With a Bachelor in Business Administration and a Master Degree in Banking System and Capital Markets at the Babes Bolyai University of Cluj Napoca and a Master of Business Administration at Maastrich School of Management, Aura Corina Chiorean is the CEO of g7 (formerly active as Grup Sapte – Group Seven n.red., one of the main independent Romanian agencies).
During a recent meeting, AdHugger spoke with Corina about the changes within the agency and its new strategy, but also about the industry the company is active in.
AdH: How did you perceive the changes in the market in the last years and how have they impacted the agency?
Aura Corina Chiorean:
All the changes are generated by the shoppers. In the Romanian market, we perceive an obvious change in the way customers make their choices of brands – the buying decision is much more informed, experiences are more important in the buying process and customization plays a significant role.
Now, the omnipresence of technology in all communications channels not only enables shoppers to make a rapid and very well informed buying decision, but also it gives us, the marketers, plenty of data that allow us to analyze the modern shopping behavior.
We, at g7, think that now it is crucial for a brand to become personally relevant for its customers. We need to understand their every moment of truth, their lifestyle and their needs.
Technology is constantly in a changing process, but human needs are always going to be the same. However, what technology enables us to do today is to understand and address shopper needs at an individual basis, as opposed to segmenting them into broad categories. For the first time in the history of marketing, we are able to operate on a segment of one individual customer.
Since we, g7, have always been at the direct interface with the shoppers, all of these changes in their buying dynamics have opened a new universe for us – we now strive to understand every shopping insight in order to influence their decision making in every communication channel they use to inform, communicate and buy. This has led to our redefined role and positioning – we are a consumer engagement agency, specialized in connecting brands with consumers, by all means and channels, online and offline.
AdH: Please tell us about your affiliation to EFMP. What does that represent for your agency?
EFMP (European Field Marketing Partners) is a network of 12 independent field marketing agencies, all leaders in the national markets they represent, covering 17 countries. The whole group accounts for more than 150 million euro in turnover, with brand activation, salesforce, auditing and merchandising services.
We joined the network 5 years ago – throughout this period our bi-annual meetings have been the place for practice sharing and for leveraging the network’s capabilities. EFMP gives their members access to different ways of approaching similar brands we are working with, throughout Europe.
For g7 EFMP has been an important benchmark and source of inspiration in our effort to move from our historically pure field marketing service portfolio. It has also provided an insight and an access to services that would become interesting for the Romanian market in a few months’ or years’ time. On the other hand, it is also an environment where we can unveil and test our own exploratory innovative projects that we plan to launch, as integrated consumer engagement strategist, our business model’s new DNA.
AdH: How did it impact your business so far?
EFMP offers us a permanent connection to highly experienced professionals who always come up with interesting and intriguing insights from mature European markets.
This is a very suitable context for us to explore new ideas and concepts, ask for opinions and advice, especially from people who have become our friends.
Having an objective, knowledgeable environment where we can access experts’ view in consumer engagement is probably the most valuable outcome we have from the EFMP membership.
We have also come up with a new service, that we embedded in our integrated service approach – salesforce. Thanks to our EFMP colleagues we understood better how the service should be effectively led, how to earn the best return on investment for our clients’ through salesforce and how to design it best, operationally.
AdH: Why choosing this exact moment for the rebranding?
g7 is now passing through a process of business model change – from a cost based, fragmented service provider model to a value based integrated consumer engagement strategist. We are, actually, disrupting our own business model, while still continuing to sell partially integrated services, as a foundation that is daily converting into the new model. It is like changing the wheels of a car in motion.
Such a radical change in business approach required a change in brand positioning and communication. Our clients simply could not understand what we were doing with the old identity. The time for communication about g7’s new approach came right away.
AdH: What are the main changes and how were they decided?
For a few years now, the Romanian shopper engagement market is definitely ready for a disruption. The advent of technology, the increase in shopper sophistication, the steep increase in labor costs, all these factors coalesce into a perfect storm. One year and a half ago we knew that the former fragmented cost based field marketing approach was no longer a viable option. We either had to reinvent the field marketing we were doing or we saw no happy future ahead of us.
Such moments require radical change, they are a call to action. Of course, such change cannot be done overnight, we needed to maintain and encourage the safe and sound business elements we built during the previous years, but, at the same time, we had to steer the organization to make a leap forward.
