Think like a retailer

Maple Leaf Foods' Nola Martin gives advice on how to get a store on board with your shopper marketing program.
Nola Martin_headshot

By Nola Martin

So how did your last shopper marketing program work?  Were you happy with the ROI or did it end up being little more than a display with POS?

I’ve had more than my fair share of programs go this way, and as I took a hard look at the program, I had to admit it was perhaps not as relevant to the retailer as it could have been to make them interested in executing it the way the program had been intended.

We all know brands and retailers see things inversely. The retailer spends a lot of their time focused on how to get more people in their store and which departments they are going to focus on to create a point of difference. Brands think about, well, their brand.

So I’ve found the key is to frame up the benefits of a shopper marketing program through the retailer’s lens, helping them to see how this will benefit their customer and the categories they care about the most.

Developing a program that will strongly resonate with the retailer can be challenging at times as it means the brand may need to sacrifice some of its messaging for more category or retailer-focused messaging. Most marketers aren’t eager to do this, especially with new and emerging brands. We don’t like to share.

So what can you do?  First, and most importantly, make sure the category you participate in is on the retailer’s radar as being important. I once worked with a client who wanted to create a shopper marketing program for their gastro-intestinal products. You can imagine how successful that was.

Second, you may not need to change the brand focus or messaging of your program, however, you may need to change the way you sell the program, from focusing on your brand/product to how your program is going to deliver on the retailer’s category objectives, including how it will positively impact the retailer’s target customers.

This can be a bit of a challenge as retailers are quite cautious about sharing their strategies, and depending on who you are working with, they may not be able to articulate the strategy at all. This is where the liberal use of shopper insights comes in. Programs focused on innovation and multiple SKUs within a category are most likely to positively impact a category versus single SKU programs, which may just cannibalize other items in the category.

Finding partners in complementary categories that may drive a broader department goal, as many of you know, is a good way to build scale and interest from the retailer. This approach moves your conversation further up the retailer’s hierarchy from category to department. Also, the synergistic use of funds may allow you to drive greater reach and potentially participate in program elements your own budget may not have supported.

I once worked on a seasonal skin care program that had its challenges in integrating brand messaging into a common theme with which all manufacturers could live, and with coordinating across different category managers. But the end result was well worth the extra work, as each company had much stronger results and was able to make a significantly larger impact in store than they ever would have been able to do as a solo brand event.

Whatever tactic you take, the next time you create a shopper marketing program, step into the retailer’s shoes. It will increase your chances of execution, and likely a strong ROI for everyone involved.

Nola Martin is senior marketing director, category management at Maple Leaf Foods.