Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

Shopper Marketing Is A Team Sport – What Position Does Everyone Need To Play?

with 20 comments

soccer-tactics-diagramIn my last post I referenced The Hub’s latest survey on the state of shopper marketing and this created a fair amount of discussion around where shopper marketing was, and what needs to happen to move it forward.  There were a couple of questions about what it takes to create ‘real shopper marketing’ – which is the topic of this post, but before I do that I’d like to just remind everyone of why a strategic approach to shopper marketing might be worth pursuing.

Shopper Marketing, done correctly, delivers massive value. Chris Hoyt of Hoyt & Co suggests that a strategic approach to shopper marketing can deliver ROIs of over 2.5, compared to a more tactical shopper approach barely breaking even – better than plain old trade promotions but nowhere near what a strategic shopper marketing approach may deliver.

Creating a strategic shopper marketing approach requires many things and there are many factors to consider. Whilst covering all of these lies beyond the scope of one blog post one thing is clear – making shopper marketing work requires the cooperation of more than just the shopper marketers themselves. Shopper marketing truly is a team sport – so who do you need on your team, and what positions must they play?

In this I am going to make gross generalizations, and be critical. I do this based on experience, and included in that is experience of being a Marketing Director, being a Sales Director, and being a CEO – I’ve been there, and I’ve made the mistakes, and if I had a time machine and could go back and do it all again…..

In the game of shopper marketing, if  (and forgive me attempting a soccer analogy that I will almost certainly stretch far beyond the point of snapping), the Shopper Marketer is the midfield general (or for my American friends, the quarterback) who calls the shots, I’ve already described the characteristics of this key player in the middle of the park.

To win at the game of shopper marketing, shopper marketers need consumer marketing on their team. Sometimes marketers seem to want to stand on the sidelines, be the strategists and see any game with shopper or retail in its title as tactical. Marketers – if you are on the team you need to be on the pitch, and that means you might get a little muddy. That’s OK. It washes off.

Teams play together, and win together. Marketers need to step up and to embrace accountability, and that means ROI. In the world of consumer goods there is no ROI until someone buys the product and that means shopping (and by the way there is no consumption without purchase either!). Marketers cannot achieve ROI without shoppers – and that means somehow integrating consumer and shopper. Marketers who may appear reluctant to get involved need to realize that actually they have no choice. To extend my soccer metaphor consumer teams can’t score goals without shoppers.

The CEO is the Head Coach – and he needs to start to call different plays. Those 75% of CEOs who are fed up with a lack of accountability from their marketing teams need to call them on that, or make a substitution. The ball needs to be passed seamlessly from consumer marketers to shopper marketers to trade – Ensuring everyone knows their roles in this process, and ensure that everyone’s KPIs are linked to this. No-one wins unless we score goals with the shopper. Just because we have more Facebook likes than anyone doesn’t mean we’re winning. You can’t take love to the bank.

Sales Directors, so often seen as the lone striker, hanging around the opposition goal and spending more time closer to the other team than their own, need to look in the mirror and remind themselves of the color of the shirt they wear. They are not in the customers’ team. Partnership with retailers is a myth – at best we have coerced collaboration. The Sales Team’s job is to create conditions for shoppers to buy, and to buy our brands. Their job is not to improve the performance of the retailer, nor grow the category. Their job is to facilitate the sale of the company’s brands.

Finance Directors need to demand accountability – but demand it equally. Sometimes it seems as though the poor shopper marketer is held to much higher standards than their counterparts in marketing and sales. Carry on being demanding, but do it in a balanced way. Why is it that cutting advertising budgets is seen as a “bad thing” but budgets to create shopper insight are given so grudgingly? How many consumer marketers have a standing research budget, compared to their shopper marketing counterparts who have to beg on a project by project basis?

I was asked recently why I thought shopper marketing was a revolution. Let me be clear. Shopper Marketing could be a revolution. If and only if it is done properly. It is revolutionary because it demands a significant change in, not just how we plan activities in stores, but in how consumer teams, sales teams and boards behave: it requires a complete shift in the way that consumer goods companies market their brands. The future is a completely different game.



Written by Mike Anthony

March 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Shopper Marketing

20 Responses

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  1. Mike – the main thing I take out (from the agency perspective) is the fact that most of the time when people talk about shopper marketing they view it as tactical activity and not a strategic discipline. ‘Oh yes we do shopper marketing’ and then you look at what has been done and you are not sure whether you should really tell someone that what there are doing falls far short of strategic shopper.

