Shelfish thoughts

In Advertising, Communicate, Dubai, Marketing, Opinion, Published journalism on November 24, 2010 at 7:33 pm

As TBWA/Raad launches Integer, the region’s latest shopper marketing agency, the discipline’s big challenge will not be shifting product but keeping clients focused on their brands

Originally published in Communicate, May 2010

Everyone’s getting into shopper marketing these days. OgilvyAction has been around for a while, and Saatchi launched its shopper marketing arm, Saatchi & Saatchi X, in October 2009. Last month, TBWA/Raad joined the fray, with the launch of a MENA office for Omnicom shopper marketing agency Integer.

More shopper marketing agencies mean more buzzwords from the discipline that brought us wobblers and danglers. At March’s Dubai International Advertising Festival, Simon Hathaway, the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, waxed lyrical about “storeback thinking,” “the shopping cycle,” “destripping the store,” and “return on involvement,” before getting to the crucial question: “How will it play on-shelf?”

Integer brought more discipline-specific jargon to its launch event. From the moment group chairman Jeremy Pagden explained that his company’s “special sauce” is a “three-lens model” (it looks at the brand, the shopper and the retailer), we knew we were in for a neologistic treat. Pagden introduced us to pre-tail (what happens before a consumer enters the store) and post-tail (what they do after they leave).

Craig Elston, Integer’s senior vice-president of insight and strategy, who also flew in from the group’s Denver headquarters for the launch, threw “digi-tail” into the mix. (That’s the digital component of shopper marketing.)

Marcus Evans, managing director of Integer MENA, introduced Integer’s first MENA Checkout Survey of the shopping habits and attitudes of the region’s consumers. He explained that shoppers can be broken into recreational “muses” (who are in the majority in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the three markets covered by the research) and “masters,” who see every shopping trip as a challenge to be approached tactically.

One buzzword that didn’t rear its head at the Integer launch was that old favorite, the silo. Shopper marketing might not break down any silos – and arguably creates another one – but it does bridge a couple of disciplines that often have trouble communicating: marketing and sales.

The Middle East marketing scene is notorious for its short-termism, with agencies regularly pulling their hair out over clients who are committed to tactical, sales-led strategies to the detriment of long-game strategic branding. And there’s a danger that the influx of shopper marketing agencies will give license to clients to focus on the short term, on shifting product at the expense of brand-building work.

Elston listed nine tenets of successful shopper marketing, the last of which was: “Sell today, brand always.” But the challenge for Integer, as with other agencies’ shopper marketing arms, will be as much about making clients take that to heart as it will be persuading shoppers to buy.

These pages are bound to carry more on shopper marketing over the coming months – and more new words and phrases to describe it. But with shelf-back thinking dominating the post-credit-crunch marketing mentality, we must hope the strategies that help brands come alive at-shelf don’t lose too much in translation.


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