The Digital Signage Insider

Book review: POPAI's The Power of Marketing at-Retail

Published on: 2008-06-05

As we mentioned in last week's summer reading list, POPAI's tome about The Power of Marketing at-Retail has been on our short list of "must read" books for quite some time. The third edition, which just came out a few months ago, includes some very useful new additions. The new chapters cover design aesthetics and, of course, this newfangled digital signage stuff. The bottom line: if you're even thinking about putting digital screens into a retail environment, you should read this book.

So I suspect lots of you might go get the book, and then immediately open it up to the digital signage chapter. But why? You probably already know most of what's there, since you've already read a whole book on the same topic, co-written by the same author -- Lighting Up the Aisle, by Laura Davis-Taylor. And if you're reading this blog, chances are you already know a thing or two about digital signage anyway. However, if my experience talking with new customers is at all typical, there's a good chance that lots of you aren't so familiar with the inner workings of retail marketing, merchandising and POP displays. While these topics might seem parochial or even irrelevant to some, even a brief flip through the POPAI book should tell you otherwise. As I've said before, you must understand the venues that you're going to be working in. So in short, consider these topics to be at the very base of your retail-oriented digital signage education.

How can you get the most out of POPAI's book? I recommend you start with Chapter 10: "Global Trends in Point-of-Purchase Advertising", which was written by the book's editor, Robert Liljenwall. You'll quickly get your bearings in the world of retail marketing, as Liljenwall explores some of the techniques that seem to work well across cultures. After that, you should head back to Chapter 1: "From Marketing Management to Marketing-at-Retail", by Northwestern's Francis J. Mulhern. At a mere eight pages, it's a lightning-quick introduction to the dramatic shifts taking place in retail marketing today, as well as an explanation of some of the similarities and differences between marketing in a retail environment and elsewhere.

Having covered the business basics, your next stop should be Chapter 2 ("Consumer Behavior at the Point-of-Purchase"), followed by Chapter 6 ("P-O-P Advertising Design and Creativity"). In Chapter 2, McGill University's Hugh Phillips dissects the shopping experience in an attempt to illustrate why we behave the way we do in stores (my take: we're irrational creatures of habit). I also love his section on the shift from "tactical" to "strategic" marketing, which we continue to see every day as more brands and CPG companies continue to (finally!) make in-store and out-of-home essential components of their multi-channel campaigns. Chapter 6 is written by James Eby at Wunderman. It focuses on the process of creating great creative, rather than the specific techniques (color, type, etc.) that go into the creative. Starting with the assignments and tasks that a POP marketing team might undertake (brainstorming, identifying the objective, etc.), he quickly takes us through a day in the life of a creative retail marketing group.

Next, I recommend you take a little break from the book and check out our own compendium on designing content for digital signage. These articles should give you a better feel for the similarities and differences between working on a digital medium versus the static ones found in stores today, and fit in especially well with the points from Chapter 6 of the book.

From there, how to best navigate through the rest of the book is up to you. Interested in the measurement debate, and how it affects brands, retailers and marketers alike? Check out Chapter 5 on "Post Promotion Evaluation". Are you more sales-focused? Get a better feel for some of the sales promotion tools used in retail stores, how they work, and their relative strengths and weaknesses in Chapter 4: "Sales Promotion Planning". I'd recommend checking out at least a few of the updated "Trends in Retail Marketing..." chapters, which are written by various analysts, retailers and brand marketers, plus Rick DeHerder's chapter on project management. That last one should be particularly eye-opening for those who haven't come from a retail or POP background -- the project management for static POP projects can be just as challenging as for a digital signage deployment. In the end, even the best-managed projects find that huge numbers of their displays never get deployed, are deployed incorrectly, or end up getting installed at the wrong place and time. Talk about frustrating! At least with digital signage, once the screens are out there, you pretty much know that your content is going to show up when and where you want it to -- provided you didn't make any mistakes scheduling it, of course.

While we're talking about POPAI, I also want to let you know about a neat event taking place next week. On Thursday, June 12th, they'll be conducting an Introduction to Digital Signage webinar, which I'll be presenting. This particular program probably isn't a good fit for most of the readers of this blog -- many of whom eat, sleep and dream digital signs. But if you know somebody who's just beginning to learn about the industry, or if you have a client or partner that needs a little help getting started, this is a great, cheap, and vendor-neutral way for them to jump in head first. This webinar will be given by a different member of POPAI's Digital Signage Advocacy group about every other month, so don't worry if you can't make it this time. If you'd like to register for the webinar, click here to sign-up. I hope to see you on the call!

We got some good comments last week on the "summer reading list" article mentioned above, but I'm always eager to learn more.  So which boo ks, websites, and other resources would you recommend to someone who's just starting out in this industry? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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