While I think every article in this issue of the HUB had something to offer, there were three that really stood above the rest. The first was written by Jim Lucas from Draftfcb, who notes that "today, shoppers and retailers are constantly shaping and co-creating the retail experience. But manufacturers should also be active participants in this co-creation to help maintain their relationships with the shopper throughout the entire purchase corridor." This mirrors our experiences at WireSpring and correlates directly with a note from a previous blog article on the challenges of taking marketing integration in-store, where we argued that retailers, marketers and product manufacturers need to work together to create a cohesive in-store experience that can drive the brand message without creating lots of visual clutter. The key stakeholders in any retail setting are the shoppers, the retailer and the product manufacturer, so it makes sense that all three should be involved in the experience process. After all, an environment where every group sees a positive return is the one that's most likely to flourish.
While P&G's Dina Howell gets top billing for her article on delighting consumers at the first and second moments-of-truth, the other two real gems come afterward, in the form of Al Wittemen's piece on transforming shopping environments and Charlie Tarzian's perspective on event marketing (which can have a lot to do with retail marketing, as he points out). Actually, before I go over the insights from those two articles, has anybody else noticed an increase in the use of the word "delight" when talking about all things marketing? While I fully appreciate all of the hard work that P&G and others put into making great products and trying to create positive customer experiences, I can't remember the last time I was truly "delighted" by anything in the retail space. Actually, I'll take that back -- I do remember the last time. It was in FAO Schwarz in New York City, and I think I was about 10 years old. All things considered, that's going to be a pretty tough audience/environment combination to top.
Ok, that rant aside, let's look at the comments from Advantage Retail's Al Wittemen. His article on creating extraordinary brands would be worth reading if only for this one quote:
Shoppers are tuning out. Worse, they are exhausted by their shopping experience when they should be energized. That's what happens when you force shoppers to think about getting low prices when what they want is to feel good about what they're buying.The emphasis on "think" and "feel" is the author's, and it's the most important part of the whole argument. Most products these days do more or less what they're supposed to. Color printers print in color, fabric softeners soften fabrics, and peanut butter tastes peanut-buttery. Yet, in each of these categories there are dozens of competing brands and products fighting for shelf space and maybe a few column-inches in the weekly flyer to talk about what makes them great. To win market share short-term, the easy thing to do is cut prices, appealing to the typical customer's budget -- a very left-brained approach. Longer term, though, this strategy is unsustainable, and aside from the few brands that have successfully positioned themselves around low prices (Wal-Mart anybody?), the most memorable brands have fought hard to make an emotional appeal (e.g. "Choosy moms choose Jif"). Wittemen makes this argument by comparing the typical supermarket to an Apple Store. I don't want to spoil the surprise for anybody who hasn't read the article yet, but let's just say that there doesn't have to be a huge difference between a high-end boutique and a grocery store, and the few that have recognized this and begun to take steps to use this information are becoming industry standouts.
The other article that really caught my attention was by CoActive Marketing Group's Charlie Tarzian, where he explains some of the inner workings of event marketing. (Granted, I don't know very much about event marketing, but I suspect the article would be relevant even to those who work in the field.) According to Tarzian, event marketers live and breathe in a world where every interaction with potential customers needs to be extraordinary. In his example of promoting a team on the NASCAR circuit, this involves not just paint and graphics on the car, but freebie giveaways during major events, on-site product marketing specialists, and lots and lots of branded swag, among other things. But as unusual as that may sound to the typical retailer, his five basic points about successful event/experience marketing apply remarkably well to retail marketing:
- Create a "theme park" focused on generating demand, making sales and building relationships.
- Integrate events with online and other marketing activities.
- Deploy field marketers, not activators.
- Create a word-of-mouth architecture.
- Develop ROI/KPI measures.
Each of these articles would make excellent conversation fodder for anyone either starting a retail media project or retooling an existing one. It's always encouraging to see more retail and marketing groups jump into the fray with their own perspectives on what works and what doesn't when it comes to retail. While groups like POPAI have the ability to show us what has worked in the past, to a large extent we're still figuring out the best course of action for this latest generation of in-store media projects. More advertising dollars are being shifted into the store every day, but the ones holding the purse strings are obviously counting on getting more out of their investment than if they had just gone with the status quo (and probably put that money into TV ads). We're thus under the gun to deliver high-performance marketing techniques that surprise and delight the consumer (there's that word again). It's no small task, but with each article I read and each new person I talk to, my feeling is that truly great retail marketing programs will combine the best parts of traditional, direct, event and loyalty marketing in a creative way that genuinely captivates in-store shoppers.
A brief word about the upcoming Digital Signage Expo
A bunch of us from WireSpring will be going to the Digital Signage Expo (formerly the Digital Retailing Expo) in Chicago on May 16-17. I'll be moderating the session on "Quantifying Ad-Based Networks," which I think is going to be pretty interesting, and you can also catch Axel Vera from Televisa/Wal-Mart Mexico (one of our clients) in the panel discussion on "7 Seconds to Impact". Feel free to stop by our booth (#528) for demos of FireCast and some friendly industry banter. Here are some details on the sessions that we're involved with:
Seven Seconds to Impact
Wednesday, May 16: 9-10 am
Featuring Vanessa Hartnoll from Impetus Consulting, Axel Vera from Televisa, Kent Hodder from Met Hodder, and Pat Hellberg from Nike
Quantifying Ad-Based Networks
Thursday, May 17: 12-1 pm
Featuring Bill Gerba from WireSpring, Kim Rayburn from BIGresearch, George Wishart from Nielsen InStore, and David DeBusk from DS-IQ
You can visit the official show website to learn more.