Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

The Political Shopper Marketer

with 4 comments

I recently wrote about the characteristics of a great shopper marketer: many agreed that a shopper marketer required a number of great qualities: flexible, analytical, strategic and operational, peace envoy, negotiator and pioneer. But I think I might have missed one: politician.

Politics in organizations gets a bad rap: and those that use it excessively or exclusively deserve it. But a little political awareness goes a long way, and in a shopper marketing role, often stuck between marketers and sales teams and battling for dollars and voice, these skills can make a huge difference. I will illustrate it based on a simple example that was recently brought to my attention.

So as a shopper marketer, you have finally cracked your first research budget. Maybe it’s not huge but after living hand to mouth you finally have it. It might be tempting to think that the battle is now won: shopper marketing is now being taken seriously, and a seat at the top table (or at least being told what is going on) is just a short step away.

But before you move on, there are a couple of watch-outs and pitfalls that researchers (shopper or otherwise) have seen time and time again. Address these in the wrong way and this may also be the last shopper research budget you get.

Shopper Marketing PoliticsHow to survive organizational  politics as a shopper marketer (without being overtly political)

Who are you up against?

Know thy enemy’ is the first rule of politics, war, and surviving in a company, especially in shopper marketing. Who is for, who is against? In my experience there are three factors to consider.

  • Who will have the biggest say: who has the existing political power. Who will make the final decision?
  • Who stands to lose most? Where did the budget come from in the first place? Is there a frustrated marketing director who has seen his marketing spend slashed over the last five years as money slipped into shopper, and now he sees his research budget slipping too?
  • Who is a pioneer, who is the luddite. Every organization has both. Yours does too.

Are people prepared to listen to the message?

As a consultant, it is frustrating when a client doesn’t act on our recommendations: as a marketer to have your research ignored is even worse. If the research is only being done to provide a crutch to a decision that has already been made: don’t do it. Unless you, your manager, and anyone else with influence is prepared to change their mind and act differently because of your research, don’t do it. If the business is prepared to make the wrong decision, be wrong for free! Save your precious research budget for a situation where the recommendations would be implemented regardless. If the big boss in your business would say “well, that’s all very well, but I don’t believe it” – then save your money, and your blood pressure!

Are they prepared to act?

Even if the conclusions of the report are accepted, there is a long way to go before the shopper marketing team is basking in glory. Will the company spend money on it? Will the retailer do it? Will it be prioritized over everything else that needs to be done? Great legislation is left on the shelf all the time: not because it’s a bad idea, but because there is no political will to make it happen. We find the best way to address this is to construct meaningful hypotheses: statements of what you believe or do not believe (that the research will test). The hypotheses help paint a picture of what are the implications of the research outcomes. This allows a pre-positioning to stake-holders (“if we needed to do this, how might we do it”). Further by understanding more specifically what would need to be done, hypotheses help the examination of precedents which can give both ammunition (“we’ve done it before”) and a judgment of the scale of the barriers the shopper marketer faces (“we’ve never done anything like this before”).

Is the force with you?

Yes politics is a messy soup of factors which are sometimes difficult to read, but the best tool to cut cleanly through the fog is a light sabre forged of money. Fiscal returns are a language that everyone understands and everyone should respond to. With a reasonable understanding of the qualitative factors standing in your way, and a superior ROI, then actually turning your research into action, then returns, is the best weapon you can have.

I’d love to have a corporate world where politics isn’t a factor, but it hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t. All organizations are political, and therefore being politically astute helps in any role, but it is even more critical in shopper marketing. Typically shopper marketers lack scale, track record, and possibly internal networks: where shopper marketing is new it represents change, and most humans fear change and (despite complaining about it) are quite wedded to the status quo. Be a fabulous practitioner by all means, and never rely on politics: but never ignore it either. 


Written by Mike Anthony

February 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Mike, glad you brought this article up. Nice thoughts and seems like you have quite an experience on the subject 🙂

    I found office politics is not only necessary in C-levels but also we in the middle rank of company need to have the same approach to the lower level in the company down to the supporting level, since the success of our project were also determined by the support from people across level in the organization


    February 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    • Hi Mario,
      Thanks – and completely agree. When I wrote this I was very much thinking about more junior members of the team – or at least less experienced ones – just as much as the guys at the top!

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      February 1, 2013 at 4:34 pm

  2. “Fiscal returns are a language that everyone understands and everyone should respond to. With a reasonable understanding of the qualitative factors standing in your way, and a superior ROI, then actually turning your research into action, then returns, is the best weapon you can have.” – Exactly what I was telling a group of people last week…hahaha… GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE …. feel so blessed having learnt so much from you! 🙂


    February 2, 2013 at 10:34 am

    • Hi Rananchai,

      Thanks so much – great to hear from you. It’s not always a perfect recipe, but it’s the best one I’ve found to date!
      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      February 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm

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