Women Who Inspire Us in 2014: Q&A with Alicia Beachley from April5

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Hillary Clinton said “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.” and how profound, particularly with the innovative women that inspire us like Alicia Beachley, CEO of April5.

A pioneer in the brand activation field, Alicia forged her career in the then-emerging discipline more than 16 years ago, when she established the integrated promotional marketing division at one of Australia’s largest PR agencies, Hausmann Communications, in 1998.

With a successful career in below the line agencies integrating promotional and experiential marketing, and seeing it entrenched as a key component in the marketing mix, Alicia formed her own boutique agency in 2007 to continue to specialise in this area. April5 is an independent, specialised agency that creates campaigns that drive consumer action. They activate ideas that change behaviour to create measurable results.

Alicia has over 20 years industry experience and a strong stable of clients including household names like RAMS Home Loans, NBN Co., Nokia, Pilot Pens, P&O, Coty and Calvin Klein.

We are pleased to share with you our Q&A with Alicia, where we discuss the attributes of leadership, the methodology of marketing and branding, the importance of mentorship, and the fundamentals of becoming successful.

You are a respected and active leader in your field. What do you feel are the most important attributes in becoming a leader?

Patience, confidence, collaboration and strength. It is also important to be consistently true to who you are and to never compromise your values.

After 15 years in the promotional marketing industry, you noticed a niche that required specialisation. How did you manage the transition from leaving a secure job to becoming an entrepreneur?

I built the agency slowly the way I wanted to, doing the work I was passionate about and concentrating on the things I knew I was good at.  Whilst it was daunting to leave the security of a full time position in a large established agency, I knew the time was right for me to branch out on my own and I guess you could say that I took a considered leap of faith. I was confident that I could make it work and I also had incredible support from my husband, which definitely helped in the transition period.

April5 focuses on brand activation, what would be your top five tips for businesses to activate their brand?

This is probably a good time to give a brief definition of brand activation. Brand Activation is a marketing discipline, and is a relatively new term in the industry. Brand Activation campaigns turn ideas into actions and engage with consumers. In simple terms, the key aim of these sorts of campaigns is to get consumers to act. It’s about bringing brands to life via experiences and forming long-term emotional connections.

My top 5 Dos and Don’ts for businesses are:

  1. Brand Activation should be considered as a vital part of the overall marketing approach, or marketing mix, and not a standalone discipline. With this in mind, it is important that the resources and budget are in place from the start in order to meet objectives and ensure the best results.
  2. Campaigns may need to be tweaked or changed to suit market conditions and due to this testing is a great way to sound out a campaign before a national rollout.
  3. Consider all the options available to you within the Brand Activation space and work out which is the best option for your brand and budget, and most importantly which tactic will get you the best return on investment based on the campaign objectives.
  4. Get a great agency to help you! There are specialist Brand Activation agencies that are experts in this space and are dedicated to creating campaigns that deliver on brand objectives.
  5. It’s not all about sales. Brand Activation campaigns can generate trial, awareness, brand switching and brand loyalty. It’s all about employing the right tactics.

Why do you feel businesses should incorporate the methodology of careful and marketable branding?

Brand is everything. They take a long time to establish and can be easily and quickly destroyed. That is why when it comes to all marketing activities, including Brand Activation, a considered and strategic approach should always be taken. That way your brand or business can reap the numerous rewards that come from successful Brand activation campaigns.

Conducting a Brand Activation campaign that is not aligned with brand strategy and doesn’t stem from a brand insight should always be avoided.

To activate a campaign successfully, you need a mix of the following elements: insight, budget, concept, consumer interest, promotional support, sufficient time in market, eye catching creative and, an important point to consider from the outset, a brand that will respond well to Brand Activation. The right mix is critical to campaign success. If the creative is not captivating, the prize not aspirational, the campaign not promoted or the promotion not given enough time in market, etc., the Brand Activation campaign may not meet the objectives set at the outset. There really is a science behind getting the formula correct.

For startup businesses, what do you feel are the integral elements of becoming successful?

Admitting you can’t do everything and having great advisors and mentors that have the same values as you and believe in your goals and vision.

Following on from the previous question, what do you feel are the fundamentals for becoming a leader within a specialised field?

Thought leadership, being an authority on your industry or field of specialisation through contributing to blogs and relevant social media platforms, providing opinion pieces to key target media, stimulating discussions, speaking at conferences, judging industry awards, participating in industry bodies and generally championing the area in which you work.

Congratulations! You have recently been asked to accompany an elite group of industry experts on an Australian-first concept called ‘Legends & Leaders’.  What is Legends & Leaders and what are the benefits from a program like this?

Legends & Leaders is an Australian-first concept designed to provide marketers with valuable insights to deliver more effective client and agency relationships across all disciplines.

Founded by Adrianne Nixon, more than 90 of Australia’s leading industry experts have joined the Legends & Leaders roster, including myself.

The program offers 20 modules built around individual disciplines including brand activation, digital, innovation, finance, DM/data, strategy/planning, inter-agency relationships, media, public relations, research, account management, creative and shopper marketing. I will be providing mentoring and advice around brand activation.

I am excited about being part of this forward thinking program, designed to share knowledge and unlock new opportunities while helping to enhance client/agency relationships and improve business results.

Why do you feel mentorship is important for people on a professional and personal level?

Mentorship has always been very important to me and the mentors I have been fortunate enough to be involved with have enhanced both my professional and personal life. When looking for a mentor I think it is important to find someone who shares your values but who isn’t afraid to push you out of your comfort zone in order to help you achieve your goals. I believe that mentoring provides value across all stages of people’s lives, whether it be for industry up-and-comers through programs like Young Stars run by the Australasian Promotional Marketing Association (APMA), the peak industry body for promotional marketing and brand activation agencies in Australia and New Zealand, or mentoring more experienced professionals as with Legends & Leaders.

What is your five year plan for April5 and what steps will you take to achieve them?

My five year plan for April5 is centred on growth – sustainable exciting growth. To achieve this, my strategy is twofold. I am dedicated to continuing to retain the agency’s existing clients of whom many of them are long-term relationships, which we pride ourselves on, and also focus on new business strategies in order to secure new clients. My team and I are committed to delivering exceptional work and evolving the business in line with our client’s marketing and business objectives.

What have been your major milestones with your career, business and personal life?

Starting April5 and driving year-on-year exponential growth for the business are most definitely the highlights of my career and business life to date. Having served on the executive committee of the Australasian Promotional Marketing Association (APMA), the peak industry body for promotional marketing and brand activation agencies in Australia and New Zealand, for more than 10 years, has also played a major role in my career.

While not milestones as such, my involvement as a committee member for the Special Olympics and as a member of the advisory board for the First Seeds Fund, a philanthropic fund dedicated to supporting the needs of women and children through education and employment, has brought me much satisfaction on a personal level.

My husband and my two boys are what I am most proud of in my personal life.

Is there one piece of advice that is a standout you can share with us that made an impact of your professional and personal life?

Be proudly who you are and don’t accept mediocre.

Please share with us your top three books that have offered you inspiration:

The Art of Happiness
Simplify Structure Succeed
More Money for Shoes