Shopper marketing is growing fast, and now accounts for something like $60 billion in spending a year. And while leading CPG companies now employ as many as 20 people working in the discipline, and some have as many as 60, reports the Grocery Manufacturers Association, it’s still considered something of a redheaded stepchild. Tim O'Sullivan, recently tapped as managing director for North America for Labstore, Young & Rubicam’s shopper marketing network, fills Marketing Daily in on some of the industry’s important changes.
Q. What are the big trends shaping shopper marketing now?
A. An important trend is that manufacturers are shifting more responsibility and investment dollars away from where it traditionally was, with brand marketers—the ones who work on brand identity and consumer affinity—to people within shopper marketing side. Recently, for example, we had a client come to us after it had a very successful effort to drive incremental consumption, which included TV, and a big success on social media. It got people talking, and exceeded expectations. Then they analyzed it, and realized it had increased incremental sales by … zero. So there is this growing realization that a brand can have very high consumer awareness, and very high consumer affinity. But when that consumer becomes a shopper and she is in the store, she can still not select that brand. They were losing at conversion. Traditional media is important in brand awareness. But you’ve got to follow that through to make sure that when the target customer is in shopping mode, you’re in the competitive set she is considering.
Q. Are Millennials especially challenging?
A. Yes. They are really savvy as far as what they want to get in a purchase experience, even if they are not always savvy about cost. They think more about a purchase’s social impact. They are less influenced by advertising, and more by their circles. So if you are Tide detergent, how do you find and convert a Millennial who is buying a brand like Method? Many brands want to reach this shopper through mobile experiences, like Walmart’s Savings Catcher or Target’s Cartwheel, but those are just communicating price. And that isn’t the richer experience Millennials are looking for.
Q. Which brands are responding to this well?
A. Axe deodorant. We didn’t work on this, but Unilever recently partnered with Target and GQ Magazine, and it was very positive. It got Axe out of the deodorant aisle, and GQ out of the magazine aisle. The results were extremely positive. Method is another good example, because of the way it’s focused on the consumer experience. It knows Millennials respond to a different aesthetic.
Q. How about the challenges of the Hispanic marketing?
A. We are seeing a lot more interest in the Hispanic market, because everybody is trying to grow share in an economy that is ticking along in low-single digit growth, and Hispanics are a market that is growing disproportionately. But it’s easy to misunderstand. For example, people often say Hispanics enjoy shopping with their family. But we need to double-click there. She is more apt to have her family with her, but with family in tow, she is also less likely to shop for herself. And it’s less about language than people think, but understanding that some Hispanic customers are more likely to use canned tomato products for sauce, others for picadillo. You’re using the exact same products, but need to communicate in different ways.
Q. What are some other Hispanic shopping differences?
A. In beauty, non-Hispanic teens tend to come in to the category at an older age, and with their friends. Hispanics come into that category as younger teens, but they are shopping with their moms. It’s a very different experience.
Q. What’s your favorite shopper-marketing weird fact?
A. I’ve got two. One is that if you can get a shopper to open a candy bar in the checkout line, she’ll finish it in less than 60 seconds. And the other is about how tactile we are. If you introduce a product that is so innovative that it pushes the edge of believability, consumers will tear the package open to look at it, so you get a lot of damaged packages. That’s why marketers put windows in boxes.
Q. Wait. So when we’re incredulous, we tear packages open?
A. Yes! For example, when diapers were really getting more innovative and thinner all the time, shoppers would rip open the packages to look at them. Then they shoved them back in the package, and would buy an unopened box.