why Shopper Marketing is the logical starting point for integrated comms

There has been a lot of buzz recently about the resurgence of Shopper Marketing, a discipline focused on actually getting shoppers to buy product, versus the last decade’s focus on getting people to love brands.

Dilip Soman, author of new book The Last Mile said in a Campaign interview, “Most organisations tend to pay the least amounts of effort to the last mile and spend a disproportionately larger amount of effort on ‘first mile’ issues such as strategy, innovation and branding”.

But the tide is turning – presumably due to client demand, agencies are frantically starting or growing their own shopper marketing teams and I’ve recently seen a lot of client side job ads looking for specific Shopper expertise.  And we’re not just talking about knocking out shelf wobblers and sampling teams, Shopper now has a strategic role in brand communications and a strong voice at the inter-agency planning session.

Being based in Leeds, the UK’s Shopper Marketing hub (boasting five big shopper marketing agencies, all with client lists to kill for) I’ve done a lot of Planning for SP/PM/Shopper/whatever-they’re-calling-it-this-week and it’s a sector where Strategic Planning is needed as much, if not more than at the sexy-TV-brand-ads-and-global-positioning-statements level.

Because in that hour’s dash round the supermarket, ten minute whizz round the c-store or late night clickathon at Tesco.com or Ocado you have just a few seconds to influence behavior – assuming you can break through their autopilot usual shop.  So you had better come up with something pretty special, that builds on all the millions spent beforehand on brand comms but crucially provides the tipping point to actual behavior change and persuades our autopilot shopper to take a chance on something new or different.

The classic ‘start with the shopper’ case study is actually over a decade old – Sainsbury’s 2005 Try Something New Today campaign:

Client’s problem – in 2005, Sainsbury’s needed to increase sales by £2.5B over three years (and Jamie Oliver was under contract and seemed to work so had to be used)

Objective – get every shopper to spend £1.14 more every visit – and make them feel good about it!

Campaign – Try Something New Today

Crucially, this wasn’t just a TV campaign. Or a TV, radio, magazine and national press campaign. It was a mission built from the stores out (e.g. informed and motivated staff, promoted product sited in prime position with great availability) and integrated throughout the shopper’s journey instore with posters, recipe cards (200 million of them taken home in 12 months) and shelf talkers providing the final prompt to purchase.  Properly joining up communication created a halo effect that made everything more effective.

So why doesn’t everyone work this way? Take your pick from inter-agency politics, budget silos, inter-client politics, lack of joined up brand decision making and the need to kowtow to grocer’s financial demands for ‘supplier payments‘.  It’s tough to fight your way through all that.  But the next time a retail or FMCG client ask for a Big Idea, remember they probably really mean something that works in an integrated way from the sale backwards, not a campaign that can be translated to different media.  So you’re going to need a Shopper Marketing specialist. Want me to give you a few numbers to call?

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