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Curtin, Mack talk strategic alignment and the art of co-creation at Shopper Marketing Expo

BY Antoinette Alexander

CHICAGO — The best partnerships involve transparent storytelling and the freedom to have risky conversations. Call it “co-creation.” It is the way leading retailers and CPG companies are working together today to identify and leverage the unique hidden assets of their brands, and build a business plan around agile and transparent collaboration.

To take marketing professionals on a journey of the co-creation process, what it means and why it’s critical to joint business planning, industry leaders Shannon Curtin, GMM and VP of beauty, personal care and seasonal at Walgreens, and Dan Mack, founder and managing director of strategic sales and consulting firm Mack Elevation Forum, co-hosted, “Elevating Customer Engagement through Co-Creation,” a key part of the educational lineup, here Wednesday, at the annual Shopper Marketing Expo.

Why co-creation? Because it enables marketers to answer a critical question and face the biggest threat to future growth. "If your brand was delisted today,” Curtin posited, “would anyone care? Would your customer care? Co-creation creates care, and care creates long-term revenue potential. Without care, brands do not survive.”


Shannon Curtin and Dan Mack

What is it and what does it look like? Co-creation is a total process that starts with something the pair described as “relevant innovation” — identifying something that is missing from the marketplace — and then creating a solution to satisfy it.

“Co-creation is not just about shopper marketing, and it is certainly not about just creating new products. It is about everything,” Mack explained. “Co-creation is about ideas. It is about assets.”
 
“Co-creation is not a technique; it really is a philosophy and it is part of your identity as a company if you do it well,” he added.

And at the heart of the process is an honesty that leaves the retailer and the brand free to author the customer experience together. An open mind is critical, but just as critical is the ability to come up with fresh ideas and bring new, emerging insights to the table that help unlock value for the customer. “The best partnerships include transparent storytelling where both parties are invited to participate. It is about storytelling and asking someone to come into your story,” said Mack. “When a retailer and a manufacturer do that well they create solutions together for the consumer.”

In order to win with co-creation, manufacturers must work to overcome the blind spots that can hinder strategic alignment with retailers, compromising the effectiveness of those engagements and hampering brand growth. Mack categorized the blind spots into three buckets:

• Overestimating yourself and your assets;
• Underestimating the competition; and
• A lack of transparency and effective communication.

“Those three things are big, … but the key is how do you be relevant, how do you be valuable and drive change and be a transformational organization?” Mack said.

Being transformative is another critical element of successful co-creation. Unlike change, Curtin explained, transformation is intentional; it is a choice to do something different. “The intentional choices that you make will move you from that really good company that you are today to the really great one that you aspire to be,” Curtin said.

Co-creation with its vendor partners is an important growth factor for Walgreens, said Curtin, who provided attendees with a powerful example of how the retailer partnered with one small brand to help unilaterally grow the business. That brand, “Yes To,” is no longer a small brand by any stretch of the imagination.

More than six years ago, Yes To brands founder Ido Leffler met with Walgreens with a mission: To sell his line of skin and hair care products in Walgreens. Intrigued by the unique offering and Leffler’s passion, Walgreens agreed to become the brand’s first retail partner and worked with Leffler exclusively for nearly a year to help build the brand and grow the business.

Today, the brand “is in more than 20 countries and is the second-largest natural brand in this space, and he has done that in less than 10 years,” she added.

At the end of day, what’s important to remember is that, while there may be a basic blueprint for co-creation, it is important for brands to let their identify shine through in their engagements with retailers, Mack admonished. “It is a combination of blending both strategy and art — finding that radical middle between the right and left brain,” he said.

 For more news from the Shopper Marketing Expo, visit DrugStoreNews.com/shopper-marketing-expo.

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Building awareness, driving trips and growing the basket — together

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — In order to win in today’s shopper environment, retailers and suppliers need to approach marketing programs in a whole different way — together. It all comes down to two key words: shared media.