So, we started to redesign our positioning from understanding how our clients’ shoppers live and experience differently, the sources and means they use to collect information for a buying decision, how they choose to change one brand for the other, how they choose to become loyal to a particular brand and all kinds of behavioral factors that give us access to valuable marketing insights. We use such ingredients in the strategic approach we conceive together with the brands we are working with. At the same time, we reorganized our company around this concept and we changed the way we approach clients and projects to be shopper-centric.
In this new approach of our services that starts from the human centric insights, we integrate our psychological and data analysis tools in order to create a customized brand connection strategy and complete it down the road with an exceptional deployment capability.
AdH: Please give us a description of every main department in your agency (grow, flow, arrow, know)
We provide integrated service for our clients, but every division has behind it a team with different areas of expertise that meets a different side of the brand engagement needs.
“Know” is the g7 division that searches for behavioral consumer insights and identifies the factors that can influence his decision-making. Our colleagues in the “Know” division will have answers for questions like “How does the shopper make the choice for a brand?” “When and where does he decide to choose it?” “How does he decide to switch from one brand to another?” “What earns and keeps his loyalty?”
They tailor a strategic and innovative approach of your brand’s consumer in a way that your brand becomes and remains personally relevant to the shopper.
“Arrow” is our creative division. Here fresh ideas go hand in hand with down to earth approaches and give birth to communication campaigns that meet brand’s needs in a fresh and creative way.
From in store samplings to brand events and all sorts of one-to-one interactions, “Flow” is the g7 division where one can find the interaction professionals who bring to life a flawless field execution and inspiring buying insights.
“Grow” is our salesforce division – a flexible field force that identifies commercial opportunities and ensures the brand’s flawless representation in retail.
These are 4 facets of the new g7, but the value proposition comes from an entirely integrated mix that suits best the brands’ engagement needs.
AdH: How did you choose the new name?
g7 is a simplified version of the former “Grup Șapte”. We were looking for a refreshed image and not for an entirely new name. We wanted to keep track of the strong roots that Grup Sapte created in the Romanian brand activation map, but at the same time we wanted to open new perspectives for the new, customized brand engagement services.
AdH: Tell us the meaning behind the new visual identity (why those fonts, the colors, etc).
We are one of the first Romanian agencies in our area of expertise, we go back 18 years. In the same time, we are very dynamic, we innovate and explore new territories in our industry, daily. Every new project for us releases a new innovative and creative potential. This is how we thought that vivid and bright colours, together with the simple, clean, contemporary font choices would best speak for our young, fresh and yet powerful and solid approach.
AdH: How long did all the rebranding process take?
If you are familiar with the “Cobbler’s Children Syndrome”, you know why sometimes agencies are not that efficient when they are taking care of their own image.
Our rebranding process took a few months, but it also contributed greatly to settling our new strategic approach. We had to formulate a clear vision for ourselves first in order to be able to communicate it genuinely.
AdH: What were the main actions in the agency following the rebranding announcement?
We started the communication internally at the beginning, but soon the new alignment process turned into a publicly known story, without clear delimitation between internal and external rebranding actions – the rebranding moment coincided with our main headquarter change, in Bucharest, when, together with an experienced designer, we created the interior vibe completely in line with our team’s daring and innovative spirits. This new place feels like home for us now.
From there on, we communicated it in internal events, bust most of the time by telling our new story to partners and our agency’s friends.
AdH: How has it impacted your employees?
The new business settlement, together with the rebranding process, have resonated positively and optimistically in g7. They brought a new wave of trust and generated an authentic team dynamic, oriented towards value creation, stable and durable business choices; it aligned us to a common vision – growing together on healthy business grounds and creating value for our partners.
AdH: What are your main hopes following the rebranding?
Branding must be a true and genuine representation of our DNA. We believe it will be able to send the messages of youth, of courageous and innovative explorers, of openness and authenticity.
AdH: How was 2016 for the agency and how is 2017 so far?
2016 was a year of strategic and team settlement. Now, that we have all the right and compatible teammates with us, value creation is a natural outcome for us. The previous year, as well as this year we generated growth not only in the business volume but, most importantly, in the quality of the strategic approach on behalf of our clients’ brand engagement projects.
AdH: What are your main goals for the next years?
We’ll sustain this growth pace in the following period as well. We want to develop furthermore on the value creation capabilities in the fully integrated consumer engagement activities, most probably at a larger scale.