Is Trade Promotion the Sacred Cow of Shopper Marketing?

As marketers become more and more shopper-centric, their outputs look more and more sophisticated. Most of them now have a path-to-purchase framework as the guiding visual at the top of the plans.  The frameworks vary from three stages to a more complex seven or so, but the usage of them is more-or-less the same: they serve as a guide to map out what marketing activity is going to happen (and why)  at what stage of The Shopper’s Journey®.

(I used the MARS Advertising trademark above, deliberately, and for two reasons. One, I was part of the development team and still have the sense that it’s as relevant today as it was when it was put forth in the market five years ago. Two, the word journey is more appropriate than path, it’s a more fluid word to describe a most fluid consumer/shopper scenario. In addition, the correlation to the shopper as “the HERO” aptly describes the deep-seeded realities of what’s way underneath our behavior in life.)

I’ve been a part of hundreds of shopper marketing plans that use some sort of path as the framework. The outputs are indeed more sophisticated, as true insights are applied in the planning phase, and therefore the output tends to look more like marketing in general. There are more and more agencies and client groups working in synergy to produce integrated, comprehensive plans that are more effective than the shopper marketing of just a few short years ago, let alone what was happening when I began my shopper marketing career in 1992. It’s all good.

Or is it? How many so-called “sophisticated” shopper marketers  still have the SACRED COW trade deal in every single plan they produce? Why is that?

I’ve heard some shopper marketing executives declare that trade will always be a part of shopper marketing. I don’t believe this to be true or wise, in fact. I’ve seen plenty of good efforts based on insights that get good results without any discount at all. Why is that? It’s usually because a true behavioral, emotional insight has been applied to the planning and that insight is NOT about a price-driven purchase barrier.

VALUE to the shopper is NOT ONLY DEFINED as a DISCOUNT. If you are locked in this mindset, do more research with shoppers in the stores. Listen and shop with them. Dig deeper. When they tell you they only want coupons, keep questioning. Don’t give up so easily. Care more about your shoppers than that. Care about your company more than that. Endless rounds of coupons aren’t good for anyone in our business.

Insights are the lifeblood of shopper marketing.  It’s time to slay that trade sacred cow one shopper marketing plan at a time.