Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

Shopper Marketing IS Sexy

with 27 comments

Shopper Marketing IS SexyThose of you who have been following this blog for a while will know that I’m a passionate supporter of the shopper marketing cause, so you can imagine my discomfort when I read a recent article in Adweek which, in its opening line, suggested that shopper marketing wasn’t “sexy”. I will confess it riled me a little and then it got me thinking. Is it that shopper marketing simply isn’t sexy, or is it more that shopper marketing has a bit of an image problem?

Can shopper marketing be sexy?

On one level it depends on what you mean by sexy, and it depends on what your benchmark is. True, there are many parts of the shopper marketing world that are far from sexy: crunching data, lots of cardboard in stores; but couldn’t that be said of most marketing jobs? Advertising shoots in the Caribbean are sexy; eighteen hour shifts in a digital studio signing off the final copy is, in my humble opinion, far from sexy.

And how about the work that Tesco have done in Korea? Creating a virtual online store in subway stations (and a cool video to promote it) – that’s pretty sexy. And Old Spice, with their fabulous “Smell Like a Man” campaign: that’s TV and YouTube viral marketing all rolled into one, and most certainly targeted at the shopper. What’s not sexy about that? It seems to me that, as in any marketing world, shopper marketing has its share of drudgery and drear, but also has its share of pizazz and glamour too.

Shopper Marketing has an image problem

So if shopper marketing is as sexy as any other type of marketing, then perhaps it has an image problem. Perhaps shopper marketing needs a makeover. And to be honest, if you were the brand manager for shopper marketing, you’d probably be polishing your resume now, as you are about to be fired.

Whilst shopper marketing has done a fabulous job on driving awareness, brand comprehension is still poor. Many practitioners still muddle up the consumer and the shopper (link to “when the shopper is not the consumer blog) Using the Adweek article as an example (and sadly an all too typical one) it is clear to see that there is little understanding of what shopper marketing is. The author is suffering from a very common misconception – that shopper marketing and retail marketing are the same thing. They are not, and perhaps it is this which leads the author to believe it isn’t sexy (I’ll leave it to someone else to defend retail marketing!). The Old Spice example above demonstrates clearly that shopper marketing is far more than the rather limited sphere of ‘what happens in stores’. The author gets confused about what shopper marketing is, misquoting Alan Lafley from P&G with his “First Moment of Truth”. For the record Mr. Lafley was talking about the point of purchase, not shopper marketing: in his original quote Mr. Lafley didn’t even refer to shoppers: he talked about the ‘consumer in the store’ – about as far away from shopper marketing as you can get!

Why do I care about this? Why should you care?

In a recent survey conducted in conjunction by engage  with Nielsen (to be published shortly, and you can hear about it here first), industry leaders are bemoaning a lack of shopper marketing skills, and shopper marketing talent. I’m convinced that shopper marketing’s image problem contributes to this. How can shopper marketing attract the best of the best: really good people who really know how to market: when people who are writing about it really miss the point?

Shopper marketing is as sexy as any other marketing. Shopper marketing is not just about in-store; not just about the final point of purchase. Shopper marketing is about understanding and meeting the needs of shoppers: it is about developing a marketing mix which changes shopping behavior in a way that drives future consumption of your brand. Shopper marketing is an integral part of the Total Marketing Mix that makes the difference between your brand succeeding or failing in this world.

How sexy is that?!


Written by Mike Anthony

June 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

Posted in Shopper Marketing

27 Responses

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  1. Hi Mike: You’re correct, shopper marketing isn’t any less sexy than any other marketing. Most marketing people spend their days checking ROI, reviewing DME’s and managing agencies that create all the really sexy stuff. But in store is where the rubber hits the road… where the product is bought…. and if that isn’t sexy (or at least rewarding) then nothing is! If marketing managers could understand that in store and shopper marketing is more than putting product in corrugate then it could be as sexy as TV and print campaigns.

