The latest results and warnings emanating from WPP shouldn’t really haven been a surprise to anyone, but, judging from the tumble taken by the share price, perhaps it was. A cut-back in advertising spend has been on the cards for a while, and while Unilever getting spooked by Kraft Heinz may have refocused that business on some of its excesses, they have purportedly been driving a zero-based budgeting approach for marketing for some time. But while it isn’t news, it is still a wake-up call to both brand-owners and agencies. Marketing is going to have to step up, pronto! Perhaps it is high time for a marketing revolution.
Marketing isn’t dead
First things first, this doesn’t mean that marketing is dead. And just because advertising is getting a bad rap, doesn’t mean that brands should divert their funds towards shopper marketing. All of the data we’ve gathered suggest that a lot of in-store expenditure suffers from the same problems. Poor return on investment, not enough evaluation, and, quite simply, too much generic activity. The problems that plague consumer marketing occur frequently in shopper marketing too.
The idea that cozying up to retailers with more joint working and category management also seems flawed. Too much trade investment is geared towards the needs of retailers, and historic trends. Channel and customer investment strategies are based on historic sales and investment rather than where the future may come.
What does this mean for marketing? We need a marketing revolution!
It means that, in the words of ex P&G CMO Jim Stengel, marketing is just a little “broken”: we are “applying antiquated thinking and work processes to a new world of possibilities”. What is required is the acknowledgment that winning consumer goods takes more than a cool brand and a big ad budget. It takes more than a cozy relationship with your major customers, too. We need to win, and win on three fronts.
- We need to win consumers hearts and minds, and win pragmatically, consumption occasion by consumption occasion.
- We need to win with our target shoppers: because if we fail there, then the consumer doesn’t get to experience our fabulous product. No matter how cool the ad was.
- We need to win with the retailers that matter: not yesterday, but in the future (and we can’t do this without really understanding how shopping is evolving.
And we can’t afford to win everywhere. We need to pick our battles. Which consumers do we need to win with, which shoppers, and which retailers, and retail channels?
We need, in short, a better way of marketing that begins to evaluate, to judge, and to look far beyond the siloed worlds of marketing and sales. Isn’t it time to bring a Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) approach to the whole of marketing, shopper, trade, category and retail? It is time for brands to see consumer marketing and shopper marketing as two equal parts of the marketing game, rather than seeing shopper marketing as just another way of dealing with retailers? Isn’t it time for a marketing revolution?
Why do we need a marketing revolution now?
And why does the industry need this now? Because the industry is under more pressure than ever before. Consumers and shoppers now have more choice than ever before. The old world of limited numbers of manufacturers selling more to fewer and fewer retailers seems to be over. Different shoppers are using different channels for different missions, and things are changing at an alarming rate. The one size fits all approach, always an approximation, simply doesn’t work. Investing in all consumers and shoppers across all channels is, it appears, simply un-affordable. The demands on marketing and sales expenditure are growing faster than the sales that they bring. More of the same is unlikely to work, so a marketing revolution is required.
Yes, some of the answer lies in improving shopper experience (but that doesn’t always mean what you think it means). It also means improving the consumption experience too. It means transforming the way we think about consumers and shoppers and retailers: and asks us to think through all of these things simultaneously, in an integrated manner. Maybe it’s time to rip the organization chart up and start again with something quite different – something that enables a customer-centric view of the world (three customers) – rather than the fragmented view many organization currently have.
It’s time to take a new look at how brands are marketed, and how brands can make effective investments across consumers, shoppers and retailers. If you’d like to know how to implement these changes in your organization, please get in touch, or pick up a copy of The Shopper Marketing Revolution.
We’re in for a bumpy ride, no question about it. Are you ready?