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Are We Embracing Shopper Marketing?
Jenny Myers

I was asked the other day whilst on a new business call if I could give an example of a company that has implemented a really good shopper marketing campaign. In a moment where I really needed to sell my discipline to this potential lead I struggled to actually think of any recent activity (that we haven’t done obviously!) that has really impressed me and addressed shopper marketing principles. So, my answer was, in truth I don’t think there is any.

But the potential is enormous!

Together with a number of articles that I have read by distinguished shopper marketing professionals, I am beginning to wonder if we as an industry are really embracing the potential of shopper marketing, or in fact we are merely just paying homage to it because business owners feel that they should address it to be ‘with the times’.

Having worked in this discipline for over 7 years, I have banged the ‘shopper marketing’ drum with unwavering passion and I truly do believe that this is a discipline which if activated correctly could help to turn corners for a lot of brands. So, why can I not provide an example of best in class shopper activation?

This is probably a good point to note, that as Head of Shopper for a marketing agency I am not trying to write myself out of a job! Here at Multiply we have worked on numerous shopper campaigns which have successfully come to fruition and have changed the category landscape. We have also proposed strategies and campaigns to brands that have the potential to be extremely strong shopper campaigns but are then diluted down to a shelf barker with an image of the product on (p.s. I never understood this - the product is on the shelf above!!!) which is always a sad day and perhaps the source of my frustration...

But anyway…..

A lot of you at this point will be asking ‘Are we referring to shopper as in store activation or something more holistic in nature’? It is both which tends to lead to an ambiguous discipline definition. The overarching principle of shopper needs to be a cultural shift in marketing that should be recognised more importantly by many large FMCG manufacturers, but ultimately we are really trying to influence that shopper to make a purchase. With the first moment of truth generally being in store for FMCG products, this is where the confusion can creep in.

Many moons ago when I was studying marketing, we questioned the decision for companies to be manufacturing or marketing led. In recent times this has changed and I now see a battle between brand and shopper led marketing. Both of which have important and relevant places and perhaps this is where companies are not quite embracing the two together. This may be the reason why I still don’t see good shopper marketing being realised by large brands.

I repeatedly meet Shopper Marketing Managers who solely seem to be responsible for just producing POS. This role is so much more integral to a business than just tactical production. It should involve insight gathering and working with all departments to develop strategic plans that not only complement a JBP, but drive sales out of a promotional period. Whilst also making sure that the touchpoints being utilised are the most engaging and influential to drive purchase behaviour change.

Secondly, we have the barriers of the retailers. The in store environment is still messy. From a brand perspective no thought seems to be assigned to sign posting to direct shopshoppers, front of store and feature and display space is not adequately showcased and outdoor media stands alone in the hope that this expensive media will be enough to influence shoppers.

Since retailers have worked so hard on being their own brand they aren’t particularly interested in pushing other brands (particularly in their POS design!) unless it is going to help them to sell more in that specific category. So other solutions need to be identified. Due to this, shopper marketing professionals in my opinion become more of an extension of category management than brand management, but they definitely do not stand alone producing POS designs that seem to be brand led (usually from a global above the line proposition!).

So, what do we need to do to make this change? Brands need to recognise the importance of shopper marketing and not put it in the corner like the naughty school kid that no one really understands. It is reminiscent of digital marketing about 10 years ago. Everyone thought it was a dark art and that the only people who worked in it were ‘technical geeks’ but the world is now balanced on a digital pedestal and this discipline is now given the kudos it requires.
Perhaps shopper marketing will get to this point too. Retailers and brands need to understand how they can help each other – ultimately good shopper marketing is a win win for both. Sales increase for brands and category growth for retailers, what an ideal world that would be!

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