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Retail Trend: The importance of differentiation through product in retail advertising

Sean Crawford, Client Development Director at Threefold comments on the latest news and trends within the world of retail.

Sean Crawford 3
Written by Sean Crawford on 04 Feb, 2019

As we move through 2019 and make progress on what’s left of our New Year’s Resolution (anyone else given in yet?!), can you recall any standout Christmas campaigns that ran at the end of last year?

One thing is for sure, you can bet most shoppers will struggle to recall any of the blockbuster campaigns that retailers splashed big bucks on.

Sure, there were successes; we all loved Iceland’s Greenpeace orangutan sensation and I’m sure many are hard placed to claim they have forgotten John Lewis’ annual outing, this time with Elton John and his piano.

We are a nation that loves a brand ad, especially the festive blockbusters. They serve a purpose, tugging on our heartstrings, driving brand affinity, increasing footfall and enabling social engagement. For retailers looking to connect to shoppers away from their store or web platform - when done well - is often money well spent.

However, the evidence shows that the retailer's that did well last year, combined strong brand building campaigns with differentiation through clear product offering.

In an internet age if we want a product badly enough, we can purchase and have it delivered in a matter of hours, through just a few clicks; it has therefore never been more important to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Why should shoppers pick retailer ‘x’ over retailer ‘y’?

By focusing on product, retailers can drive lust for that must-have item, driving differentiation from their competitors. From that outfit you didn’t even know you needed, to the latest tech innovation to homewares that mirror your Instagram feed; product marketing can drive footfall and desire in one.

The crucial aim here for any retailer is to tie the product into its brand narrative. Shoppers don’t want to be advertised to, they want to be affiliated to your brand voice and shop with you for a reason.

John Lewis did this effortlessly over Christmas, using the Elton John back catalogue to tie key gifting products to one of Elton’s hits. This was then seeded through the shopper journey, from press ads to digital display to in-store communications.

M&S too jumped on the bandwagon with ‘Holly’s Must Haves’, showcasing key statement fashion pieces which linked with ease into their wider brand partnership with the ITV star (who just happened to be presenting one of the seasons top rated entertainment shows at the time). M&S claimed that this was so successful they couldn’t keep up with demand.

And ensured they maximised the crucial Black Friday period, by deploying key product focused OOH ads around regional shopping centres, keeping the creative in line with their wider Christmas brand ATL campaign.

With M&S, and John Lewis posting better than expected trading results versus their competitors for the season, their brand / product marketing mix is arguably bearing dividends.

The year ahead therefore offers the opportunity for retailers and their supplier brands to differentiate their marketing through a product lens. Showcasing exclusives and must have items, coupled with your brand narrative, all offer margin rich opportunities no retailer should be turning down.

For those in control of retail and product marketing budgets, perhaps it’s not too late for that 2019 resolution?