    Kenan -Shopper Boffin

    March 28, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    • Hi Kenan,

      Seems to me that often it is a case of the blind leading the blind. Poor quality brief leads to poor execution leads to poor results leads to low investment of time and money. For some it is a vicious cycle, but many do get out of it. I hope I’ve argued here what clients should start doing to break the cycle – but what about agencies? Should they continue to hide behind “this is what the client wanted/is prepared to pay for?” Or should they find new ways to challenge their clients to be more strategic?
      What do you think?


      Mike Anthony

      March 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm

  2. Great post, couldn’t agree more. The whole thing is a team game but surely partnership with retailers is a little more than coerced collaborations as after all if the shopper marketing is not improving their sales and driving forward their business they are not going to be a customer for very long. If shopper marketing is the commodity it has to be effective to the client for it to sell.

    BeepTreat (@BeepTreat)

    March 28, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    • Hi,

      Thanks for this. I thought long and hard about the retail part of this – but (and whilst there are many exceptions) the reality of most retail relationships I see are about the fees first and growth second. That doesn’t sound like a set up for partnership to me.

      Working with retailers is essential for shopper marketing – but the assumption that they are “on your team” to me feels false. Retailers have different goals to manufacturers. Retailers want to sell more in their stores – they care little about which brand is sold. Manufacturers are the opposite – they care deeply about the brand – and care less about where it is sold. These are not the conditions of partnership.

      Teams work together to a common goal – therefore retailers cannot be “on my team”. Essential yes, but not part of the team.

      Of course shopper marketing must be effective, and ideally help the retailer hit their goals too… Doing something which supports a retailer to hit their goals is great, but their goals aren’t our goals!

      Thanks for reading and sharing – all the best,


      Mike Anthony

      March 29, 2013 at 8:18 am

  3. Mike,

    I would disagree that there are no partnerships.. It depends on how you define the partnership. Manufacturers and retailers have the most success when they do partner up…share growth data, goals and objectives, and collaborate on what works.

    It’s not a marriage.

    Category management and retail planning has long been on of the key communications venues for mutual benefit and is a part of the partnership for key manufacturers who are leaders in their respective areas.

    What you have staked out for shopper marketing to work outside of this framework is where brand marketing often misses the mark.


    Ken Dailey

    March 30, 2013 at 5:10 am

    • Hi Ken,
      Thanks for the input – I can’t talk to your experiences as they will certainly be different for mine.

      Shopper marketing is, for manufacturers, part of the process if marketing their brand. It addresses the need to drive purchase of their brands.

      In this I find it difficult to see examples of real partnership – retailers do not share the goal of growing a brand and therefore most cases the retailer is not on your team.

      Am I saying that partnerships don’t exist? No. Am I saying that retailers are not always part of your team? Yes. Do you need to work with retailers to achieve your goals? yes. Shopper marketing cannot work without the team I suggest, it can work without retail on your team.

      And in no part of this do I say that this approach negates or works against category management or negates it – but they are to me different processes with different goals – category management drives category growth through collaboration – shopper marketing to me is something quite different. Can shopper marketing strategy be executed or sold via category management approaches? Yes.

      I guess what I’m saying is I’m sure retail partnerships exist, but they are far from typical and in most cases retailers have different goals to brands, and therefore I wouldn’t name them as ‘in my team’

      Thanks for the debate!


      Mike Anthony

      March 30, 2013 at 5:48 am

      • Ken,

        Mike is right. Unless there’s some fantasyland I’m unaware of, one with leprechauns riding unicorns on candycane boats down fairy dust rivers, there’s no such thing as partnership.

        If there was such a thing, Walmart wouldn’t have put a big orange jug of Sam’s detergent adjacent to its great “partner” P&G’s Tide and priced it 35% below.

        If there was such a thing, partner goals, objectives, targets and financials would be aligned and marching down a primrose aisle to Nirvana.

        The whole relationship thing from a competitive strategy standpoint is asymmetric. The power relationship is asymmetric, the profits each of the partners reaps is asymmetric, the innovation pipeline is asymmetric, the whole shebang.

        The notion of retail “partnership” is a big land of make believe that has cost manufacturers a lot of precious time and money. Imagine the poor training for example, that went into indoctrinating manufacturer staff that there is such a thing! What a monumentally foolish waste of time (the people who hired those consultants should have been fired and the consultants themselves burned at marketing’s stake). It diverted effort and resources from competing not only against other manufacturers, but from retailers who operate largely as real estate operators, financial institutions, and as key competitors with built in advantages (ability to umbrella brand, piggyback off manufacturer innovation, etc.).

        Even arguing this point is sort of silly. In the world of real politik, you’re much better off spending time finding real, concrete ways to build your brand while simultaneously seeking ways to subtly undermine these so called “partners” so they won’t be able to call so many shots. Not that that would be easy, but P&G should no more “partner with Walmart or Carrefour than with Unilever or Colgate.

