Archive for December 28, 2011

2012…Watershed for Retailers or Are the Mayans Right?

Having been in the supermarket-CPG business for more years than I care to admit, it is rare that I hyper-ventilate about much these days.  After all, selling  groceries through the years has remained essentially the same, (aisles and checkouts) for as long as I have been alive.  But I dare say there is something different in the air these days.  (All puns intended).  Mobile phones are not just at “critical mass” levels, they have become an appendage for many.  A third hand, if you will, with 50% or more having smartphone phones with applications that can not only aide the shopping experience but can be a repository for coupons, and even a payment device.

So now the onus is on the retailer.  First to better understand this new and emerging breed of mobile-assisted shopper.  Secondly and most importantly, be able to offer meaningful experiential upgrades at their stores for mobile users.  Near Field Communications, Quick Response Codes, combined with locational applications can finally reach the shopper at the Moment of Truth…in the shopping process, at the shelf when many decisions are made or changed.  Some retailers will make that connection this year. Others will remain on the sidelines.

2012 could indeed be a watershed year for growing and differentiating the business….or it could be just another year of sitting back and letting others lead ….waiting to see if the Mayan calendar , which predicts the end of the world as we know it in 2012…is right. For those retailers that wait, I think the Mayans just might have your number!

Too Many (Marketing) Chiefs and not Enough…

My outstanding reputation for impeccable political correctness prevents me from completing this once popular phrase, but I think we can all relate to situations where we were the recipients of significantly more direction and advice than actual physical help in accomplishing a task.  Said another way, “there are many that fancy themselves as captains and far fewer willing to serve on the crew”!

I have found this especially true in the corporate environment of marketing and advertising.  While many believe they have an incredible untapped talent in all things marketing, few are willing or even talented enough to roll up their sleeves and join the team.  Consequently, I challenge anyone to compare the “worker bees” of advertising and marketing with any other department in the company and I would wager the marketers are among the most valuable.

There are a number of reasons why marketing and advertising tends to lead all departments in efficiency, but also under appreciation.  I  learned early-on, if you are going to survive as a marketer, one needs to recognize a couple of unavoidable retail truisms that tend to relegate marketing and advertising to something less than is.


1.  Almost everyone thinks they are a marketing expert……This ubiquity of pseudo marketing knowledge is couched many times in years of valuable anecdotal experience, i.e.

“I know what I like and certainly know what my wife or Aunt Nellie likes”.

Or how many times have we heard, “I never buy….. (fill in the blank)” or “I never shop at……”

And more germane to new social media and new customer touch points, you hear “I don’t think anyone plans their shopping trip on the internet prior to coming to the store, I know I would not”…….

… Which of course means no one else does… how could they?

Rarely do you hear anything that resembles quantitative analysis from these folks, after all, marketing to them is more about how they feel, and any “factual information” to the contrary is ignored.  Now add to that mentality a bit of rank and the power of a corporate position. The result is an amazingly potent combination that most often results in unbelievably boring stories in the meetings and more seriously, poor marketing decisions.  It also can mean the perpetuation of the lack of  appreciation of the talent and the sweat it takes to do quality, creative marketing and advertising.

This leads to a second marketing credibility barrier.

2.  Marketing output is  less tangible than merchandising, operations, accounting or even the corporation’s janitorial service to most people.  These “experts” are not interested in numerics, unless it is the traditional sales and profit numbers they  grew up reviewing.  After all, how do put value on the creativity and clarity of messaging, clever TV spots, or even a more readable weekly circular?    Not many understand rating points, or awareness scores.  Too many on the C-level of corporate America believe good marketing is simply table stakes, with the integral pieces almost automatically falling into place no matter who or how few is tasked with its production.

My point is that true marketing and advertising professionals acknowledge research so they are tuned into the customer, not their Aunt Nellie, or their own personal tastes.  Sure we all have our bias and perspectives, but marketing pros must maintain the position as intermediary, not advocate.  Good ones do just that!  We must also acknowledge that EVERYONE has an opinion and their own set of marketing values and these personal interjections must be encountered and navigated around with pragmatic marketing metrics….and some diplomacy.

The line I often use when besieged with personal, anecdotal marketing suggestions from C-level experts, “REMEMBER, WE ARE NOT THE TARGET AUDIENCE”……which indeed most are not!