Beyond The Bump: Shopper Marketing That Creates A Lasting Bond

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, September 18, 2014

Ever since the term “shopper marketing” was coined more than 20 years ago, people working in our space have prided themselves on the accountability of the discipline. After all, shopper marketing was developed to drive the transaction — to “ring the register.” 

But is this really the right path? Or should the goal of shopper marketers be bigger? Like authentic shopper connection and sustainable profit for the long term? 

In a marketplace that cares about building brands, perhaps shopper marketing should do more than just deliver a one-time bump in sales. Maybe it’s high time that shopper marketing evolved to actually create a bond with shoppers — one that makes customers stick, or better yet, bond. 

Bump vs. Bond … What Do They Look Like?

It’s pretty easy to identify the traditional “bump” version of shopper marketing. It’s the old merchandising adage, “stack it high, let it fly,” or screaming deals that overshadow the brand being promoted. It’s coupons upon coupons with little storytelling or engagement.



Shopper marketing that bonds is equally easy to spot. Take a look around your local store (or email inbox or social media feed), and you’ll see programs that naturally attract you — that make you take notice, pay more attention, and relate to a brand on its merits.

Most of the programs that you remember as being “good shopper marketing” probably fall into the bond category — in part because you did remember them. A program that bonds is distinctive to the brand and its equity with an idea so ownable that no other brand could replicate it. Yes, it makes the sale but it also segues into a long-term relationship between shopper and brand.

Okay, Then Why Don’t More Companies Bond with Shoppers?

Ask around and most shopper marketers will tell you that they don’t really like “bump” marketing that just boosts sales in a tactical way. But many are addicted to the sales spikes that coupons, deals, and retail load-ins bring. When there’s pressure to anniversary year-over-year sales or to make your four-week numbers, the tactical “bump” approach becomes a quick and easy fix.

As more organizations begin to look at the long tail of shopper marketing results however, the limitations of “bump” and the virtues of “bond” become apparent.

We conducted research a few months ago that asked 1,001 shoppers to tell their story about the last time they changed brands — what motivated the switch and if they decided to stick with the brand for the long term. In essence, did they bond?

The people who were “sold” and stuck with their new brand made the switch for deep-rooted, intrinsic reasons, like recommendations or genuine belief that the new brand was better. Those who switched primarily based on some sort of marketing catalyst (like price or a promotional offer) were hit-and-miss on their loyalty. Many reverted back to their old ways quickly.

Bottom line: Bump marketing often just “rents the ring” instead of creating a lasting customer. What looks like a great result in the short term may not have the ROI of more strategic bond-building engagements with more sustainable sales.

It’s Time Shopper Marketing Moved Beyond the Bump 

If the marketplace results aren’t enough to convince you, consider this: According to a recent article in HUB magazine, 8 in 10 companies plan to increase their shopper-marketing spend in the coming year — and usually at the expense of traditional brand advertising.

While that stat is a great commentary on the effectiveness of shopper marketing, it also creates a new imperative: that shopper marketing carry a heavier burden for building brands and customer relationships. Companies can no longer use shopper marketing simply to bump their sales along, hoping that other parts of the marketing mix build equity.

The time has come for brands to move beyond the bump and create a lasting bond with shoppers. The marketplace is primed for this evolution. Will you embrace the change?

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