A few weeks ago, Reveries released the results of a survey on building brand identity at retail. Looking at issues such as which in-store practices work best, and to what degree retailers help or hinder manufacturer branding initiatives, the study offers some insight into the complex world inhabited by not only retailers and product manufacturers, but also a slew of different marketing, advertising and research agencies. By diving into the numbers, we unfortunately see a lot of the same old trends at work, like ongoing contention between retailers and manufacturers, and the continued under-emphasis of retail marketing in favor of traditional advertising. However, the data offers a glimmer of hope for those of us interested in advancing the state of in-store marketing, along with the possibility that we might all be able to get along after all.

To begin with, the overwhelming majority of respondents -- 83.2% -- feel that retail venues are a good place to build brand identity. This isn't that surprising, since a large portion of them are either retailers or product manufacturers who have an interest in making retail marketing work. However, only 12.4% indicated that retailers were generally helpful with the process. Far more -- 30.8% -- suggested that retailers tend to hinder their brand-building activities, or at best, move between periods of helping and hindering (41.4%). On the flip side, manufacturers fared little better. Only 28% felt that manufacturers were more likely to help than hinder. While far better than the opinion of retailers, this result is still pretty poor.

The survey also asked which in-store programs have been effective for manufacturers, and found that product packaging, POP displays, and special events are delivering the best results. Product packaging ranked #1 on the list, which makes a lot of sense when you consider that pretty much every product sold has to come in some sort of package (and offers ample possibilities for experimentation). Newer options like kiosks and in-store TV networks score lower (20.2% and 13.1% respectively). But that's actually pretty impressive, given that older and more established practices like product circulars scored about the same. And of course, these newer technologies also have smaller installed bases, so fewer people have had the opportunity to evaluate their performance and make a decision -- especially when compared to old retail marketing stalwarts like POP displays and special offers.

Overall, the Reveries survey paints a fairly well-accepted picture of the retail marketing space, and sadly, a picture that would have looked very similar five or ten years ago. Marketers and manufacturers continue to use several types of in-store programs, and some amount of channel conflict seems to be the norm at the retail level. Still, there's plenty of room for improvement, and the survey results suggest that the tide may be changing. The good news is that nearly three quarters (72.5%) indicated that their companies have retail strategies in place. The bad news is that fewer than half (44.5%) say that retail marketing earns the same respect inside their organization as traditional advertising. That obviously needs to change if manufacturers and retailers alike hope to take full advantage of the unique benefits of marketing at retail. Considering how much data there is indicating the benefits of a solid retail marketing program, this is purely and simply a cultural -- not economic -- issue. Big agencies still have a hard time sharing the spotlight with the in-store guys, and for all of the great displays that we see in POPAI's OMA contest every year, making a TV commercial is still a more enticing endeavor, and thus still draws the lion's share of funds and respect.

But brick-and-mortar retailers continue to struggle with challenges like increased competition within their verticals, more pressure from purely online retailers, and ongoing uncertainties about the economy. Retailers know that in-store tactics work. Product marketers know it too, and a Reveries survey from last year showed that more than 70% of them were investing in retail and alternative media. At some point, somebody with real clout in one of these camps is going to take a stand and make their agencies build better-integrated campaigns that feature a compelling in-store component, or else somebody from Madison Avenue is going to realize that there's a lot of money in-store, and they're in a great position to sell new products and services to their existing client base. There's simply too much money on the line for that not to happen. But that's not to say that nobody is trying to improve the situation right now. In fact, some the biggest companies on earth are already working hard on solving the retail marketing problem. P&G has made lots of noise about their retail marketing plans, and both Wal-Mart and Target are known for their in-store networks that carry brand building and promotional content. WPP's Mediaedge:cia is entirely devoted to studying the nuts and bolts of shopper behaviors (with an eye towards improving retail performance), and VNU/Nielsen has an entire in-store division now. Finally, well-established and funded research groups like the ISMI and POPAI continue to advertise the power of marketing at retail.

