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Advertising is starting in the wrong place

We all know shopper is important right? But why do so many brands get it wrong? The marketing landscape is changing beyond recognition, but there is one undeniable reality – if someone is going to buy a product, they have to go through a store or website to do it. And for us, that is the power of shopper.

Katie Min
Written by Katie Streeter Hurle on 16 Apr, 2019

You can’t walk round the marketing departments of major brands without hearing about the importance of shopper marketing. Phrases like ‘We must think about the shopper’, ‘We must bring this idea to life in store’, ‘How do we ensure that we get cut through at shelf?’, ‘How do we win in ecommerce?’ echo around the walls of most boardrooms across the industry.

And it’s no different for retailers either. The pace at which the retail landscape continues to change is unstoppable and what’s more, it’s accelerating rapidly. The number of ways for shoppers to transact is rising, store formats are changing, shopping missions and behaviour is fragmenting…getting the ecommerce ecosystem right is a never-ending stream of experimentation and the fight for marketing spend is nothing short of brutal. The importance of the shopping experience has never been more critical.

So, we get it. We all know shopper is important. Marketing to shoppers at the point in time where someone is about to decide what to put in their basket has got to be significant, right? In fact, nearly a decade ago, consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble decided that if a campaign didn’t work in the store, it simply wasn’t a good idea. They termed this thinking ‘Shelf-Back’. One of the important consequences was the elevation of shopper marketing to a role of creative gatekeeper – if you couldn’t explain the concept on a barker or within a banner, it just didn’t work hard enough and you needed to try again.

But why do so many companies still struggle to make this work?

Well, marketing used to be different. Ten years ago, it was our responsibility as marketers to create the desire for brands and then use advertising to reach as many relevant people as possible. The role of retail was to create availability, on the assumption that people went shopping with a pre-determined list of things they wanted to buy. The reality is we hardly shop like this now – we look to retailers for inspiration, reviews, guidance, and many of our choices are influenced by things we see and hear whilst we’re in shopping mode.

And practically, for many brands, ‘shopper’ (or ‘trade’) is the marketing misfit. Does it sit with sales or with marketing. Is it a commercial channel or a brand one? It also doesn’t always fit in with the ‘brand glamour’ that other marketing areas portray. As a result, it is often both the last to be thought about and the first to get the chop when circumstances change.

Although the truth might hurt a little for brands, no matter what they spend, not everyone will see their TV adverts, nor will everyone see their latest digital innovation.

The media landscape has changed beyond recognition – market fragmentation continues, the discussion for digital transparency is spiralling and the focus on return on investment from CFOs is more intense than ever before. But there is one undeniable reality - if someone is going to purchase a product, they will have to go through a store (online or in person), find it on shelf and ultimately put it in their basket.

At Threefold, we’re often asked how important ‘shopper’ or campaigns for retail are in the overall communications mix. The answer, in our minds, is simple. The store (whether it’s a physical store or a digital store) and, ultimately the shelf, are the single most important touch points on any consumer’s journey to purchase a brand. After all, it is the only touchpoint that everyone definitely can’t avoid.

Importantly, for the brands that get it right, every single other pound that they invest in marketing then becomes more efficient. It’s time for all brands to plan marketing activity starting from the other end of the funnel.