Insights from the shop floor

Warc (formerly the World Advertising Research Centre) recently released its trends dossier on the terribly du-jour topic of shopper marketing. Thankfully it starts with a much-needed definition: “All marketing stimuli, developed based on a deep understanding of shopper behavior, designed to build brand equity, engage the shopper (i.e. consumer in ‘shopping mode’), and lead him or her to make a purchase.”

It goes on to discuss two insights that I think are key to great shopper thinking.

The first is P&G’s answer to the puzzle of how to integrate shopper activity with the rest of the marketing mix. Their idea is what they call a ‘store-back’ policy; to look for ideas that work on shelf, then push backwards along the path to purchase.

It reminded me of the launch of Mackenzie’s Bread in the brown paper bag, which I think is a perfect example of this ‘store-back’ thinking.

The thinking started with a product that was so clearly distinctive on shelf. ‘So big it won’t fit in your toaster’ is what I remember the baker at Goodman Fielder proudly exclaiming. Then came that brown paper packaging, the lynchpin of the brand story.

The comms took that great product thinking and built an integrated story about nineteenth-century southern high-country around it. And the reason it worked so well was that it lived this ‘store-back’ approach of first being creative about the product. It was great shopper marketing.

The second point Warc’s report makes is about the importance of retail becoming more and more experiential. Luca Catzola, the chief marketing officer of Carrefour Italy, says “The key point to remember is the idea of a sale strictly connected to an experience”.

That reminded me of one of Catzola’s contemporary’s—Sainsbury’s—and its brilliant ‘Try Something New’ campaign in the UK.


Craig Mawdsley, the AMV BBDO planner who worked on the campaign told me how he’d done his thinking while walking around the supermarket with mums as they shopped. He recalled one shopper who could wheel her trolley around, maintaining conversation and eye contact with him, while pulling items off the shelf over her other shoulder without even looking.

It was this insight that many shoppers were ‘sleep shopping’ that led to Sainsbury’s to convince Britain to try one new thing each shop. By turning the weekly shop into a real experience, Sainsbury’s added £2.6 billion to their annual sales.

I believe this idea of doing the strategic thinking inside the customer experience yields the kinds of insights that lead to great experiential retail thinking, great shopper marketing ideas, and ultimately great commercial success.

A sample of the WARC report is available here

  • James Hurman is managing director of Y&R New Zealand. Y&R’s retail offering is part of the Ideaworks family, Australasia’s only retail and shopper marketing agency network. 

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