Sunday, October 4, 2009

Maximizing Profits through Shopper Insights in Convenience

This is the presentation I recently gave to the Canadian Snack Food Association - with a the juicy bits cut out.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stretching “Experiential” Brands

I’m baaaack.

Have been a tad busy wrestling with Convenience Shopper Canada which is now the definitive study of convenience shopping in Canada.

In the meantime, Starbucks launched instant coffee. Does anyone know why? I am not sure.

But whatever the reason I guess they thought that their brand was strong enough and could certainly stretch into that category. Despite their recent troubles there is no doubt Starbucks is a strong brand in terms of consumer equity. And you would think it would be no problem to stretch it into so relevant a category.

But I think they face a challenge.

The reason is that the Starbucks brand is firmly rooted in the in store experience. Fine. That has been their strategy. But that position limits their ability to stretch it in the way that a packaged goods brand or even another retail brand can stretch. If they were they would need to leverage the positive associations with the in store experience as these are the strengths of the brand. The instant product does nothing of the sort as far as I can see.

It made me wonder whether as brands become more rooted in their design or experience and move to a "post brand image” world they become more limited.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Do One Thing Really Really Well

"Do One Thing Really Really Well" is the slogan of Ontario's Steamwhistle Brewery

It is one of the keys to brand authenticity (not the only one and not always the main one).

I guess these guys (above) are not trying that approach.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wal-Mart In Store Media and PRISM

I believe that this is one of the reasons Wal-Mart pulled out of PRISM

This isn't shopper marketing. It's a powerful retailer grabbing money from its suppliers. Their intention is not brand building.

At a recent meeting a marketing director of one of our packaged goods clients told me "I have never met a retailer that was interested in building brands".

Maybe he's right. In which case can shopper marketing exist beyond the retailer? What is it?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Future of Retail is not about the Stuff

What happens to non big-box retailers in the wake of the advance of the big box?

What is their reason to exist?

Obviously competing on price or product range is not going to cut it.

Well, PetSmart probably have one answer: Expertise and Services.

There is a specialist cycle shop near me that has a comparison chart on the wall showing the price of a bike at a big box store (about 20% less than their price) but below that we see a list of things (fitting it to the rider, tuning the bike etc.) listed as “free” for their offering but with a price attached for the big box. And the result is of course their offering is cheaper. Judging by the crowds at that store it is persuasive. The value of buying some someone who knows, who you trust, who you can chat with and who supports your choice is common across categories: video games, clothing, food. The services are an extension and support for that value.

Additional to that is the emotional pleasure of buying from someone who is passionate about the same thing you are. And people are certainly passionate about pets.

Good luck PetSmart.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Synovate Aztec + Safeway + Canada

Why are so many people from AC Nielsen entering these words into Google these days?

Canadian Shopper Behaviour and The Recession

In the words of The Onion's Jim Anchower, it's been a while since I rapped at ya. I have been too busy reports from with Convenience Shopper Canada and World of the Shopper.

The later gives us some insight into changing shopper behaviour in the recession. As I mentioned below, Canadians are far less likely to have changed behaviour than Americans. We certainly are not seeing dramatic channel shifts.

We do see some changes though.

Primarily we are seeing a change in the “stock up trip”. It has increased in value primarily due to increased spending per trip (which has not occurred for quick trips). The triggers are now more likely to be a combination of non-perishables and perishables. There is also increased pre-planning and checking flyers prior to the visit.

Final interesting thing - a decline of the male quick trip. As households pre-plan and consolidate their trips that last minute ingredients grab drops

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Recessionary Shopper Behaviour a Non-Story in Canada. Sorry.

We're desperate to report some news on how shoppers are making dramatic changes to their their shopping habits because of the recession.

Problem is that they haven't here in Canada.

Sure there are some changes but we are not seeing the kind of channel shifts to supercentre and dollar stores that they see at the moment in America.

We just completed our 2009 World of the Shopper research and do not see dramatic changes to channel choice. We see some more pre-planning (flyer checking has increased) and shifts in trip triggers. We can see some greater focus on pricing and we also see a higher value stock up trip while quick trips remain flat.

Oh, and by the way, in the last issue of Canadian Grocer Nielsen is reporting that that private label is not disproportionately growing here either.

