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There’s a New Big Idea in Town – and it Starts at the Shelf

Successful sales promotion doesn’t come from flashy TV spots. It comes from making a clear connection with shoppers. The secret to powerful selling? Consumer insights—and likely, based on data you already have.

Every powerful selling idea stems from a key human insight

Relevant, actionable consumer and shopper insights are critical to your success—whether you’re charged with developing harder working promotions or new product innovations.

For instance, if you knew that your core customers—or your best prospects—responded more enthusiastically to sweepstakes offers than the general public, would that help you develop sales events that generate excitement, drive traffic and boost volume? You bet it would.

And when it comes to the critical impact of strategic insights, promotion planning is just the beginning. Because leading CPG brands are forging new ways to apply consumer and shopper insights, spurred on by P&G’s September 2009 revelation of its Store Back approach—which does nothing less than turn the IMC planning process on its head.

Planning with the end in mind

To many marketers, developing integrated marketing communications has been interpreted as taking a clever :30 TV spot created by the ad agency, and giving it to the sales promotion, web design and PR firms so they can deliver the same message.

That’s going to change—if brand marketers pick up on the lead taken by Procter & Gamble. With P&G’s Store Back, the marketing pros and all their agencies are charged with keeping the end goal in mind—the action at the store shelf that leads consumers to purchase—when coming up with the big idea. And if the idea doesn’t work at the store, it’s a miss.

As a result, P&G has made systemic changes to the way they plan and execute communications. The format of briefing documents was changed to focus on the core communication idea for in-store action. And the first creative concepts P&G marketers review are the in-store elements… not TV ideas.

Three keys to P&G’s Store Back approach, according to integrated communications manager Samantha Avivi, are:

  1. Know and understand the core customer, how she thinks and feels about the brand and the category, in order to win big in store.
  2. Based on that consumer insight, develop a strong communication idea for the in-store environment.
  3. Leverage that core idea across all relevant touch points, prioritizing the marketing spend against the most influential contact points along the path to purchase.

Turning customer data into shopper insights

If your company hasn’t yet established an Insights Team, don’t panic. Somewhere in a saved file you may already have research data that can be mined to identify the distinct types of people—customer segments—who use your product.

The real value lies in pulling the relevant data out of those mountains of spreadsheets and turning it back into real people. Not just the demographics, but also the important behavioral traits that cause them to choose the products and services they do. Developing individual personas. Fleshing out each important character in your brand’s movie. And identifying what’s going on in her head when she’s thinking about your retail channel, product and product category.

In particular, we want to know what’s happening at the moment before she makes each purchase decision. Just before she points her car in the direction of a particular store. When she first steps foot into the toy department. Or when she turns her cart into “your aisle” of the supermarket.

Because when we know what’s going on in her head and what’s keeping her from doing what we want her to do, we can identify the right messages to deliver to get your product into her shopping cart.

Turning shopper insights into action

What would it take to make your core customer buy your product? Make her love it? Talk about it to her friends? If you were the customer, what do you really want or need from this product, this store or this restaurant? What can your brand offer that customer that she can’t do for herself?

When you discover a driving emotional or practical need that’s gone unmet, unsolved or unaddressed by any of your competitors, you’ve found your key insight.

For example, if you arrived at the core understanding that your best prospect is a person who truly wants to exercise, but often procrastinates, you might develop the brand mantra “Just Do It,” as Nike did.

Although it began as an ad campaign in 1988, it grew into an international icon worthy of a place in the Smithsonian National Museum. More importantly, in the ten years from 1988 to 1998 as they challenged the world to “Just Do It,” Nike worldwide sales grew from $877 million to $9.2 billion.

In fact, powerful consumer and shopper insights reverberate far beyond a company’s marketing department, spurring innovations in product, packaging and value proposition.

And, yes, consumer insights inform promotions

Sales promotion is all about driving a specific action, typically at the retail shelf. A good insight creates the bridge between the core customer and the action of buying your product. And a promotion plan that’s grounded in a powerful shopper insight can also help your Sales team convince a key retailer to support a program.

For example, after placing an ad featuring a recent, national sweepstakes in five publications, including All You—the Time Inc. publication developed specifically for Walmart shoppers—we learned that All You out-performed every other publication for sending consumers online to enter the sweepstakes.

Those core customers who respond more enthusiastically to sweepstakes than the general public? They’re Walmart shoppers. And you can bet we’ll be using that key insight as we develop future promotions for EMA clients who sell through that key retailer and its many competitors.

Want to talk about your key insights and how they can improve your sales? Contact Virginia Bates, EMA Partner and Director of Promotional Services.