How Carlsberg drives results through shopper marketing

For Carlsberg, an increasingly restrictive marketing environment has meant that targeting shoppers at point of purchase has been high on the agenda for a long time.

Priyadarshini Sharma, international brand director for premium brands at Carlsberg, talks to Marketing magazine about the effectiveness of strong shopper marketing-led initiatives. [Sharma will be speaking at Marketing magazine’s third annual Shopper Marketing conference on 11 June in Singapore.]

Marketing: What was the impetus for Carlsberg investing in shopper marketing?

Sharma: There are certain regulatory challenges around alcohol marketing that make shopper marketing even more crucial to Carlsberg than it might be for traditional FMCG companies. As markets around the world go “dark” (meaning above the line advertising or communication is not permitted) it’s important for us to be able to talk to our consumers in the only forum where we can reach them – in-store. This is why Carlsberg has been focused on shopper marketing for many years – even if it wasn’t formally called “shopper marketing” – the impetus was always there to talk to consumers where they make the purchase decision.

Marketing: How difficult is this compared to the usual way of TV advertising?

Sharma: The biggest challenge is that one doesn’t have the luxury of storytelling, and we need to find a way to distil our message to the simplest, yet most effective level. It’s relatively easier to “tell a story” via TV ads – you have 30 seconds, audio visual aids and the ability to give a voice to your message. In an in-store or on-premise environment however, you have less than five seconds to intercept a shopper on a mission, hold their attention and close the sale with your message.

When you need to plan your communication by starting with what you will say at the point of purchase, you’re forced to look at the creative development process in a different way, whereby everything from insight development to the agency briefing to creative qualification doesn’t follow traditional FMCG routes.

Marketing: What are the biggest pitfalls of reorganising marketing around shoppers?

Sharma: I believe that the danger lies in having a “pendulum” approach to marketing. We have seen the tendency where companies either put consumers at the heart of their marketing (ignoring shoppers), or only base their marketing on shoppers, thereby missing out on truly heart and mind-opening consumer insights which create affinity for the brands. The “secret” lies in having a balance, keeping in mind how your path-to-purchase works and leveraging the right insights for each touch-point.

The other thing to understand is that consumer and shopper behaviour is not the same thing, even if you’re referring to the same person. Often in the beer industry in Asia (where the consumer and shopper usually is the same person), there may be a belief that “one size fits all”.

However, this can be a pitfall because influencing consumers when they are in “shopping” mode requires an understanding of what drives their decision making. For example, having a movie star in your ads may generate the right imagery for your consumer, but when they are buying the beer at the supermarket, they need a reminder on the price or chilled availability rather than just seeing the movie star on a poster.

Marketing: Can you tell us about particularly striking examples of shopper marketing campaigns failing?

Sharma: Rather than campaigns failing, I believe it’s usually the execution that fails. So even if the marketing team has uncovered a true shopper insight and devised the best creative to fit this, if they don’t take into account the context within which it will get executed, it can lead to failure. I’ve seen many examples of great creatives which get pasted in a dark and dingy corner of a bar – this is an example of failed execution rather than failed campaigns.

The other thing to be mindful of is that we need to behave like “one” brand – otherwise you can risk confusing the consumer and shopper and diluting your brand equity. I have seen examples of brands trying to build a premium imagery in their advertising or consumer communication, but their shopper execution comes across as cheap or tacky due to excessive discounting or poor quality in-store execution. This is a big example of shopper marketing failing to support the brand.

Marketing: Do you think that the days of traditional campaigns, i.e. those that used TV ads as their starting point, are over?

Sharma: No. We should always start with the objective – there are situations when it would still be relevant to start with the big idea or above the line engagement before you can filter messages down to the store level. This would be true, for example, in the case of breakthrough technology where we need to create broader awareness and excitement – even before consumers come to the store. Of course, the shopper piece would still be integral to the overall marketing plan – just the starting point would be different.

That said, the world of marketing is evolving very fast and the boundaries between the traditional stages of the path-to-purchase are blurring. This means that what would have traditionally been considered a consumer engagement touch-point (i.e. digital media) is now also a shopper touch-point. So now, more than ever, things cannot work in isolation. The only “rule” for marketers today is to have your consumer and shopper insights aligned with your brand’s equity at the heart of any messages you put out – and keep the messages simple and engaging.

Priyadarshini Sharma is the international brand director for premium brands for Asia at Carlsberg.

Along with representatives of brands such as Amazon, FrieslandCampina and 3M, Sharma will be speaking about shopper marketing at Marketing magazine’s Shopper Marketing conference on 11 June in Singapore.

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