Sorry. I know everyone wants some news about the recession. And I know journalists are trying to fill pages with anecdotal stuff about 'recessionistas' but the fact is that we haven't changed much. When people are skeptical I ask them simply "what have you changed?". Usually there is some micro and in store behaviour but not major shifts.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Do you plan to increase or decrease your spending on single serve beverages in the year 2011?

I think one of the most potentially misleading questions that we can ask in a survey is “do you plan to increase/decrease your spending on [blank]” for household items and packaged goods. I honestly think that the responses given to these kinds of questions have a very tenuous relationship with actual behaviour.

One of the reasons for this is because these questions do not take into account the mental accounting that people use to budget. People do not think of their spending by individual items – unless it is cars or holidays or large ticket items. They group things together. Within these groups they subsititute. And the groups themselves are dynamic. For example – people are unlikely to plan their future expenditure on ice cream. They are likely to consider “groceries” and there are a myriad of ways in which they could calculate their spending on that – by month, by trip etc. Research we conducted on alcohol found that young adults simply exclude beer from mental budgeting! Of course when prompted they may give a response that they plan to cut back but the fact is they hadn’t really considered it until we asked the question.

So when a research asks “do you plan to increase/decrease your spending” on an individual item this may be the first and only time they really think about it. The fact is they have no “plans” regarding this item. This is especially true if we are asking about their plans for the future. I do not believe that a consumer can accurately tell us what he or she plans to do about spending on alcohol or ice cream or paper towels “after the recession”. And even if they do I do not think their response reflects what might happen – which can depend on their ‘mental accounting’ and where that category fits into their budget as well as a myriad of other changes – channel preference, occasions etc.

The right way to do this is to understand their mental accounting process, the heuristics they use for budgeting and which bucket the category falls into. And of course you need to also understand circumstances such as changes in channel choice and occasions. He problem is of course this requires a lot more questioning that “do you plan to …”. But hey, if you want to get it right

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Americans and Private Label

I am getting a little bored with the coverage of the success of private label in the US. No offence to them. I am sure it is big news there.

But the rest of the Western world has been through it. Private label penetration in Europe is almost double that of the US. Retail brands are trusted. Often they are not value options but in the case of Tesco's Finest or Marks and Spencer considered better quality. Partly because retailers have been far more consolidated in those markets and were able to build their brands.

I read today that dollar stores is the one channel in the US that brands are not facing private label competition. Cold comfort really. I recall in the early 1990's before I left the UK you could go slumming and buy national brands at discount grocery stores or you could get quality private label at the national retail chains. Not a great position for brands to be in.

American brands need to face up to a new reality. This will not go away with economic recovery. Why should it? They need to start thinking about their value.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Problem with Researching Green Consumerism

There is probably more rubbish market research data available on green consumerism than any other topic.

Each year, on Earth day Joel Makower rounds it all up, questions its validity and wonders what the heck it all means. See his 2009 summary here.

He quite rightly questions the enormous overclaim in the responses to these surveys. Stuff like 36% of Americans "always or regularly buy green products" from Mintel.

What does that mean?

It is certainly not reflected in the market shares of green products in the US which represent a fraction of total products bought. I suspect it is a combination of consumers wanting to buy green stuff, not really knowing what it is and occasionally buying something greenish. Easy them to say you "buy green".

The problem with research on green consumerism is in some respects the problem with the concept itself. The elephant in the room is that consumerism (as an ideology) and sustainability pull in opposite directions.

Environics social values research identifies about a quarter of Canadians as being "green" - in terms of agreement with willingness to pay more and discriminate green products. A large number of this group are established baby boomers concerned with their legacy, who use consumerism as a means to affect change. But they do not really know how to do it. This group tend to be very enthusiastic consumers. When we look at their attitudes to shopping, they enjoy it very much. They are more enthusiastic than the general population. The other largest group are younger liberal progressives. They are not enthusiastic consumers and they actively dislike shopping. We did a recent survey for Bullfrog Power (where people pay a premium on their electricity bill for renewable energy). This is pure "green purchase" with no benefit of status or joy of consumption. Their customers (real "green consumers") were overwhelmingly liberal progressive.

The current problem with research on green consumerism is that these groups are not differentiated. The established boomers will buy some organic granola and Method brand hand soap and happily check the box that says they "usually" buy green products. This does not reflect reality.

This is one area where asking about attitudes, intention and general reported behaviour is worthless and even potentially very misleading. A record of actual behaviour or very specific questionning on actual behaviour is the only way to understand the topic.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Power of the Brand in Convenience Channels

It is often said that convenience stores are hotbeds of impulse purchasing.