    Lindsay Mulock

    June 6, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    • Hi Lindsay,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment: I only hope that over time people learn to appreciate shopper marketing for the beautiful and wonderful discipline it is: and that getting a merchandising solution right garners the same plaudits as a beautiful TVC.

      Finally some of the major awards programs (Effies for example) are beginning to recognize shopper marketing, but it still feels to me to be an afterthought… Hopefully this will change over time and shopper marketing will no longer be undervalued and underappreciated!

      Thanks again!


      Mike Anthony

      June 7, 2013 at 9:58 am

  2. Shopper marketing as you have rightly said is an integral part of the Total Marketing Mix that makes the difference between your brand succeeding or failing in this world. Shopper Marketing is SEXY!
    Think of all the sexy work the Shopper Marketing discipline churns out with the measly below 10% budget that is handed out for the purpose. Then take a look at how it has affected the brand and business and then talk about it not being SEXY!
    And Mike I could not agree more with you about the lack of shopper marketing skills in the industry. That to me is clearly an image problem.


    June 7, 2013 at 11:12 am

    • Hi,

      Thanks for this – and thanks for adding a really important point…. Shopper Marketing works with a lot less cash and often a lot less human resource, and yet still manages to deliver results. In the world of sexy, less is MORE!!! Thanks for adding that!

      As to shopper marketing skills and the deficit thereof – it is a big problem. Top talent still shy away from shopper marketing in some parts of the world because they perceive that it isn’t marketing. But to me it is as much marketing as any ‘brand marketing’ role: some people just don’t know what they are missing!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. Much appreciated.

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      June 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm

  3. Hi Mike, great to read more article from your blog. Good insight. Really learn a lot about shopper marketing from your blog. One thing that i could think of on why this misconception occurs is probably Shopper Marketing hasn’t create a “glamour buzz” in the Marketing world unlike other term such as “Digital Marketing”


    June 7, 2013 at 11:43 am

    • Hi Mario,

      Thanks for this – and I agree that the ‘glamour buzz’ may not yet have been created. The question is – why not? Is it that shopper marketing often has humble origins in ‘trade marketing’ and ‘retail’. Is it that so much of what is called ‘shopper marketing’ isn’t really marketing at all, just a rebadging of something else?

      Any thoughts, Mario (or anyone else?). And more importantly, what should we do about it?

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      June 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      • Hi Mike

        I think it is because Shopper Marketing are taking a more fundamental principle in Marketing and we have to get to the basic of Marketing for understanding this, which may not be that interesting for those who are looking something that looks “new” and “trending”.

        But in order to deal with this situation i would say is “consistency”, shopper marketing is not just a buzz or something “new”. Sooner or later people will want to know more about shopper marketing since it will not just fade because it become out of trend. The key is consistency Mike, like what you are doing and advocating.



        June 10, 2013 at 11:08 am

      • Hi Mario,

        Thanks – agree – Perhaps we are now too easily seduced by the latest ‘new toy’ that the ordinary stuff isn’t attractive enough – no matter whether it works or not! I love the fact that marketing is continually changing – that target markets change – that is what makes it interesting… But the eternal truth is that great insights which serve your market better – that is where true marketing brilliance lies – that is what we should all aspire to (whichever branch of marketing we work in).

        Digital is sexy! Social is sexy! TV is sexy… So to is the store!

        Thanks as always,


        Mike Anthony

        June 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm

  4. Hi Mike. sorry for the anonymous in the previous comment. It was me in the earlier comment Mike.



    June 7, 2013 at 11:45 am

  5. To me the debate as to whether shopper marketing is sexy….or not, is totally superfluous, and very typical of agencies and creative people, no one wants to work on the less glamorous stuff (and I can say this i spent most of my life in agencies!).
    Mike you succinctly summed it up in your last paragraph….”Shopper marketing is an integral part of the Total Marketing Mix that makes the difference between your brand succeeding or failing in this world”.