For all the work of these big entities, it's also clear that the groups in the Reveries survey are taking a more aggressive stance towards marketing at the store level. When asked if they were ready to maximize the building of brand identity at retail, 44.3% of respondents indicated that they were, with another 29.3% saying that they "almost" were. While simply participating in a retail plan is one thing, the goal of maximizing performance through the creative use of different in-store strategies is entirely another, and to hear such a resounding drive to do this is very encouraging. It's also interesting to look at some of the reasons why other respondents indicated that they weren't yet ready. These reasons include:
  • "The brand organizations are not structurally aligned to maximize shopper marketing at retail. Brands don't understand how to activate brands [at] retail."
  • "We lack top management commitment, incentive alignment, staff, training, tools and information resources adequate to the task. Current client base (not the firms, but the current staff contacts we have) is not particularly up-to-speed on this area of the business."
  • "Knowing what's good for building a brand and pulling the trigger and doing it are two different things."
Clearly, it's the lack of knowledge, experience and understanding about building effective retail branding strategies that is holding many companies back. While boutique firms specializing in retail marketing continue to proliferate, I think the best way to really grow the disclipline (in terms of both acceptance and respect) will be for the bigger agencies to take the reins -- possibly in partnership with some of the smaller but more experienced firms. Omnicom, Publicis, Interpublic and WPP each have several agencies that could become retail marketing powerhouses, especially since some of these agencies already focus on store experience. The agencies just need to cultivate the right alliances and know-how, and decide to focus on opportunities with appropriate clients. Easier said than done? Perhaps, but keep in mind that these top media companies already have relationships with a huge share of the world's top retailers and marketers. To date, they've remained pretty silent. But we're fast approaching the point where in-store marketing projects are too big and too high profile to keep ignoring.


+1 # Ghassan 2007-12-26 13:50
A very interesting piece of information here. As a newcomer to the business I am surprised to learn that there are many companies with little experience in in-store marketing projects. I believe those who would capitalize on it will gain a serious long term advantage.
0 # Bill Gerba 2008-01-02 21:37
Hi Ghassan, I agree with you - those companies who can truly articulate the benefit of the network and then implement it in such a way that it actually **delivers** on that promise are going to be in huge demand over the next few years. For now, though, there's still enough of a "Wild West" mentality out there that all sorts of companies are jumping into signage head-first, without truly understanding how it works in different kinds of environments.
-1 # Craig 2008-06-11 19:35
Spot on, all comments very valid....I head up In Store media for South Africa's biggest retailer, Pick n Pay and am in the process of investing huge sums of money behind in store digital TV....My big 4 challenges: 1. Get the right scale, brand want numbers. 2. Measure the results effectively, only way to convince the brand guys. 3. Content, Content,Content....This is the holy grail, get it right and volumes swing... 4. Credibility - If we as big retailers want to take on the big media boys and run these channels internally....we need to seriously get all our ducks in a row.... interested to interact further.....
-1 # Roahre Jansen 2008-08-21 18:15
The reading matter is most interesting.My company has several years of experience in promoting the real values and benefits of in-store digital with various retail and wholesale chains in the Sub Sahara( South Africa). The commanders of these organizations are comming around to the new prospects of digital and i understand the global stats. If i can add my penny's worth" Digital is the most flexible of all the traditional ad mediums. It is still early days and in time digital will have a significant slice of the ad spend cake. Look forward to hearing from you. Regards'
+1 # Bill Gerba 2008-09-05 15:45
Hi Roahre, Thanks very much for the input. Given the two previous comments were both from sub-Saharan Africa, it seems like there's a healthy amount of activity going on over there! I'm extremely interested in watching how the digital out-of-home market continues to evolve in places lacking the legacy infrastructure of the US, Europe and Japan. Likewise, it's fascinating to watch the traditional media's reaction as ad spending shifts to our new medium (as well as others, of course).
+2 # Roahre Jansen 2008-09-18 19:17
Thanks Bill. Digital advertising in store is where i am positioning my company.Our business is all about creating the most advanced, reliable digital network. Having software that gives the store owner(manager)the ability to interact with market related issues is the latest of the products that we have bagged in our arsenal.I think that companies like us who have devoted all to the digital wave that has triggered world wide better be in great shape when that wave starts to loom. Instore digital is growing in S.A. and i hope to announce some good news in due course. Regards Roahre Jansen
+1 # dennis 2008-11-09 20:45
please call Dennis in ref to brand ads 310 5506178
-1 # Pooja 2009-08-12 09:22
Hey, guys..am from an digital media circle and help companies to market their brands effectively through our medium. I want to know that wat is the best way to approach top notch brands and get them on my screens. (for an ad) If anyone wish to invest in digital marketing plz..do contact at 91-9971035927

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