According to our Convenience Shopper Canada study, among those who buy soft drinks in those channels, 66% had made up their mind on category and brand before entering the store.

Granted, 13% knew they would be buying a soft drink and decided brand in store and 21% decided to buy the category in the store.

But that's an awful lot of power from out of store communication.

The Case Against "Why" - Part 2

My last post was about how market researchers’ constant questioning of respondents on why they do things can provide misleading responses.

By coincidence, I have read two experiments that show us just how much of a mistake it can be.

These experiments by Tim Wilson, professor of psychology at University of Virginia show how asking people to focus on why they do something actually causes them to make choices that do not reflect their true preference.

He conducted two experiments. In one he asked students to rate different brands of jam in terms of their preference. One group was asked to do so and list the reasons, the other was not asked to list the reasons.

The outcome of the experiment is described here as follows:

Wilson and Schooler found that subjects in the control group, who had not been required to list reasons for their opinions about the jams, gave evaluations that were very close to those given by the trained experts. Both the subjects and the experts agreed on which jams were best, and which were worst. The subjects in the experimental group, who had been required to explain their preferences, subsequently evaluated the jams in line with the reasons they gave …Their evaluations, however, did not correspond well with the evaluations of the experts. The jam the experts had rated as the best and the jam the experts rated the worst were both regarded by the experimental subjects as being rather mediocre.

Basically, those who were asked ‘why’ had to engage their pre-frontal cortex, come up with ‘reasons’ and align their stated preference to those reasons. When they did this they picked the worst jam.

The second experiment concerned posters. Students were asked to choose from a range of posters that they could keep – some of famous paintings others photographs of animals. Again, they were split into two groups. One group had to give reasons and the other did not. The group that had to give reasons was much less likely to select the paintings. They tended to select cute animals. And when the two groups were re-contacted a few weeks after the experiment, that group was far less satisfied with their choice.

The conclusion is summed up here:

When people think about reasons, they appear to focus on attributes of the stimulus that are easy to verbalize and seem like plausible reasons but may not be important causes of their initial evaluations. When these attributes imply a new evaluation of the stimulus, people change their attitudes and base their choices on these new attitudes. Over time, however, people's initial evaluation of the stimulus seems to return, and they come to regret choices based on the new attitudes.

These experiments teach us a lot about how to conduct and how to evaluate market research. Firstly, it supports the notion that ‘first view’ responses to product concepts and brand preference questions are the only valid ones. But it also brings into question all of the responses from focus groups and questionnaires after that ‘first view’. By asking respondents to utilize their ‘reason’ are we in fact making them state preferences that do not reflect reality? Ones that could in fact be the opposite?

We know from neuroscience that many purchase decisions use very little ‘reason’ as the pre-frontal cortex is hardly active. So when we encourage respondents to use it by asking ‘why’ we could indeed me encouraging responses that are nonsense – not just in terms of the reasons that are given but the actual preference to which those reasons allegedly lead.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Less "Why" and more "How"

I spent last Friday afternoon listening to advertising planners, designers and some people who, to be honest, I have no idea what they do (but I think the words “digital” and “experience” are involved). It was a rare and enjoyable event here in Toronto - the initiation of meeting of Toronto Planners Unite.

The courier bag carrying, black plastic rimmed glasses and ironic western shirt wearing crowd is a cultural world away from the store managers and sales managers that populate the kind of retail conferences I sometimes go to. Retailers and salespeople tend to give presentations with 90’s clip art rather than big black backgrounded slides with only the words (in a unique and cutting edge font) “Crisis is the crucible of innovation” or some passage from the Tao Te Ching.

However, a conversation afterwards with an account planner for a mutual restaurant client pulled it together for me. The commonality for a researcher are that both of these crowds need to understand “how” people are behaving and get limited value from the endless “why” questions that make up our surveys. He was suggesting a better way of developing a strategy to position new products was to first understand how consumers are using them and then develop positioning around that – rather than push out a pre-defined positioning. This is putting consumers (or “people”) are the forefront of communication and marketing rather than seeing them as recipients of the messages marketers wish to broadcast.

To me what we call “shopper insights” are the means of doing exactly this for packaged goods. Let’s understand how people buy and consume. Let’s not ask them too many questions why or what they intend to do. Most of the time they do not know what they going to do or why.