    It is time that client briefs are embraced with respect and shopper activities/programs developed to ensure the rate of sale is increased of whatever the product or brand (so called sexy or not) clients entrust to their communication partners. And it is NOT yet another “win” promotion, that may spike sales, it HAS to be an idea, practically executable across the diverse trading environment, and not just in a handful of stores, with long term growth results. And it recognizes the difference between consumers and shoppers!
    Now I would not call a successful shopper campaign with tangible results sexy, I would venture it is seductive.


    June 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    • Hi Gerard,

      Thanks for this – and I like the word “seductive”! I think that sums it up nicely….

      Wouldn’t it be lovely if, at some date in the future the best marketers were seduced by effectiveness and results, rather than glamour – whether that means shopper marketing or something else is irrelevant…. There are so many places where the efficacy of marketing is now being openly questioned – and I think many marketers (And their agency partners) only have themselves to blame.

      I’m reminded of one fabulous quote from an agency guy… I was part of the jury panel at the Asian Effies (that’s marketing effectiveness note) and this guy, was asked to defend his nomination of one piece as being “gold”. Other jury members asked for evidence of effectiveness (it was, I have to admit, a beautiful film!). THis guy’s response? “I think we can pretty much take effectiveness as a given”.

      At an effectiveness awards….

      If that doesn’t sum up what is wrong with (some) marketing, I don’t know what does!

      Thanks so much for joining the conversation!

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      June 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm

  6. Hi Mike

    You’ve made an interesting point. It’s something I come up against a lot and can relate to. To my mind there are two aspects here that hinder. One is the ability, or perhaps inability, for organisations to see shopper in a space that has for so long been dominated by traditional marketing. We are asking a lot, and fundamentally results and sexy are at odds with one another. How is it possible to be both results focussed and engaging? It’s easier for us to relate of the norms of how we have traditionally seen each marketing function. It challenges us less…effectively we are a victim of the risk/reward theory that we propagate.

    My second point is that sexy probably sits at the extremity of the engagement scale. Reframing sexy to excitement may be a more practical way of looking at it. Sexy doesn’t always apply to every category and product. Excitement can also encapsulate a strong broad emotive angle around engagement. It’s an easier logic jump to exciting than sexy…well, for me anyway.

    Hamish Clarke

    June 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    • Hi Hamish,

      Thanks for this – agree mostly, but I would challenge the idea that results and sexy are “at odds with one another”. Surely this is the challenge that marketers face? Perhaps not sexy, but to create engaging work that also delivers results?

      I used the word sexy as it was used in the quote that got my attention… what I mean is – traditional marketing is the glamour and glitz – its the marketing that people “want to do” …. shopper marketing is exciting, and can involve digging up fabulously exciting insights in even the dourest categories…. Isn’t that sexy?

      I stand by my first point – shopper marketing, when done correctly, is both sexy AND delivers results – and that is a double whammy!

      WHat do you think?


      Mike Anthony

      June 10, 2013 at 4:14 pm

  7. At many ad agencies, consumer insights is the major emphasis. It is hard for shopper marketing to get a seat at the table. I know I have to work hard to get people to even acknowledge shopper marketing as a discipline. I even had someone ask me whether I thought ‘this shopper marketing’ thing would catch on.

    I like the phrase “A shopper is a consumer in a buying mode” – I believe that is a Deloitte phrase. That gives me permission to compare and contrast the perceptions, motivations, and behaviors of shoppers compared to buyers. Still, with many people’s idea of the store having roots in things such as UPC codes and merchadising displays only, it is hard to create the vision of the importance of a focus on in-store retail and shopper activity.

    Nice job on the article.

    Pete McCoy

    June 8, 2013 at 1:38 am

    • Hi Pete,

      Thanks for sharing – and nice to know that there are others fighting the “shopper marketing corner”…!

      I will have to take issue on the “A shopper is a consumer in a buying mode” thing – not sure if it was Deloitte’s but I dislike it with a passion! Whilst I can see how it frames up the fact that a consumer and a shopper (mode) are different – it implies (or at least it has been interpreted by far too many) that the consumer and the shopper are the same person, just in a different mode….