        The only saving grace right now for manufacturers is in many ways the trade promotion money that these retailers are hooked on. It’s like heroin to them. Two years ago Kroger would have been unprofitable without the $3.5 billion in vendor contributions they took in. If not for that, their net would have been negative by over a billion. That’s a pretty grim tether, but apart from real innovation (another issue) the only thing the manufacturers have got. They’re certainly not driving the strategy bus….

        “Partnership.” Don’t make me laugh…

        Chip Hoyt

        March 30, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      • Hi Chip,

        Thanks for this – in particular your points about private label and assymetry. Private label is a fabulous example of the type of thing retailers woudln’t do if they were partners. It is about as selfish and destructive as you can get (particularly when teh private label is merely a me-too).

        Your point about the ‘heroin’ is also really interesting – it opens up a really interesting angle on the debate of what manufacturers should do. Your numbers are terrifying (if I was Kroger!) What if someone started threatening that money, or actually made it conditional, so that manufacturers got things they wanted from it.

        That is the power of shopper marketing. The opportunity to take more control of your brand and how it is positioned, not just to consumers, but to shoppers too. If manufacturers are paying, why shouldn’t they demand more?

        Thanks for the really great input,


        Mike Anthony

        March 31, 2013 at 11:27 am

  4. BTW, I couldn’t have articulated the team concept better myself – and Mike and Toby do it far better than I ever could! Mike is so right on so many things…people should listen to what he says more, argue less, and reap the rewards of having done so.

    Chip Hoyt

    March 30, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    • Hi Chip,

      Thanks for this too – its always great to receive positive feedback and endorsement – thanks for your continued support, and all the best,


      Mike Anthony

      March 31, 2013 at 11:28 am

  5. In defense of consumer marketers/researchers: my experience has been that shopper marketers have little to no interest in custom reseach. The prevailing attitude too often is “we can get what we need from syndicated data and retailers’ loyalty program data.”

    Lauen Cercone

    March 31, 2013 at 11:34 am

    • Hi Lauren,
      Thanks for the contribution. Your point is fair, or certainly happens in some organizations. There sometimes seems to be a gap between consumer and shopper by mutual consent – that changes are creating less collaboration not more, which is a terrifying thing.

      All the more reason for a new approach which requires collaboration, and all the more important that the guy at the top of the business creates a culture that encourages it – hence the CEOs inclusion in the team.,

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      April 1, 2013 at 6:32 am

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Mike, and Happy Easter.

    Fat chance of “partnership” while the manufacturers remain contemptuously labeled as “suppliers.”

    The trade promo conundrum is interesting.

    Macho brand managers will claim how they’re going to re-claim, trade dollars. Fat chance while the addict is so much more powerful, one would think…but wait…the accounts are dependent and more than one I’ve spoken with has mentioned being fearful of them being shut off…

    One of my dad’s reasons for developing co-marketing was aimed at this issue. Rather than focusing effort on a shrinking pie and being more efficient, the idea was to re-focus on top line growth and more effectiveness (indeed anytime I placed the word efficient before the word effective in a sentence I’d get reprimanded “you can’t be efficient unless and until one is effective, that one of the problems with the industry”).

    Hard to do, since it flips the business model from making money on the buy to making it on the sell.

    Part of the evolutionary deal is the slow turn of the FMCG battleship toward effectiveness (as seen with the general consensus here that the lack of marketing skills has been an issue – isn’t it for everyone!). The actions taken by retailers in the last 20 years or so to establish, position, and mobilize a marketing function, replete with skilled staff who were focused, trained, (and retained) in a general effort to bring new customers into the franchise, to sell more goods etc. is tantamount to their recognition that effectiveness has been the real issue. The effort is being made to sell more, but time as we know takes time.

    That’s good and bad for manufacturers (co-marketing’s paradox).

    While the previous paragraph may be well and good for retailers, manufacturers have their own problems (chiefly rooted in Porters “Five Forces” but that’s for another time). While one would think the threat of trade promo funding withdrawal would be substantial, the collective power of the manufacturer community is still inadequate at re-directing trade dollars in the manner you mention (substitution would occur if it happened piecemeal – everyone faces the prisoner dilemma).

    Because even if they wanted to engage in collectivization (should we use that word in a capitalist blog), that is, suppliers banding together to simultaneously cut these dollars – such collusion would be illegal. As for other conditional enforcement mechanisms attached to trade promo, they’ve been tried, but execution rates in the States are below 50%, so unless the manufacturer is willing to bitch and moan about every program – and so few are evaluated in any case…you’re right, it’s the blind leading the blind and the result is powerlessness as no real business case is presented. That said, we need new ways of seeing and we need to try and try and try some more.