I am preparing the first report from our newly launched Convenience Shopper Canada study. The richness of the information is beyond anything from any usage and attitude study. The questionnaire is 10 minutes and simply records behaviour in past 24 hours. It is 90% reported behaviour (how) and 10% attitude (why).

Market research has traditionally focused on the attitude and has delivered the opposite – 90% why and 10% how. The technology we have now allows us to measure and observe what people are actually doing like never before. The value of what we produce will be increased for all our clients – whether they work in a downtown agency or manage a chain of convenience stores – if we what we deliver is more of the “how” and less of the endless and often misguided “why”.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Millward Brown's Nigel Hollis attacks "voodoo" research

Research has come under attack recently. People have been citing neuroscience, cognitive psychology and behavioural economics learning that suggests much of what we do is rubbish.

Who will defend the status quo?

Who better than that standard bearer of normative data, that bete noire of every shaven headed, trendy spectacle wearing, Mark Earls reading account planner? Step forward Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown.

His latest post here attacks "Voodoo" research and defends the tried and er pre-tested (a little MR humour). And this is about as direct as a genteel and collegiate British researcher gets. Attacking the journalist but taking indirect aim at the Advertising Research Foundation.

I posted below that Joel Rubinson of the ARF had gone outlaw like Waylon and Willie. Millward Brown is the Grand Ole Opry and Mr. Hollis our Porter Wagoner.

OK, the country music analogy is probably done now. But what's important is that it's on.

Is Martin Lindstrom for Real?

I was alerted to this guy by his very disappointing book Buyology.

Now he appears again telling us about some more groundbreaking research. Yes, it's the first time the brain has been monitored while shopping! Well, except this time maybe.

So I guess you are all excited to find out the earth shattering insights that this groundbreaking experiment uncovered.

Let's see ....

  1. Discounts make shoppers change their minds
  2. Emotions sometimes outweigh 'rational' price considerations.
  3. Freshness is important

Am I on candid camera?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Digital Social Shopping and "Reason"

The topic of online shopping is so vast I have been kind of avoiding it. Partly because nothing I have to say about it fits into a blog post.

But one aspect of online shopping has been getting a lot of attention recently – the use of it as a mechanism for seeking discounts. Here is a survey that reports that 40% of Americans are spending more time comparing prices online.

Of course there is plenty of online price checking, discount seeking and reading of customer reviews to gain reassurance on purchases. These activities lead to the general perception that the Internet provides the discipline of computerized “reason” to our irrational and emotional urge to buy.

This thinking can be misleading for a number of reasons.
  • Firstly, the idea that online shopping or investigating purchases online sits in contrast to ‘impulse purchasing’ is not necessarily true. Of course it is possible to impulse purchase online. My wife constantly impulse downloads 80’s tunes from iTunes that she runs across.
  • And while the bulk of online activity may be about saving / reassurance some is also about indulgence. Consider the difference between the kind of social shopping sites that consumers use to compare prices with ThisNext. This site is the ultimate social shopping forum for those who are not looking for bargains but are looking to share enthusiasm to consume. The goals of users of ThisNext (who are 80% female) are hardly comparable with the users of Red Tag Deals or even Epinions.

We found that two groups of Canadian shoppers are the heaviest users of flyers – the most price sensitive and the least price sensitive. The former are looking for deals. And the latter are looking to enjoy consuming and the flyer was a means of doing that. It is wrong to assume that flyer use or online comparison or digital social shopping is motivated by a strictly ‘rational’ urge to seek discounts.

Related to this is the idea that even if consumers are using online tools to make “better” shopping decisions a recent post by Jonah Lehrer questions whether they are achieving their goal. He points to a published paper in the Journal of Consumer Research by Leonard Lee, Dan Ariely, and On Amir regarding decision-making implies that the slow rational, deliberate approach to decision making that you might use if you are shopping on-line does not produce “better” decisions than the fast, emotional, instinctive approach that you might use in a store.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Recession turns Americans into Canadians

Cautious, risk averse, dismissive of ostentatious consumption and luxury, distrustful of big business, cynical about individual success, collectivist, accepting and even grateful for government intervention and regulation.

One result of this recession is that it may start making Americans look like Canadians.

Shopping Trip Type Influences Price Sensitivity

Part of the Environics Mental World of the Shopper study looked at the difference in attitude and behaviour to price for certain categories based on last purchase. We also asked on what kind of trip that purchase occurred.