      In every single category there are shoppers who are not consumers: and this line leads marketers to completely ignore those… If you have a moment take a look here and let me know what you think… Would be really interested in your opinion…

      Thanks so much for contributing…


      Mike Anthony

      June 10, 2013 at 4:19 pm

  8. All good stuff, HOWEVER, The problem is not is it sexy or not, it is that clients and agencies are not really being very innovative in their approach to shopper marketing. I was a huge advocate of shopper marketing (then called account specific marketing) back in the 80’s & 90’s. Dealer-loaders, in-packs, near-packs, mega-displays, motion POS, traffic building media merchandising, sweepstakes, etc. were the types of programs that generated off-shelf placement, and subsequent sales. These moved the needle. In fact, I was responsible for generating 15% MONTHLY sales increases at grocery for Famous Amos Cookies, with a national budget of under $2MM. Everything we did was focused in-store. The brand equity grew form $50MM to $450MM in 4 years, with no electronic media.

    I then spent the next decade in eastern europe bringing these same types of concepts to life, EXCEPT they also were capable of doing customer intercepts in-store. Imagine when a customer approaches a competitors brand, that a brand ambassador was present to generate brand-switch. Very motivating.

    I love retail. I experience it daily. Having spent the last few months walking major retailers in the Sarasota area, I can tell you that in-store is significantly underutilized. Too much emphasis on social media and online, however, when was the last time social media generated an impulse purchase? The problem is that digital shops are driving the strategy these days. And if not, then the brand is focusing on traditional media and digital blend. Brand managers must demand more, and look outside of the digital realm.

    So here is my suggestion — if you are the stakeholder of a brand that sits in the # 3,4,& 5 position in your respective category, stop focusing on any other activity and instead focus on providing the best in-store experience for perspective customers. And if you are an agency for these clients, get off the computer and get into the stores. This is the brand’s battlefield. Help your clients conquer it.

    brent david

    June 8, 2013 at 4:32 am

    • HI Brent,

      Thanks for this – and herein lies the issue: there is so little creativity in the space, and I think that becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. A lot of shopper work is dull, therefore the perception that “shopper is dull” is created, so nobody wants to be in shopper, so the work is dull… etc. and so on…

      Shopper Marketing is exciting, and there is so much going on – but until the discipline gets a makeover it will continue to struggle to attract enough of the top talent. Unfortunately too many shopper marketers are overloaded running analytics, and running loss making promotions that do little but create a short term sales spike and train shoppers to wait for deals… As you say “get off the computer and get into the stores”!

      Thanks so much,


      Mike Anthony

      June 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      • There is value in “short term” promotions which can be highly creative, with the right creative team running it. The problem for me goes much deeper — to many young creatives that have no understanding of what integrated marketing is really all about.

        Brent david

        June 10, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      • Hi Brent,

        When it comes to promotions: I guess it depends what you mean by short term. the reality is that very few promotions are ever evaluated as to their impact beyond the short term sales so most marketers are in the dark as to whether their activity ever really creates any long term value…



        Mike Anthony

        June 11, 2013 at 7:59 am

  9. Hi Mike,

    I am a strong follower of shopper marketing; but is it sexy or not, that eventually depends how one portrays his product or brand.

    If a brand is using media, then you can use the knowledge sharing, advocating advertisement approach, but if the event is in-store then the approach is at the first moment of truth, when we feel the product the attributes which stimulates the AIDA towards shopper along with fringe benefit like promotions, price and redemption deals.

    Then the real challenge and achievement is when the Golden rule of sales happens ” win the customer for life just not for once”, this were the commitment to the shopper is delivered with no comprise on shopper expectation and needs.

    We shopper marketers forget one rule to remain sexy; approach, adopt and admire shoppers for their hard earned money…..

    Sarfraz Alam

    June 8, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    • HI Sarfraz,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts….

      I guess my view is that surely a really effective piece of work, whatever it is (a shelf talker, a new layout, or a TVC) – is really sexy. The sexiness lies in discovering and bringing to life a new insight or idea – that is what marketers should be seduced by: not by movie shoots and the latest social media ‘toy’….

