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Conventional marketing and media starts at the big mouth of the funnel.  Generate lots of awareness and hopefully you’ll wind up with enough customers popping out the other end as loyal purchasers.

Now some are making a convincing argument that marketers are starting at the wrong end of the funnel.

Marc Pritchard Procter’s CMO calls this new thinking “store back”, and told P&G agencies (not just the shopper marketing ones) that it means that marketers must ALWAYS have the store in mind when developing a new product, a new idea, a new statement: if it does not work at the store, it’s a miss”.  Peter Hoyt from the In-store marketing institute calls it “shelf back”, and The ARF (and others) calls it path to purchase.  Leo Burnett (the man) said, “Plan the sale as you plan the ad”.  This certainly seems to make sense when half or more of purchases down to the brand level are determined at point of purchase.

As this thinking takes hold, I see three mega-marketing trends

  • Merger of digital and shopper marketing

Now, we’re told that digital marketing and social media are the hottest things on the media landscape, so how does that tie together with starting at the other end of the funnel? I think that digital marketing and shopper marketing will increasingly merge together.  Mobile devices will allow people to bring information, offers, and friends (virtually) into the store with them.  The internet is no longer only on your desktop, it is everywhere including right in the store. This gives manufacturers another way to reinforce their relationship with the shopper right at the decision moment even as that shopper is in an environment they otherwise do not control. Consider the apps on the iPhone (like Kraft’s recipe app); early days but shows what can be.   Consider the use of QR codes in Asia.

From a retailer perspective, they know they need a digital presence but aren’t sure how clicks translate into bricks.  However, we are still thinking of the digital store and the physical store in some disjoint way and they need to be merged into a more seamless experience.  They will be.

  • Manage mega-brands across all media, activate product sales at retail

Marketers will increasingly emphasize the growth of mega-brands with consistent meaning across product categories and across borders.  Traditional and other media (including social media) will be used to make these brands are salient as possible and point of purchase activation will be used to close the sale so that, even when a new SKU is encountered in the store by that known brand name, it has immediate acceptance.

  • From a research perspective, more emphasis will go towards understanding people as shoppers.

The mating dance of consumer preferences and shopper experience resulting in purchase outcome is what the “path to purchase” concept is all about.   I imagine that more research approaches will also test a product’s (new or existing) message by what it looks like at retail rather than what it looks like in its own print ad or TV commercial.

We are truly at the precipice of new marketing thinking. On Thursday, the ARF will talk more about this at its Shopper Insights council.

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2 Responses to “Are we starting at the wrong end of the marketing funnel?”

  1. Scott Mitchell

    Totally agree. Having rolled out path to purchase globally for Nestle over 4 years (2001-2005) many big companies (like Nestle) have systemic and cultural barriers to one team one plan with consumer and shopper at centre of planning. “Product back” is a fundamental business principle from when retail began (medieval times and before). Today, smaller operators without FMCG budgets are forced to do this but if they engage media/ creative agencies they are quickly poisoned by the agencies blinkered thinking where the line (ATL/BTL) is their first point of reference not the consumer/ shopper. It is changing but most big agencies still can’t get it that’s why they buy up smaller, nimble, smart shops. Measuring and influencing behaviour is the key means to the end and winning more purchase and consumption occasions. After all that is the virtuous business cycle…

  2. […] The Advertising Research Foundation is een grote onafhankelijke stichting die onderzoek doet naar de effectiviteit van allerlei vormen van reclame en marketing. Joel Rubinson is het hoofd onderzoek aldaar, en hij heeft zich op zijn weblog al vaker warm pleitbezorger getoond van shopper-gecentreerd-denken (1) (2). Zo ook weer vandaag. Rubinson vraagt zich af of veel marketing-inspanningen niet aan de verkeerde kant van de trechter beginnen. […]