Marketing and Research Consulting for a Brave New World
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Last week I blogged about whether or not brand awareness, specifically aided awareness really matters in a digital and shopper marketing world.  Some comments appeared in linkedin groups, saying that the traditional view that awareness precedes purchase must, of course, still be true.

I decided to analyze my shopping cart from a recent trip and I am more convinced than ever that the traditional awareness driven linear AIDA model only drives a fraction of what goes in the cart.

Here is my shopping cart about half way through a fill-in trip, and the “play by play”.

  • Wissotzky tea: I never heard of this brand before and tea was not on my list.  There was a nice in-aisle free standing display that caught my eye.  I’m not a big tea drinker, but mango and passion fruit flavor sounded nice, so what the heck?  Brand awareness, interest, and purchase all happened simultaneously.
  • Olives stuffed with blue cheese:  The product was on my list but I couldn’t tell you (even now) what the brand is
  • Jalapeno slices: impulse purchase.  Something I like, haven’t bought in a while, but they were right next to the olives.  Couldn’t tell you the brand.
  • Kraft American Cheese slices: the only brand of American Cheese I have bought for years.  I’m sure TV advertising had a lot to do with this, but I can’t tell you the last time I saw a commercial for this product.
  • Precut veggies.  Store brand. Discovered precut veggies of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots at retail some time ago and wanted a healthy snack.
  • Lemon Meringue Pie.  (Hidden under the veggies). Store brand, a regular item in the house (my wife loves this).  Discovered at retail one day.
  • Home Pride whole wheat bread.  Discovered at retail many years ago and I have a strong preference for this brand (not bland like white bread, not dry like other whole wheat).

Now, I must confess, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this and it always comes out the same; a minority of the products I buy reflect strong brand loyalty and of those, many I just discovered at retail one day (Seattle’s Best Henry’s Blend and Everybody’s Nuts flavored Pistachio nuts are two additional examples.).  In fact, I once kept a diary of all brands I used (not messages exposed to but actually used).  I reached 77 brands by 2PM when I stopped (it got tiring!) but the big finding was that I only felt loyalty to 5 of the 77 and about one-third of the products I couldn’t even tell you the brand name.  For example, making coffee involves 8 brands (coffee maker, filter, coffee, countertop, spoon, cup, milk, and the outlet I plug the coffee maker into.)  I know 3 brand names of the 8 products and only feel loyalty to one (the coffee) and even at that, I don’t buy that item all the time.  However, to be fair, the coffee maker is a Mr. Coffee and I’m sure all those ads with Joe DiMaggio got that brand in my consideration set.

My belief is that three things come together to produce purchase outcome; brand meaning (usually non-exclusive, more about acceptability and matching to needs), activation (getting me to want that type of product, displays, right features, sales), and shopper heuristics (how I choose to buy this type of product).  Brands are very important, but more often than not, they add value to me by simplifying my shopper decision making rather than being a brand I am engaged with.  Brand meaning can be created via advertising, social interaction, or now more spontaneously at point of purchase via shopper marketing or mobile apps.  There is no single answer; these are just different plays in the marketing playbook to be guided by shopper insights research into the shopping styles for that type of product.

Marketers find themselves in a world where the great majority of brand-consumer relationships are based on non-exclusive brand beliefs which give shoppers choices; that explains why many or most brand purchase decisions are made at retail. Marketers will want to dial up the exclusivity of what their brand stands for and owns (see blog on this) or change the way a shopper shops.  Get them to start looking for YOUR brand rather than a type of product.  Otherwise, national brand marketers will remain challenged to support their price differential vs. store brands.

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3 Responses to “Supermarket shopping in the real world”

  1. I think we saw a lot more brand loyalty in terms of grocery shopping when retail generics weren’t as commonplace. It’s very rare that I won’t look at a vegetable and go, “Oh, broccoli’s broccoli-especially with a healthy slather of cheddar on top!” and buy the cheapest bag of frozen veggies I can find. It is, in fact, much more common for me to choose foods based on price than brand until I discover that I absolutely can’t stand a particular one, then I give it a wide berth. (Wegman’s pasta? Steer clear, my friends…)

  2. Do you think that this is unique to low-involvement purchases like groceries. Could you say the same thing about electronics and clothing?

  3. Hey Joel,

    I enjoyed both your posts about brand awareness and agree that brand awareness is not necessarily a pre-requisite for purchase.

    However, as a metric I believe it still has a purpose as a diagnostic measure and when used properly (in combination with other metrics and data) can drive marketing decision making. Building relationships outside of the retail environment can short cut decision making during the shop and change shopper heuristics, but awareness alone does NOT constitute a relationship, it only provide the foundation for the relationship (much like a canvas provides a foundation for a painting). For example, a brand with high awareness, but weak conversion to trial need to focus on brand proposition or in-store marketing, while a brand with low awareness but strong conversion should potentially focus on increasing visibility, while maintaining positioning.

    At the end of the day, strong brand equity provides a head start, but you still need to win the race at retail. The return on investment on traditional marketing (building demand) vs. shopper marketing (activation) needs to be assessed at a category level to determine the optimum mix.

    The brand funnel is still relevant, but needs to be viewed as non-linear and part of the picture, NOT the whole picture.

    Thanks again Joel for provoking thought.