That was the message two highly savvy marketers had for Shopper Marketing Expo attendees, during Wednesday morning’s opening keynote session. Jocelyn Wong, chief marketing officer for Family Dollar, and Alison Lewis, SVP marketing North America for the Coca-Cola Co., explained how traditional marketing models are being replaced by a new, higher form of collaboration between enlightened retailers and manufacturers — a model where partners develop a common audience and a common message in an effort to drive trips, induce trial and engender loyalty among consumers.

Jocelyn Wong

That’s because a one-size-fits all marketing program just doesn’t drive the consumer traffic it once did; and few retailers, if any, have a one-size-fits-all view of their customers any more. Retailers don’t seem themselves as a collection of stores; today, they see themselves as brands in their own right.

“Retailers are starting to demand customization,” Wong explained. “Retailers are no longer just place[s] where you go to buy things. [They] have become powerhouse brands, and as they start to think of themselves more as brands, there’s a need for greater collaboration [with suppliers],” she said.

By definition, “shared media” implies close collaboration between retailer and supplier from inception all the way through execution of a marketing program. When executed effectively, this strategic approach to shopper communication along the path to purchase helps transform the entire shopping experience, and helps connect the dots between the manufacturer’s objectives and a retailer’s traffic and conversion goals.

“The world has changed,” Lewis said. “The new school is much more about how we work together; to think about how do we get to the win-win-win between the retailer, the brand and the shopper — and it has to be a three-way win across all of those groups. We’re in a world now of co-creation; not just deal-making.”

Wong and Lewis identified five key steps and two critical phases, in which retailers and suppliers must work together in order to build a successful, customized promotion. The first phase is foundation building, which starts with an assessment of the shared insights a CPG company’s brand and a retailer’s brand hold in common, strategy development and alignment — what are the goals the retailer and manufacturer need to reach in order for the program to be considered a success?

The second phase is the actual creation of the program. This is major departure from the past, when program creation is where retailers and CPG companies started their collaboration, Wong and Lewis explained. “In the past, the focus was much more on the building of programs and not as much on the front end [assessment and alignment of brand strategies],” Lewis said. “The foundation building is a really important piece.” This “creation” phase is where the program moves from development to execution and measurement.

To bring the message home in a meaningful and relevant way, Wong and Lewis detailed an important program for which Family Dollar and Coca-Cola partnered together. The campaign needed to help meet an important goal for Family Dollar: helping to raise awareness among its customers for the number of value-priced, mainstream brands available at its stores — an area in which Family Dollar had not traditionally received a lot of credit from customers, and a perception it desperately wanted to change — as well as to drive trips and grow the market basket.

Critical to these types of programs is a keen understanding of the retailer and its target customer, Wong explained. As much as 65% of Family Dollar’s customer base has an annual household income of less than $40,000, she noted; 30% of its customers have an annual income of less than $20,000.

“I want [partners] to empathize with our customer. It’s not just about knowing that she doesn’t make a lot of money; that she’s struggling,” Wong said. “When you actually get to know our customer, you will find that she is tough, resilient … and she’s proud [and] optimistic.”

Aimed at helping enable Family Dollar customers to “say yes to moments of happiness,” as the program was dubbed, the companies collaborated on a comprehensive social media outreach through Twitter and Facebook, Wong said. The message was “[When] you think about snacking for your family, think about Coca-Cola.” Other important components of the program included in-store point-of-purchase material, freestanding inserts and bus station ad placements.

“That’s how we really thought about bringing the whole plan together,” Wong said. “The importance of it is not really the tactical elements, but it’s the thinking that went into it and the insights that actually led to what the plan could be.”

 For more news from the Shopper Marketing Expo, visit DrugStoreNews.com/shopper-marketing-expo.

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Breakfast symposium examines how to engage the omnichannel shopper

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — Omnichannel marketing is a popular buzzword when talking about the future of retail. But there could be a serious disconnect between the rubber and the road across many companies pursuing omnichannel initiatives, a panel of shopper marketing experts explained to Shopper Marketing Expo attendees in Chicago Wednesday morning.

