Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

Marketing Isn’t Dead

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he's aliveThere have been a recent slew of articles proposing the death of marketing, and each of them using that dramatic headline to propose (typically) a need for marketing to evolve to something (and I’ll paraphrase here) more ‘engaging’.

This isn’t new – the concept of CRM is hardly fresh, and re-hashing these arguments from a social marketing point of view is interesting but I’m not sure how far it moves us forward. The big challenge in my mind is a big “really?” Of the plethora of brands I use on a regular basis, there are a very select few that I actually want to ‘engage’ with. Does this mean that that there is no marketing opportunity for the myriad other brands I use? I would argue no.

Enter Mitch Joel, with his rather excellent article “Great Marketing Is Utilitarian” for the Harvard Business Review. Mitch’s take of the ‘engaging’ question is erudite (“Do you really want to “engage” with your grocery store? No. You want to get your food and go home”) – nice one Mitch!

Mitch goes on to argue that marketing needs to be useful: and he uses the example of an in-store navigation app (which is where he tweaked my shopper marketing interest) which helps shoppers find those troublesome items that can’t be found. Very utilitarian, but it is not that which makes it stand out – it is that it adds value to the target (in this case) shopper. 

This is nothing new. Marketing isn’t dead. It may have been in a coma, but it just needs a little resuscitating. Every claim to a new dawn is actually a re-articulation of what has gone before. Great marketing has always been about understanding the value points of the target market and then delivering on those with excellence and precision. For some that is an app to help them find their way around a store. For other shoppers it is information to help them make an informed decision, delivered exactly where they need it. For others it’s a play area that keeps the kids happy and yes, for some, it is the knowledge, comfort and security that the brand really does understand them, and is trying to help in any way it can.

“Value” for shoppers can come in many shapes and sizes, but ultimately either it will be a solution to a particular consumption need, or an improvement or unblocking of the shopping journey. Much has been written on the idea of ‘shopper solutions’, including the most recent  from GMA, booze & co and Shopper Sciences – whereby merchandising or promotional deals across a number of products cut to the chase by offering the shopper a ‘solution’ – a meal or a fancy new dessert.

However as I argue here (Shopper Solutions Is That It?) – there is more to shopper marketing than that. Making a shelf easier to shop: clearly differentiating between segments, easing navigation or just managing availability so that the product is always in stock – all add value to shoppers (and potentially retailers and manufacturers), but would not be classed by Booz as “shopper solutions”.

Shopper marketing activity may sometimes be rather dull or utilitarian or more fancy shopper solutions – but great shopper marketing will always add value to the shopper. How well do you know what your different target shoppers value? All marketing is marketing and shopper marketing is no exception. Perhaps shopper marketing skews towards utilitarianism, perhaps not: but if, as shopper marketers, we strive to understand who our target shoppers are and what they are trying to achieve, then find ways to add value in any way we can, then I believe we are on the right track.


Written by Mike Anthony

January 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm

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