Draftfcb’s Lucas: Shopper Marketing Is More Than Just Shelf Talkers

Over the course of his career, Jim Lucas has worked with Frito-Lay, Kellogg, Kroger, Procter & Gamble and others and has watched shopper marketing evolve. Now evp/director of Draftfcb’s shopper marketing division, Lucas sees the industry at a crucial point and compares shopper marketing to digital because it is a vortex of change as more packaged goods companies realize the importance of in-store marketing and retailers become aware of their power. Lucas spoke with Brandweek editor Todd Wasserman about the changing nature of shopper marketing. Some excerpts are below:

Brandweek: You maintain that shopper marketing is undergoing a lot of change right now, similar to what we’re seeing in digital. What do you mean by that?
Jim Lucas: A good way to start off is if you think about how this has come about, the packaged goods folks or it could be anyone from Nokia to Motorola, what they’ve come to realize is the power of the retail environment in order to sell their product. What we’re seeing is everyone is realizing the importance of it now.

BW: But wasn’t that always the case? In the 50s or 60s even?
JL: Not so much. What happened was the store was seen as a point of distribution and then if you took it to the 90s the retailers began to look at it as a profit center, they would almost make more money selling circular space than anything else. What happened in the last few years is the retailer have really started to step up and talk about building their brands and what’s happened in the last say 12 to 24 months is they’ve become even more serious about that and the CPGs have woken up to this and said we’re going to even devote less space to having people merchandise and display and message about their products because we want to control our environments for our brands. What’s happened is the CPG folks and the retailers are not exactly on the right page right now. And those that are the leaders in marketing like P&G or Unilever they have become really good at understanding how to align their goals with the retailers’ goals. What that could mean is if you have a message, you’re going to develop your brand message to work through the voice of the retailer…the retailer has become the trusted shopper advocate.

BW: So how do you get your message across if you’re P&G or someone like that?
JL: I think there are a couple of things. One is what do we know? Most retailers now know their shoppers extremely well so we’re not going to have better knowledge than they do, but we will know how shoppers shop a particular category like household cleaners. As a CPG company I should be coming to them with some notion of how we can better sell to them in these categories.


BW: As a shopper, I don’t notice anything different these days. Nothing seems to jump out at me from the shelves. Is that just me?
JL: It depends on what’s going on the shelves. The stuff that they’re most focused on right now is the center of the store because those are the aisles where you might see only 16 percent of people go into those aisles. So if you’re working those categories, how do you make them interesting? You see stuff like a P&G will come into laundry stuff and talk about the [seven] signs of clean which they tie into shoppers are cutting back and not doing as much dry cleaning so here’s how your clothes can look good. There are a lot of things that they’re doing in the center of the store category that are starting to evolve. 

BW: What are they doing in the cereal aisle?
JL: They’re expanding the number of shelf sets in the category to figure out which one works the best. Safeway did one which they organized by daypart and Shop and Stop will have it organized by most people’s decision tree [so kids’ cereals and good-for-you cereals, for instance, will be presented together.]

BW: Safeway does it by dayparts?
JL: What they’ve done is they’ll have a breakfast aisle, a lunch aisle, they’ve got a dessert aisle. They’re starting to organize them in a slightly different way.

BW: When you bring up shopper marketing, most people think it’s about shelf talkers and things like that, but you’re saying it also involves aligning products together in a new way.
JL: Absolutely.