This blog is a little different, and is prompted by an interview by Toby Desforges with Jennifer Hale of Coca-Cola from the end of last year. I know you’ve read (or seen and skimmed over!) a hundred blogs with New Year resolutions and predictions, but here is one that is different. I’m going to challenge everyone out there in the world of shopper marketing (and in the broader world of retail and consumer goods in general) to do one thing differently in 2018. If you want shopper marketing success in 2018 you have to be brave, and take a couple of risks.
The interview is a great read, and Jennifer delivers some fabulous perspectives on the state of shopper marketing. And there was one line in it that really resonated with me – that (especially when you or your team is getting going in shopper marketing) it is necessary to take a few risks. Now before everyone rushes off to try career-ending experiments at retail, let me just qualify that. What do I mean by shopper marketers taking more risks, and why is it important?
Why we need brave shopper marketing? The shopper marketing status quo isn’t pretty
Why is there a need for shopper marketers to be brave? Because the alternative is more of the same, which is just a little bit scary. Stores full of bigger and bigger discounts, retailers fighting with price cuts funded by brands, boring shelves… Need I go on? The alternative: insight-fueled, shopper-centric experiences – is desired by most, but isn’t going to happen by taking the easy path. If shopper marketers (like too many I meet) continue to have their days and weeks filled by managing promotions and deals, then the future is indeed bleak.
Shopper marketing success despite data deficits
Decades after companies first started conducting shopper research, there are still many businesses out there that have yet to take the plunge to conduct bespoke studies of their own. Still more who don’t have shopper panel data. And these are not always small companies either. Some divisions of some of the largest consumer goods companies still struggle on with little or no meaningful shopper data. So shopper marketers will have to make things happen without always having all of the data at hand. Consumer marketing teams seemingly have history on their side – years of research, years of practice, and (occasionally!), years of measurement. It stands to reason that sometimes shopper marketing teams need to behave like the start-up in the business, and take a few more risks. Many shopper marketers will need to make decisions without the comfort blanket that data gives. If we wait until we ‘know’, we will be waiting a long time, so make sensible decisions about what data, knowledge and insight is ‘enough’.
Shopper marketing success comes from listening to all of the stakeholders
Jennifer makes this point really well: “Our role as shopper marketers is to take what’s important to everybody and figure out a way to bring it all together so that it impacts the business and recruits shoppers”. That is no mean feat! It requires having conversations with parties that you may not speak with right now. It means going to talk to people to tell them things they might not want to hear. It is about being able to rise above an individual party’s needs and look for a solution which will really deliver for shoppers.
Shopper marketers need to challenge the status quo
And because other teams’ behaviors may be more ingrained, and limited by paradigms, it’s important for shopper marketers to be prepared to challenge that status quo. If we accept that what got us here isn’t going to get us where we want to get to, then shopper marketers have a unique opportunity, viewing the world through a different lens, to bring a new perspective to the business. That will mean challenging current paradigms and beliefs, challenging authority, and yes, being brave.
Shopper marketers need to challenge retailers too
And to ensure that it is clear, this point extends beyond the walls of the organization too. Retailer’s are often dismissive of new ideas, but without them, there is a danger of shopper marketing teams getting trapped in the endless cycle of tactics and promotions that is so damaging to many of our brands. Shopper marketers need to bring new things to the market, and while retailers control much of the shopper interface, that means there is a need for retailers to change too.
Challenge your boss (and your bosses boss!)
You can’t start a shopper marketing revolution all on your own. Shopper marketing teams hampered by a lack of research and data, crippled by heavy workloads, and viewed as second-class citizens by the rest of the business will struggle to achieve long term shopper marketing success. Successful shopper marketing requires a Total Marketing approach, and the benefits won’t be fully realized if the changes that revolution brings are confined to the shopper marketing silo. Use successes from previous brave moves, demonstrate the power of insights, connect with companies like engage to help with case studies which demonstrate what a fully enables shopper marketing approach can make. Don’t expect a revolution overnight, but we have to start somewhere!
Mitigate risk and learn from mistakes
If risks are taken, then it must be assumed that mistakes are going to be made. So how should a shopper marketer prepare for this? First up, be honest. Make sure that everyone is clear what the risk is, what the assumptions are, and what they are based on. Utilize all the data, information and experience you can get your hands on to ensure that risks being taken are sensible, and are mitigated wherever possible. And finally, make sure you measure. A mistake which leads to new understanding is high value. A mistake which leads to no learning has no value at all.
To be clear I am not advocating that shopper marketers should throw caution to the wind, turn business practice upside down, challenge the Marketing Director to a duel to the death, and tell the head of buying at the biggest retailer exactly what you think of him. Even the most data-starved shopper marketers have access to some data or information. They (should) have access to evaluations of activity. They can find surprisingly large amounts of shopper information buried in consumer marketing reports. And they can spend time in stores. Make sensible decisions. Find small wins to build credibility. But push the boundaries a little each time. Be brave.
Go on. Make 2018 the year that shopper marketing really began to make traction in your business. And if you need any help in making that dream a reality, come visit www.engageconsultants.com – we’re here to help!