Two decades on, the agency is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Not only has the agency remained relevant & a renowned leader in its category, but it continues to help brands find new and creative ways to stay ahead & cut through the clutter in an ever-changing retail landscape.
“MEAs philosophy has always centred on ‘bringing brands to life through the use of people’ and that remains true today. “This ethos is the heritage of the agency and something we’ll continue to always try to do brilliantly.
We create brand experiences through creative design, production development and the execution of experiential, which requires the right kind of people.”
It’s about ensuring a clear point of difference in the marketplace,” explains Kaleel. “We disrupt the customer’s journey in positive ways to steer them to the point of purchase, not just into the category where a sale can be lost to a competitor brand.
Passionate about people
Kaleel says, “When we recruit the focus always remains on the conversation around the in-store consultation, creating dialogue through open ended questions that builds trust between customer and consultant, understanding the customer’s needs and not being afraid to ask for that sale.
“There’s more and more pressure today on the recruitment piece; with experience and a proven track record now being a crucial part of the selection process, with clients insistent on the need for BA’s that can hit the ground running.”
Clients often ask Kaleel where he finds his amazing talent pool of people to which he explains that having been in business for 20+ years now has enabled MEA to build up a reputation, both in the local Australian market and overseas, where a lot of potential candidates come to MEA via word of mouth from within the beauty and FMCG industry. Having said that, MEA still receives hundreds of resumes a week purely on this one fact!
When recruiting beauty staff, Kaleel looks for people who potentially want a career, not just a job. He says, “It’s this one simple question if answered honestly and correctly can reduce the time required to sift through hundreds of resumes to finding the needles in the haystack so to speak. We can teach anyone to do the job but their attitude and cultural fit are the two things that become the deal breaker.
“I’m always looking for the X factor. Like each person’s fingerprint or DNA that makes them unique; it’s the key difference, it’s what is going to make them stand out from everyone else around them in store.
“A brand’s core asset is its people; it doesn’t matter how creative or wonderful an experiential zone or pop up store we’re bumping into a shopping centre might look like, if the staff working it are substandard, then that will be the experience & perception the customer walks away with regardless of how big the brand is.”
The customer service experience
Kaleel says, “The heartland of our business is ultimately about driving sales for clients; everything we do has a productivity target to measure the return on investment.
We have the ability to be able to get brands into the hands of a shopper who may then make a purchase. There are few marketing channels where you can ask for a sale at the point of connection. The driver of everything we do is the ability to ask for the sale in such a way that the customer will not only buy once off, but remain a loyal customer to both BA & brand. This is built on trust & loyalty by customer in the sales consultant.
“What is it that drives an impulse purchase? It’s the merchandising, point of sale and ultimately the retail consultant. Amazing customer service is about building a rapport that leaves a lasting impression on the shopper believing ‘they will potentially have the customer always wanting to come back to them as their service was a standout’.
“Great customer service is about not being pushy. Customers today have heard and seen it all before. Having that genuine smile on your face along with direct eye contact, & creating genuine dialogue in a flowing way, is first steps to making the customer feel like they’re the most important thing at the time,” Kaleel says.
There’s no denying technology has changed the way we shop. Nowadays we can browse a multitude of stores all from the comfort of our armchair. Yet Kaleel stresses that online shopping can’t offer the desirable one-on-one experience that in-store retail can.
“The rise of online retail has actually thrown the spotlight back onto the attributes of today’s customer service consultant. We’ve experienced growth in the need for great BA’s and I believe the customer if we are talking the beauty category, will still prefer going into store if the quality of the consultative approach is nothing short of excellent.
“It’s been an amazing 20-year ride,” notes Kaleel. “We’ve contended with the GFC and the massive popularity in online shopping but this has simply challenged us to think outside the square, to focus more on the finer attributes when recruiting that delves down to delivering amazing customer service and making sure our eye always remains on loyalty.”
As MEA marks 20 years in business it has moved into brand new premises also—an indication itself of exciting changes ahead. The new office, which resides in an early 1900s eight-storey Federation warehouse-style building right next to Pitt St Mall, offers the ideal creative space & an abundance of natural light for all at MEA to begin the next chapter.
“Alongside appointing a new MD Nigel Hickey, we’ve appointed a new senior manager with Account Director Emma Mumford (ex-Havas WW) and Retail Regional Manager Liz Ho (ex-Myer Sydney City) and this will bring a new energy into the business,” says Kaleel.
Our elevator statement has evolved too, “Bringing brands to life through the use of People Activation, Comms” to better represent who we are today.
“The continued working relationships we’ve enjoyed with our clients, many of whom have been with us for more than 15 years, will continue to come down to delivery, being proactive, innovative, understanding the industry, and delivering on ROI.
One thing that will not change is our passion for what we have always done, and will continue to do, in our ever pursuit of flawless execution as the face of our clients brands.