The special breakfast session, “Shopper Marketing in a Digital World: The Omnichannel Opportunity,” examined a critical challenge to engaging the omnichannel consumer, as many companies continue to compartmentalize their organizations, forcing shopper marketers to contend with an old-school silo mentality. “Shopper marketers need to adapt and evolve their strategies to meet the ever-changing needs of the consumer by engaging them where they are, in what context and delivering the experience they want,” noted moderator Chris Lobdell, VP sales central region for DataXu. “We’re seeing more sophisticated shopper marketers use their digital advertising investment as research,” Lobdell continued.

According to DataXu research, shopper marketers are expected to spend almost $3.5 billion in digital advertising, representing a 15% increase over 2012 digital ad spends. The reason is simple — 8-of-the-top-10 resources consumers use for research are digital. Digital advertising drives an average 21% in-store sales lift, with 1-in-4 campaigns actually driving sales lifts of more than 40%.

The panelists — all members of Path to Purchase Institute’s annual report, “Who’s Who in Shopper Marketing,” an exclusive group of leaders who have been recognized as industry trendsetters — talked extensively about operating in today’s digitized world and what that means for the future of omnichannel marketing.

Moderator Chris Lobdell of DataXu; Alicia Smestad of Nsight Connect; Roberto Siewczynski of Panavista; Stephanie Kovner-Bryant of Retailigence; and Matt Wise of ePrize

How do leading shopper marketing executives define omnichannel marketing? “Omnichannel is pretty simple — you start the transaction anywhere and you finish it anywhere,” said Roberto Siewczynski, EVP business development and strategy for Panavista. “As you start thinking about manufacturers vs. retailers, the thought process becomes a little more complex. Where does the CPG company engage [the consumer]? Where does the retailer engage [her]? And how is this delicate dance balanced?”

“There isn’t a path to purchase, anymore,” added Stephanie Kovner-Bryant, a member of the board of advisers of Retailigence, which describes itself as “a hyper-local marketing platform, serving both retailers and brand manufacturers, that utilizes brick-and-mortar inventory data obtained directly from retailers to turn online consumers into offline buyers,” according to the company’s website. Retailigence distributes local store inventory-based advertising via its own network of location-based application partners, mobile ad networks, mobile ad exchanges, search providers and social networks.

“People come in and out all along different points, and we need to be where they are with as much information as they need or want to activate against the final purchase,” Kovner-Bryant explained.
And omnichannel marketing remains a moving target. It’s not static like POP advertising at the shelf or other traditional shopper marketing vehicles. “When we talk about the next 36 months, we see a sea of change in the communication between the brand and the consumer,” noted Matt Wise, CEO of ePrize. “Where before there was a push out to the consumer, and we would talk about one-to-one marketing, the reality was you really couldn’t do one-to-one marketing,” he said. “When we talk about omnichannel marketing, the [chief marketing officers] of the world have to start to think, ‘Now I can speak to individuals via their smartphone; how is that going to affect all of my marketing because that [becomes] the primary tool with which I can talk to my consumer?’”

A key question is how do you measure these efforts? Even with the ready availability of data on consumer shopping behavior across omnichannel platforms, there is still some question as to how best to measure the return on investment behind omnichannel marketing.

“We’re at a real impasse in terms of measurement,” noted Alicia Smestad, president of Nsight Connect. “It’s not ‘click-through’ rate; it’s really an engagement metric,” she said. “In [one] digital program [that] we offer, we’ve measured four times the volume movement [versus] just the click-through [rate] or the incremental coupons that we measure alone. So we know there are eyeballs and there is an impact. … There is not one measurement tool for every program. You really have to understand the specific business objectives and the specific behavior objectives, and craft a measurement approach to go with each one of those [objectives].”

Omnichannel marketing may even change the way loyalty programs are implemented, suggested Wise, evolving from a linear purchase occasion-reward to a more robust purchase occasion-consumer engagement opportunity. “So often brands — both retailers and CPG players — use loyalty as an incentive to join a program, but not as a conversation piece,” Wise said. Ads, in-store displays and actual consumption are the traditional touchpoints brands have with consumers. Omnichannel marketing creates a fourth touchpoint, he said. “That will be the change, where people will move away from traditional programs … to a program where [the brand uses the loyalty points] to spark a conversation with the consumer.” 

 For more news from the Shopper Marketing Expo, visit DrugStoreNews.com/shopper-marketing-expo.

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