      Maybe we still have a long way to go!!!



      Mike Anthony

      June 10, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      • I did a program once for P&G ‘s WellaFlex brand in Ukraine. It was both sexy and resultative. The product was for a hair spray that offered 48 hour hold.

        In magastores throughout Ukraine, we set up beds, put sexy models in Victoria Secret pajamas, and had their hair with just enoug “bed head” to make them crazy sexy. The models functioned as brand ambassadors to answer questions.

        Believe me, the shopper experience was heightened by the presence of 6ft tall tall beautiful models in sexy sleepwear. Product flew off the shelf.

        Brent david

        June 10, 2013 at 4:44 pm

  10. I go back to my previous comments — the problem is that nobody wants to be a foot soldier in the battle to win the consumer. In the day and age of drone warfare, marketers are too heavily reliant on their computers for winning the hearts and minds of prospective consumers.

    Here’s a freebie on how shopper marketing can improve both the online and offlibe experience for consumers. imagine if Barnes & Noble offered classes on writing books, in store. Would be authors would flock for info. And if they combined that with a self-publishing center that allowed these would be authors to create and market these books, all under the B&N umbrella. Would it not generate traffic, both in store and online?

    Or imagine Champs Spirts, Foot Locker, or sports authority doing in store clinics with professional athletes and coaches to help drive product sales. Would it not be “sexy”.

    People talking to other people behind computers is not “social”. It is the same as having a date with a girl on video chat. Marketers needs to go back to thinking of ways to bring people and products together again. That is the future. And for some if us, it is where we have already been.

    Brent david

    June 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    • Hi Brent,

      I think new media options have their place…. I just am concerned when a particular media is chosen because it is felt to be ‘trendy’ or ‘sexy’ – rather than ‘effective’. Some brands should use new media extensively – but not all – and not to the exclusion of ‘getting it right at retail’. As retail in many cases moves online, then managing to ‘bring people and products together’ will increasingly take place in an on line environment.

      And in that online environment it is more than ‘having a Facebook relationship’…. the guts of marketing must include purchase (be it online or offline) and even in the online world many marketers have focused on the sexy bit and are woefully unprepared for online retail

      Thanks for the active discussion!

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      June 11, 2013 at 8:03 am

  11. I agree with Mike that brands can be sexy but stores are not the sexy part of most my days. Sephora and Victoria’s Secret are brand showcases that seduce — but the walgreens next to them just does not get the juices flowing — even if they have consmetics – compare to how they create a fun experience in Sephora. I am a guy and the Sephora salesperson knows how to draw me into a “what do you think” engagement. Soon there are 3 or 4 of us talking about choices. Whatever the customer buys, Sephora wins. David Glenn

    David Glenn

    June 11, 2013 at 7:33 am

    • Hi David,

      Thanks for this – I agree that stores are often not that sexy – and brand owners need to realize that the relationship one has with a brand at the point of consumption is often totally different from the relationship one has at the point of purchase (check out this post on the topic)

      I’m not saying that shops are sexy – but I am saying that shopper marketing is just as sexy as any other type of marketing: all marketing has good bits and bad bits: many tasks are dour and dull: but it appears that within the industry shopper marketing still has a bad image: probably due to its association with retail, and the fact that in most cases (as you state) the retail environment isn’t very sexy!).

      Maybe I’m an exception – but I find the marketing process sexy – I love it – whatever the outcome or end product. Any category can be stimulating and exciting, any execution can give me a thrill – if its built out of a brillian piece of insight – and executed bravely.

      All the best and thanks for contributing,


      Mike Anthony

      June 11, 2013 at 8:08 am

  12. […] Shopper Marketing IS Sexy From mikeanthonyengage.wordpress.com – Today, 5:49 AM Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will know that I’m a passionate supporter of the shopper marketing cause, so you can imagine my discomfort when I read a recent article in…Mike Anthony @ engage consultants […]

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