Notable is the fact that sensitivity to price differs according to trip type for some categories. Coffee is most likely purchased on a stock up trip - but about a quarter of coffee purchases are on quick trips. The table above shows considerable differences in sensitivity to price depending on this context.
Thing is that it is not consistent between categories. Those buying frozen meals are more sensitive to price on a quick trip for example. Intuitively that makes sense. A frozen meal on a quick trip is probably the trigger and a focus of the mission. On a stock up trip it might be impulse at the end of the shop.
And adding to the complexity, it differs by demographics. Males buying potato chips on a quick trip are the least price sensitivity.
As far as I am concerned this supports the notion that researching pricing or even concept testing without understanding the context and process of purchasing the product is misleading. If you are asking discrete choice questions or purchase intent questions with no knowledge of the purchase process you are missing half the picture.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is more rubbish research one of the consequences of the recession?

Is it just me or is anyone else finding that every day there is a press release on some new banal and useless research findings about consumer behaviour in the recession?

I just put down a marketing magazine that provided on page 10 such insights as - "Cool" scored lower than "cheap" and "inexpensive" in what kind of message would make 13 to 29 year olds pay attention to an ad.

Question: Has "cool" been rated more important than "cheap" or "inexpensive" by consumers in any survey ever? No. So why report it?

The same magazine tells me on page 35 that 95% of Canadians believe that "better value for money" is important when buying products.

And then some blather on "austerity chic" on other pages.

It is bad enough that the recession slices our savings in half, puts our jobs in jeopardy without also subjecting us to this rubbish.

Message to my fellow researchers: I know it's nice to see your name in a magazine but please stop putting out this stuff. It makes people think we're...well, useless.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Research Reinvented

Joel Rubinson of the ARF does Willie and Waylon and goes a little outlaw on the future of research here.

Good stuff.

Good Stuff from Unilever on Shifts in Shopper Behaviour

Great presentation from Unilever via Retailwire on actual changes in shopper behaviour due to recession in the US.

The seven distinct patterns of CPG shopping give a good framework to understanding category shifts and avoiding generic "consumers are cutting back on ...." concepts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why is social media called "media"?

Looking up "definitions of media" on Google I find many different ones. But they all have the same tone and talk about "Messages that are distributed"..."means of providing information and instructions"..."transmission tools".

Which makes me wonder why people call social media, "media". Nobody is distributing or providing anything. People are just talking to each other.

No wonder marketers are scratching their heads. They've been told this thing is "media" when in fact it isn't. But they're trying to understand why they cannot broadcast through it.

I think I'm a bit late to this. But this blog is about shopping.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Shopping and Dopamine

I am really enjoying the latest book by Jonah Lehrer : "How We Decide" (an excellent kind of Idiots Guide to neuroscience and decision-making).

I have also been reading his blog on neuroscience that has a few posts on shopping and the brain.
Essentially the act of shopping is pleasurable because when someone is seeing something they desire the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) floods the brain with dopamine. This is what urges people to buy.

This is essentially why sadness increases the likelihood of purchase. Shoppers attempt to offset sadness by increasing this pleasure. And this is why shopping, like gambling can be addictive.

Increasing desire is a basic function of all marketing and retailing. And many marketers and retailers understand that anticipation is an important element of the shopper or consumer experience. Again, the actions of the brain guarantee this. The most intense NAcc activity is not during consumption or after purchase but before purchase. Once an item is acquired the shopper is likely to experience 'dopaminergic adaptation' so the rate of NAcc activity decreases and pleasure declines. This is one of the reasons that the shopper can feel a sense of regret after purchasing.

Of course this is not just about shopping. The Buddha observed the same nature of desire - hence his pronouncement that trying to fulfill desire is like trying to slake thirst with salt water (or something like that).

It is fairly obvious that desire drives the urge to shop. But as I have noted before, this desire is mitigated by the hip-pocket nerve - or in neuroscientific terms, the insular cortex. Just as the NAcc makes the shopper feel good when the item is anticipated, the insular cortex delivers feelings of fear when the price is introduced.

Jonah Lehrer's conclusion is that retailers need to mitigate the sense of loss that activates the insula cortex. Of course that's what salespeople have been attempting since time began. I realise he is not entirely serious as he ventures out of his area of expertise into marketing and retailing but blunt discounting is one way but certainly may not be the most effective way - or the most profitable.

