OPINION: A bottom-up view of the new shopper landscape

Jonathan Clow
By Jonathan Clow | 2 December 2013

With a new shopper agency or agency division popping up every other day, it’s time to bust some myths and interrogate the drivers of the new shopper.

1. We deselect as often as we select brands

With so much range and choice out there, we now have as many reasons why not to buy, as to buy. This process is called brand deselection. By mentally deleting the brands we don't like, we settle on the ones that remain. Many people shop this way, whether it’s in the aisle, on the rack or at the bar. Hence our brand choice is not always governed by brand love.

Some brands are simply better than the others. And this is before we even start considering factors like price, promotions, environment, mood, colours and semiotics. In many categories, non-polarising brands can survive. Mediocre can win the day. So, assuming your brand is left on the mental shelf, what happens next?

2. Bottom-up marketing

The new shopper has little time for complex brand marketing and most of it is wasted once it hits the shelves. As marketers, we were taught about how the first moment of truth magically connects with the second, to create a seamless logical buying pattern. With so many messages coming from so many different places, it’s hard to imagine that any real science applies anymore.

Clients often tell us they want ‘simple’ shopper campaigns. The problem with this is that agencies often misinterpret simplicity for ‘un-creative’ and are tempted to fall into the traditional approach: tell a brand story and then crowbar the campaign into retail later.

Accenting an above-the-line idea in-store is no longer enough to create campaigns that sweat hard in retail. We can no longer guarantee our ad campaigns will be seen. Often, it’s in the store where the first moment of truth occurs. This means that somehow shopper campaigns need to work in reverse, with above-the-line communications helping amplify a core shopper theme or idea. Sometimes we need to start working from the bottom up.

3. Democratising brands

If brands want to be loved they must share the same common goals as their shoppers and consumers. Our new media landscape has fundamentally shifted our general outlook on life. This not only affects our relationships with each other, it also fundamentally changes the terms within which consumers will want to interact with brands and their messages.

Consumers now place connection with their various communities, on and offline, at the heart of their lives. Community participation has grown to become a fluid and pervasive part of pretty much all of our daily routines. Brands that can tap into these communities will prosper. Brands that can use them to generate participation in their ideas will win.

The problem is, much of marketing, advertising and communication (both digital and traditional) is centred on the self and defined by individual identity. By putting pen portraits and consumer bulls-eyes at the heart of our thinking, we have missed some fundamental drivers that can help shape and positively influence consumer behaviour. That’s why so many brands have moved away from demographics towards shopper missions.

If we can put the dynamics of groups at the heart of our thinking and deliver campaigns that not only communicate, but also allow consumers to participate, we can unlock this urge to the benefit of brands.

4. Customer, category, brand

In that order. The major grocers don’t care much for brands anymore, unless they have something that they haven’t. They care more for categories. With customer-led ideas being increasingly difficult to pull off, category growth creates a win-win for both brand and customer.

5. It’s okay for product strategy to lead

We’ve seen a gradual movement back to product-based strategies. We are in an age when a new clean-slate brand can survive without any brand marketing at all, if the product differentiators deliver.

Likewise, established brands need to create ‘new’ news for their brand to remain both interesting and relevant. It’s widely known that limited edition or new product SKUs are introduced for new news and to gain feature, even though the output will be that they will sell more of their core range. For time-poor shoppers, we need to be more direct in how we sell brands within retail to drive consideration higher and avoid brand deselection.

Jonathan Clow
Managing Director
BD Network

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