of raw materials, with no milk, no sugar, with real taste of real chocolate. It’s something that the Slovenian market so far in fact didn’t even know existed and never had a chance to offer such a product. Another real hit was the Barba salt, a remarkable guy who fully invests himself into making different blends of salt. With his spices, with his story, with his approach and the emotionally charged communication he won over practically everyone. His part of the shelves was often empty, as it was the case for the part that stored Gorki Chili products (bitter chili sauces made from locally grown chili peppers from Koper), and the shelf that stored the game Less, which was also a hit in Slovenia and finally returns gameplay from the computer to your table. In the project we also had the brand LePotica – those familiar with Slovenia and our gastronomy know what potica is – our LePotica products are potica cakes of different tastes in the size of a muffin. There was also the light and dark craft beer Knap, and the astonishing dolls for children with brand Mimica, which are sewn on the basis of social entrepreneurship. Then there was the series of designer socks Zulu Zion that were also a real sales hit and an extremely interesting innovation for bikers, which turns on and off bike blinkers with an app (for those who don’t know this, it’s one of the real problems associated with the safety of bikers). So 12 completely different products, each with its own remarkable story and each with its own (large) market potential.
Media Marketing: Your initial goal was to choose three winners, but you chose nine. Why?
Mitja Tuškej: The original goal was to select the Hit Product of the Year together with consumers. An entrepreneur with that product would receive a semi-annual contract with Spar, communication support of Formitas, and media support of Pop TV. Our idea was that along with the winner we might be able to sign a contract with the most promising entrepreneur as well. We thought it would be great to do this with three of them. But in the end, we came to the decision to sign a contract for one year, not for half a year, and with nine entrepreneurs. Results somehow demanded that. The vast majority realized sales which was the largest in their respective categories among all competitors. In some cases, sales realized in 13 shopping centers, was higher than in all Spar stores combined. And there’s 99 of them in Slovenia! The achieved results have led to the decision that the sale of products Start it up Slovenia be expanded from 13 mega stores to 50 additional Spar stores!
Media Marketing: What were the numerical sale indicators?
Mitja Tuškej: Since Slovenia is a relatively small market, the data on amounts and even the value of sales does not give a true picture. As I said, most of them realized a sale which was the highest in the category. The planned amounts, which were placed in the beginning of the project, seemed overly optimistic to many. However, sales figures were more than 100% higher than the planned amount. Using some math we calculated what would have happened if such a project had a similar response in a large market. We took the United States for example and found that the sale within the imagined project Start it up America would reach $100 million. In just three months :) .
Media Marketing: I know you have always been a great optimist, but did the overall results of the project still surprise you?
Mitja Tuškej: Yes! Even me, and I am always very optimistic. One thing was particularly surprising for me: in the last period, from mid-November onwards, many times we were in a situation that the shelves were at least partially empty. Simply nobody thought that such quantities would be sold. Although entrepreneurs were working day and night, they just weren’t able to deliver the quantities that could be sold. Normally it would have prompted consumers to begin with remarks, writing terrible reviews on social networks and, after a certain period of time, turn their backs on those who “weren’t able to do their job.” In the project Start it up Slovenia this did not happen. In fact, people on social networks wrote positive messages to entrepreneurs, encouraged them, congratulated them on sale, wrote about patience, about how they will wait … and we all gave feedback on where and when the products would reappear.
Media Marketing: What could you recall as one of the most important, or most interesting points of the project?
Mitja Tuškej: I think that all of us who worked on the project managed to prove a new dimension which is unrelated to the results of the project, unrelated to the fact that we were able to get into the changing the state-of-mind of the entire population, nor that we proved to everyone that it is possible, even if you are young and a small entrepreneur. It is also unrelated to the fact that we had met the goals related to the raising the perceived value of the Spar/Interspar brand. This dimension is related to the very cooperation that was made possible primarily thanks to the tremendous trust that the leadership of Spar Slovenia showed from the very beginning for all of us. That’s why we were able to do something that is essentially new, different and something that really opens up a new dimension of communication and opens new thinking in different fields of communication … from the efficiency of new principles of advertising on television, to the efficiency of the so-called native advertising and all that is offered and enabled by communication on social networks.
Media Marketing: Is the project finished, or does it have a continuation?
Mitja Tuškej: One phase of the project was completed in late December. Start it up Slovenia is certainly entering into the next phase. The contract obliges entrepreneurs to enter the new 50 stores as of 1 February. For them this means new organization, increase in capacity, optimization, rationalization and a good chance for new victories. We also received the first data on sales of products Start it up Slovenia in January. We’re surprised again! I believe that we – all of us partners in the project – in the coming days will make a decision to do a next ‘season’ …
Media Marketing: All the countries in the region have the same problem with the youth as Slovenia – they are leaving the countries en mass. Can the experience of the Start it up Slovenia be applied in other countries and with other partners?
Mitja Tuškej: I am convinced that the experience can be applied in other countries as well. Of course. But to rush into a similar project is not the solution. In fact, it’s interesting to monitor the reactions of the competition in Slovenia … a couple of competitors are trying to do something similar, or to piggyback on the success of our project. It’s obviously not easy. Within the project Start it up Slovenia there were so many details and knowledge from all possible areas that copy-paste is simply not possible. After all, the project is copyrighted, format of the show is original and also copyrighted … which does not mean that we couldn’t set up the project in partnership in another country of the region.