Neuroscience and behavioural economics certainly shed light on shopper behaviour. Although the conclusions are hardly earth shattering for marketers or retailers - who know all too well that increasing desire and decreasing reluctance to buy is their job. What it does show us is how much of the shoppers' evaluation is 'non rational'. It was previously assumed that desire was somehow 'emotional' and resistance was a rational function of careful evaluation. As a result, brand marketing was given the task of increasing desire through emotional messages and retailing then attempted to cater to the shoppers' 'reason'. In fact both are 'emotional' - and that does have implications for shopper marketing and retailing in general. More on that in the next post...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bad Reporting

This article from Ad Age is bouncing around. The headline "Trouble in Store for Shopper Marketing?" is really misleading.

Firstly, "shopper marketing" does not just refer to "in store marketing" or POP. Secondly, even it it were, the fact that impulse purchasing is declining does not make it less important, it probably makes it more important. And certainly the fact that people are putting more thought into their purchase decision does.

But the biggest mistake is the notion that the economy is having dramatic impact on the fundamental nature of consumer decision-making. Unless it is overturning the result of evolution on the human brain over the last million or so years.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Synovate Aztec to Challenge AC Nielsen in Canada

Synovate Aztec have been looking at the Canadian market for some time. Their seriousness at mounting a challenge to AC Nielsen's Marketrack has been confirmed by the announcement that they have just hired Dave Mann - who was, until recently Sr. V.P. Marketing & Sales at Nielsen.

IRI looked at the Canadian market in the 1990's and succeeded in forcing Nielsen to remove exclusive contracts that prevented retailers providing transactional data to anyone else.

They eventually were unable to create an alternative to Nielsen's service in Canada. It was reported that they did force Nielsen to improve their service at the time in response to the challenge.

We'll see the result of Aztec's challenge. It comes at an interesting time as Nielsen recently recently restructured in Canada, letting go of a large number of staff.

Whatever happens it'll be fun to watch. These guys are not friends.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

British Retailers - A nation of shopkeepers

Tim Mason, Fresh & Easy's CEO, recently said that Tesco overerstimated the power of retail brands in the US when they launched. "There's less loyalty in the American market. A Brit has to hear it a few times before you accept that people make up their mind where to go each week when they check out the special offers round the kitchen table."

This doesn't surprise me. American retail brands have always been hampered by fragmentation of the market. And by the fact that their owners didn't see them as brands. Hence the surprise at the recent growth of private label brands - a development that is well advanced in Europe - where a store brand is often seen as superior to a national brand.

I have worked for French, British, Canadian and American retailers (including Tesco) and the Brits are always more likely to see their store as a brand and employ brand marketing thinking to promote it. A nation of shopkeepers indeed. Tesco were probably among the most advanced. No surprise that they misread the American market.

Tesco is now backtracking on those statements.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More head scratching over shopper marketing

Good article here from Ad Age. Same questions - what is it? Does it exist? Is the emporer naked?

This all comes from a media angle. The death of PRISM and lack of a common media metric makes it hard for traditional marketing to see shopper marketing as marketing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Advertising Research Foundation - Shopper Insights Council

The Advertising Research Foundation has just created a Shopper Insights Council. Respect to Joel Rubinson for recognizing and promoting the importance of shopper behaviour to advertising and media planning.

Their first meeting can be accessed via free webinar. Details here.

Shopper Marketing – Pain Management

Lots of discussion these days on the difference between shoppers and consumers. In my opinion emphasis on the fact that they could be different people for the same product is misguided. They are often the same people but the key difference is their distinct states of mind.

The act of purchase, as opposed to the act of consumption, involves a degree of pain – the hip pocket nerve. Shopping involves conflict between areas of the brain associated with dopamine/reward (nucleus accumbens) and that associated with fear (insula). The reward is the promise of the product. The fear is largely the fear of loss – the payment.

So shopper marketing is addressing a different state of mind than brand marketing. The emphasis on reward – that is so strong in brand marketing – still needs to be there but there also needs to be reassurance on loss. For anyone selling anything there are many ways to do this. The classic way is via pricing and discounting. This is not always the best way for two reasons. Firstly because it is not always the most effective means of minimizing the pain. Secondly it leaves money on the table unnecessarily.

