Mass Connections Thinks Outside the Store

Shopper marketing, like all forms of media, is no longer defined in the static way it was a few years ago. Social media, online and mobile have all added a new dimension to a marketing discipline formerly noted for cardboard point-of-purchase displays and shelf talkers. At the forefront of this convergence is Mass Connections, a Cerritos, Calif., shopper marketing firm that works with General Mills, Procter & Gamble and Kraft, among others. Caroline Cotten-Nakken, the firm’s founder and CEO, discussed some of these convergence opportunities with Brandweek.

Brandweek: What is cutting edge right now in shopper marketing?
Caroline Cotten-Nakken:
Social networking, online marketing [and] mobile. Those are absolutely hot, hot trends.

BW: How does social networking work with shopper marketing?
We did something different with by tying it to shopper marketing, where there’s some big event that’s going to be happening in store. When the event is happening, we’ll do a pre-empt to build some excitement, but when the actual event happens and everything’s in place—premiums, signage—when that checklist is taken care of at that point, we have a patented system where you can swipe a debit card, enter a PIN and then that activates a promotion and within seconds, that message goes out to all the people who have opted in.

BW: Who have you done this with lately?
We did one with Coty and there was a premium giveaway not only giving away small samples, but also giving a small picture frame. So with the participating stores, we’d have the premium giveaway ready, the samples were ready, everything’s ready and then boom a debit card was swiped at the debit, a PIN was entered and blasts went out to thousands of shoppers that were around those stores telling them right now this is going on.

BW: How does the debit card work? Who’s doing it?
It would be the event person, the person overseeing that promotion. The whole software and system was built on the back-end [of the ATM system]. We hold two patents on this. It can link to in-store radio or TV.

BW: What’s the radius? How far do you have to be to get the notification?
We hit a 20-mile radius and they opt in. We also posted on Facebook so people on Facebook can see what’s going on. This is a very new, very exciting new thing. It assures success and avoids disappointment.

BW: Aside from mobile, what are some of the other trends you’re seeing?
For in-store events, we may do some online buzz or activities that let folks know that this is going to be happening or even that this product is in a particular retailer.

BW: So there’s more cross-promotion between online and shopper now?
Correct. For example, making a cake out of the [General Mills] gluten-free cake mix, we sent a party kit to moms and moms send us photos of them having their birthday party and even [mention] ingredients they bought at a particular retailer. So you could tie the online and “in-life” experiences.

BW: Are there any trends in-store, leaving online aside?
This is one that you may have experienced when you go to, for example, a sporting event. When they come up and take your picture and give you a little card that says go online and see your photo. We’ve actually been doing a few of those. We will target the particular shopper; let’s say it’s kids sticking their head through the prop. We give the card to the parent so they can see the picture.