Posts Tagged ‘Shopper Marketing’

[This essay ran in the UK journal “Contagious” in 2009, in a somewhat shorter form. It appears here at it’s original length, for the first time.]

Here’s how it used to work:

We’d do an ad. It would drive a consumer to a store. The consumer would buy the product in the store. End of story. The consumer was happy, the store was happy, the client was happy, and most of all, we were happy.

But here’s how it works now:

The consumer does not go to the store, because they think they’re going to lose their job so they’re cutting down on spending. So the store orders less because they don’t want to spend money on stuff that’s just gonna go bad on their shelves. So the “stuff makers” (read: our clients) produce less because there’s less demand. And because they’re selling less stuff, they cut their advertising budgets (why spend more to sell less?). And because there’s less money in the advertising budget, we lay off people, too. Which doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot to encourage any of us to go to the store and buy more stuff – and thus the whole cycle repeats endlessly until the snake swallows it’s own tail and would the last person left please turn off the lights before he leaves?

But maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way round. Perhaps the desperate times we’re in mean we need to turn the equation upside down. Perhaps we should start thinking of our job as ways to drive consumers to stores. As people who generate value at the store level.

Any brand that creates marketing programs which create real value for the retailer – that make his store more exciting, more memorable, more unique, more special – that literally drive people to his store (as a destination, as opposed to “a place where a bunch of my product happens to be”) will not merely survive in this crummy economy. They will create a relationship that will pay big dividends when the recession ends and we go back to worrying about other things than losing our jobs.

Some may say that agencies are already doing these things. Sales Promotion, Advertising, Event-Marketing, Shopper-Marketing. And while this way of thinking uses elements from each of these disciplines, it is important to understand how it does not as well.

Sales promotions is commonly defined as being about that last five feet of the sale – when the consumer is already in the store, at the shelf, with the money in his hand, ready to spend. But here’s the thing; consumers aren’t in the stores these days. As a result, many promotions can’t even get started, let alone work their magic.

Advertising, in this context, could be defined as the “first five feet of the sale”. When people are in their homes or on the streets or even quaintly listening to the radio. On the one hand, this makes advertising a perfect tactic for driving people to retail. On the other hand, traditionally, clients feel that since they’re the ones spending the money, every last penny of the messaging ought to be about them. Rare is the advertiser who will part with any fraction of that money for someone else’s message. And when they do, it’s usually some sort of tag at the end that lists a half dozen logos that theoretically stock them. That’s not making the store special – to the consumer or the retailer.

Events pose a different challenge. Because traditionally event marketing has been focused on going to where people were and creating buzz and excitement there, confident that consumers would then go where ever they were bidden. But now they must convince their clients to stage something exciting at the actual retail environment. In other words, going where the people are not, in an effort to draw them in. Trading in the specs of Vanderbilt Hall for the parking lot at Safeway.

And lastly, Shopper Marketing, which is, by and large, about leveraging and maximizing existing shopping patterns and habits of consumers when they’re in the store. The fact that they’re not in the store right now means shopper marketing has to use all that tremendous data and insight in a new way. One that applies those behavioural observations to what happens outside the walls of the retailer.

It sounds somewhat disparate and chaotic, and it is. But here’s a unifying thought. In good times, a brand’s story is usually not about itself, it’s about what the consumer needs or wants – and how the brand fulfills that need or want. In times like these, the brand’s needs are uniquely aligned with the retailer’s – how do we get people back in the store. And the brands that can fulfill that need today, are the ones that will be around to fight again tomorrow.


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