Another way is to guide and support the choice so they walk away from the purchase without the feeling of loss. This is the way to build brands in the store. That task is of course easier with a salesperson, especially one who is passionate and believes in the product. But in the grocery store the shopper is alone. The task of shopper marketing is to be the voice of the passionate salesperson, guiding and supporting the choice. If that is done correctly not only does the consumer choose the product but they feel good about that choice. And a consequence feel good about the brand.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shopper Marketing and the Path to Purchase

A new presentation attempting to add metrics to understand the path to purchase and how it relates to traditional marketing metrics like category involvement or brand equity

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

We are The Oracles of the Obvious

I don't mean to denigrate the BrandSparks’ study because I think it yields valuable information but surely this is a contender for the "No Sh*t, Sherlock Award" of the year:

The vast majority of respondents (93%) said that when it comes to the drivers motivating new product purchases, providing better value for the money is either extremely important or very important, followed by offers better quality (90%), and long lasting/more durable (88%).

Next we reveal that the "vast majority" of humans value their lives and don't want to die. A similar majority find kittens cute.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Canadian Consumer Response to Recession

A very short presentation with some ponderings on consumer response to the recession. Last slide gives a model of how to understand brand performance....Not by asking "How likely are you ro reduce....?"

Put Away Childish Things

Yes, I am jumping on the Obama bandwagon. For it was he who revived this instruction from St. Paul and told us all to well, grow up.

One thing anyone who has been shopping with a child knows is that the urge to consume - and difficulty controlling that urge - is indeed very strong in children. I want it! I want it!

And you could interpret Obama's instruction as analogous to a parent telling his or her kid to shut up because 'we already have lots of treats at home' and 'it's almost dinner time'.

Unlimited choice and personal freedom, immediate gratification of needs are the driving themes of consumerism. And it was the baby boomers - the generation who swore never to get old - whose values have been so aligned to that ideology. Boomers celebrated childishness as no other generation had before. From the right to wear jeans to the day you die to Microsoft terminology (I am the only one who thinks "My Computer" and "My Pictures" sounds a little Fisher Price?).

I do not believe it is a coincidence that Obama is seen as the first Gen X president (although he is officially a boomer). I cannot help seeing him as Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties or Saffron from Absolutely Fabulous - Gen X kids trying to teach responsibility to their Boomer parents.

Too late now. Gen X is a small cohort and is now left holding the bag until the Millenials arrive. One study I read recently shows that people growing up in recessionary times tend to be more frugal in their later years. Very interesting to see how the values of this Millenial generation will evolve.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why "purchase intent" questions are not predictive of actual behaviour

Market researchers spend a lot of time explaining why the responses from the 'purchase intent' questions that we ask bear little relation to actual behaviour. Reasons have included:

  • Market environment like distribution, advertising etc.

  • "Aspirational" responses that cannot be followed through

  • Commitment to competitive brands

Of course models like BASES and Novaction make a living modelling purchase intent. In my experience the stated purchase intention plays a small role in the actual prediction. In fact a lot of the predictive ability of these models does not come from survey data at all - simply the economics of distribution.

Jan Hofmyr of Synovate, creator of the Conversion Model and all around market research guru wrote an excellent critique of the predictability in market research. His conclusion is that asking purchase intent is about as useful in predicting behaviour as asking nothing. His solution is to couple brand equity with 'barriers' - such as price, distribution etc.

I have always had a problem with asking consumers to recall these rational 'barriers'.

I think that this excellent piece on the neuroscience of buying gives us a better insight into why purchase intention questions do not work. Essentially the act of buying involves conflict between areas of the brain associated with dopamine/reward (nucleus accumbens) and that associated with fear (insula). These are both emotional responses. Reason plays a mediating role if any at all. You buy when the "gain" emotions win over the fear of loss. The problem with purchase intent is that the brain does not sufficiently experience the emotions associated with fear of loss. It cannot. Hence the overstatement. The fear of loss is primarily activated at the point of purchase. It is very hard to simulate. And a survey certainly doesn't do it.


This is actually a big deal for shopper insights research.

As I have said before, shedding tears for Nielsen doesn't come naturally to me but I still think this is a shame.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gong Xi Fa Tsai

Well I better get past 44 posts before the Year of the Ox arrives on Monday. (In Mandarin 44 sounds like "death, death" so it ain't exactly auspicious).

And for my 3 loyal readers an EXCLUSIVE bit of data from Environics Cultural Markets - Chinese Canadian households make 49 stock up grocery trips a year - compared to 36 for the general population.