    So instead of the instant gratification of application of raw power we hope for, we’re stuck with the slow grind of influence, hampered by a manufacturer marketing community that in terms of ability has deteriorated due to a lot of the opportunity migrating to new or more interesting market sectors.

    None of this is to say that better branding isn’t a big part of the answer, but as you say it’s gotta be as a result of a team effort and as fish rots from the head, that’s gotta be initiated by the folks in the executive suite. That’s unlikely to happen short term, as those guys are older and usually have ideas that are a lot more ossified, but it may happen as they age out of the industry – indeed the industry is likely to force the issue over time.

    That’s why I believe that while the shopper concept is revolutionary, there are a lot of issues from an execution standpoint that make its deployment evolutionary. Happily, there are consulting dollars in both scenarios, and lots of them.


    Chip Hoyt

    March 31, 2013 at 10:53 pm

  7. BTW, after all that I said in the prior post (sorry, I’m wordy), if manufacturers wish to increase their leverage with the trade to maximize exposure to core targets, then the strategic options open to them are:

    a) innovation (very expensive, and they’ve turned to extension tactics as a result, plus by stuffing shelves they create entry barriers).

    b) marketing, but they’ve yet to show the trade that this will yield better results than trade promotion.

    This was one of the premises of co-marketing – getting better results than either could achieve on their own. And this is why better, more strategically oriented shopper marketing, if measured on an ongoing basis, can turn the tide against the mess that characterizes the current trade promo fiasco.

    Chip Hoyt

    April 1, 2013 at 1:54 am

  8. To Lauren’s point, too often the shopper marketers aren’t really marketers, but rebadged somethingorothers. That’s part if the problem. Real shopper marketers understand perfectly well the value of proprietary research. It’s the real difference maker. Nice point by her.

    Chip Hoyt

    April 1, 2013 at 7:53 am

    • Hi Chip,

      Point well made – almost by definition, you can’t be a marketer if you don’t value proprietary research! We have retail tactics masquerading as shopper marketing, and analytics masquerading as insight. Time for a revolution!


      Mike Anthony

      April 1, 2013 at 8:02 am

  9. Good analogy. And to continue it my experience with most existing marketing roles are that they seem to see themselves as the ‘sponsor’ of the game. They are not really concerned as to how many times the ‘ball goes in the net’. They measure soft things like recall and brand equity and judge their success that way. So I agree. They should see themselves as part of the game as opposed to sponsoring the thing!

    Ken Hughes

    April 1, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    • Hi Ken,
      Thanks for the input – and I love the extension of the analogy. There is sometimes a large disconnect and “disinterest” in what goes on in the realm of the shopper, which surprises me. Lauren’s comments are also fair – sometimes the shopper guys seem to want to play a different game, and don’t want others to join in: whatever the case, neither group will be as effective as they would be if they worked together towards the same goal.

      Thanks – All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      April 2, 2013 at 7:33 am

  10. It’s an interesting concept, and I would agree with Mike and Chip’s comments above. As an Insights Manager for a major supplier I am constantly battling with my Shopper Marketing Managers to actually use the data and insights that I generate and provide to help them sell in their creative ideas to the trade. All too often, the insights are dismissed, and the discussions are focused on expected uplifts, gate fees, and the operational side of execution.

    As a Shopper expert, I find it laughable that retailers talk about giving the shoppers what they want and putting them at the heart of their business. If that was the case, they wouldn’t manipulate offers around their margins (e.g. convenience meal deals), and would give the shoppers what they would like, not what they can offer based on margin analysis and modelling.

    Caroline Davies

    April 4, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    • Hi Caroline,

      Great to hear from you – and thanks for sharing. For every shopper marketer complaining they have no insights, there are plenty of others who are ignoring the stuff they have. Lauren’s experience below seems to echo this. Often when we start projects we do a ‘data trawl’ – it never ceases to amaze me how much data has been ignored or forgotten. Forget new research, just start using what you have! Too often brands that wouldn’t dream of implementing a consumer campaign without research will happily go on gut instinct in the trade realm.

      I also share your misgivings around what lies at the heart of the decisions made “in the interests of shoppers” – too often decisions reek of profiteering rather than putting the shopper first. Hopefully, as competition gets tighter, more retailers and manufacturers will recognize the competitive advantage that can be delivered from really understanding and meeting the needs of shoppers, and will turn to real shopper marketing, rather than the “fake” that too many indulge in currently.

      Time for a revolution I think!

      All the best, and thanks again for sharing!


      Mike Anthony

      April 4, 2013 at 4:36 pm

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