In Toronto 37% use an ethnic specialty store most often - 21% of that is T&T. Those figures are even higher for Vancouver.

With roughly 9% of the Toronto population Chinese that's an awful lot of lost opportunity for the mainstream grocers. No wonder the last time I was talking to someone at Wal-Mart they were asking about my wife's T&T trip triggers. The answer is ....meat cuts.

Happy Year of the Ox!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


This is the kind of survey and press release that gives market research a reputation for being useless.

So respondents don't come right out and say - gimme more sex in ads. Wow. And they say that sex in ads doesn't influence them? Extraordinary. Next we'll be learning the beer drinkers are not influenced by advertising, they just "like the taste".

C'mon. Asking consumers what makes them tick is like asking your car how it works.

The Intimacy of Shopping

I was chatting with some friends some time ago, one of whom a fireman. He was describing how he and his colleagues filled their time while not fighting fires. One of the things they do is go shopping together. They always have to stay together so they may go en masse to Home Depot – while one stays in the vehicle. Another guy who was there said he thought the idea of firemen shopping together (even for manly home improvement items) was incongruous with the macho image of the profession. It seemed so effeminate.

I have thought a lot about that. Shopping is intimate. Many men feel awkward browsing with their friends in a shop. Much more so than women do. A man and a woman who are not romantically involved shopping for clothes together is somehow seen as slightly inappropriate. I remember when I lived in Taiwan I used to see young couples in IKEA and it was clear that there was romance in their browsing for affordable yet stylish furniture.
Clothing in particular generates these feelings. That is because evaluation of the items requires assessment of how it looks. Of course “does my butt look big in this?” is an intimate question. Underwear of course is an extreme example. But it not only the intimacy of the usage occasion alone that generates these feelings. Shopping even for innocuous groceries or home improvement items has an intimacy.

I think the reason is that the act of shopping – including the enjoyment of it – involves anticipation from projection of using the products. That is often a personal and private consideration of the role the products will play in our lives – even groceries. Sharing that is sharing more than the act of selecting the products. It is sharing private and personal aspects of our lives. That is why looking for a specific product for a specific and defined use is a less intimate act. You are sharing less. I need or want this for this reason and this is what I will be doing with it. As soon as you start browsing and exploring – even for relatively innocuous items - you start to open up personal and private, opinions, considerations and aspects of your life that are intimate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Canadian Diversity and Consumerism

I posted early about a decline for enthusiasm for consumption in Canada - starting long before the current financial crisis.

While that is evident among the general population, there are differences in the cultural groups in Canada. While only 8% of Canadians who classify their ancestry as being from the British Isles "totally agree" that "to spend, to buy myself something new, is for me one of the greatest pleasures in life" 16% of Chinese Canadians do.

While 30% of those of British origin agree that "I like to be immediately informed of new products and services so that I can use them". That figure rises to 51% among Chinese Canadians and 52% among South Asian Canadians.

Without doubt retailers and marketers need to recognize and understand the opportunities represented by Canada's diverse cultures.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Touch & Buy

Interesting piece here about an experiment showing how only a minimal degree of touching a product can encourage purchase.

The article talks about a sense of ownership. I suspect that plays a role but there is also a more fundamental effect of touch / interaction with a product.

Given that a purchase decision involves a conflict between areas of the brain associated with dopamine/reward (nucleus accumbens) and that associated with fear (insula) the touching presumably tips the balance in favour of the rewards.

I saw a presentation on data visualization that spoke of how we process information and how the feeling of being able to touch it helps us process it. So presumably promotion of services needs to leverage this also.

Digital technology allows a great deal of opportunity to create the sensation of interaction without the physical product being there.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Shopper Marketing - a little too much wishful thinking and hype?

Good article from Jon Kramer of Alliance in The Hub that bursts a little of the shopper marketing bubble and makes the unfashionable case that shopper marketing is a sales role.

I think it is true that there's been a little too much hype and wishful thinking.

The bulk of the value of "shopper insights" is their ability to build relationships between manufacturers and retailers. And for all intents and purposes that is a sales role. For all the talk of cooperation between these two institutions the power in the relationship is not equal. The manufacturer is trying to sell.

Marketing is often on the outside looking in and trying to understand what it, with its legacy of mass communication, can do to contribute.

One thing that will change that is a shift of power to manufacturers. If manufacturers can really drive traffic to retailers (see Kraft's ifoods) then retailers may start to become more interested in genuine cooperation.