Kimberly-Clark is facing a challenge. The company—which sells basic essentials like Kleenex facial tissue, Huggies diapers and Viva paper towels—must prove to consumers that its products are of better value than those of competitors, said Mark Scott, K-C's vp of shopper marketing and sales planning. Brandweek recently chatted with Scott, who discussed why the company remains confident in consumer loyalty despite a down economy and weaker sales affected by consumer and retail pullback. (K-C's fourth quarter sales fell 3.4 percent to $4.6 billion.) K-C has been offering consumers various incentives to boost loyalty, such as a nationwide sampling effort for its Kleenex facial tissue with lotion. Excerpts from that conversation with Scott are below:
Brandweek: Times are tough for the consumer packaged goods industry. How are you driving sales on the shopper marketing front?
Mark Scott: Everyone has a different definition of shopper marketing. We really define it as an integrated marketing program based on a deep understanding of shopper attitudes and behaviors that really build brand equity and differentiate the retailer while the consumer is in shopper mode. That’s a mouthful, but the bite-sized version is shopper marketing is just simply marketing done when the consumer is in shopper mode. Then there’s also the path to purchase: Once we develop awareness and interest in a brand, how do shoppers pick an outlet, navigate the stores and find their product, and in the process of doing that, we want to build our brand and differentiate our retailers.
That’s kind of our context. The issue we and obviously everyone else is facing is a tough economic environment. The great thing about K-C’s brand portfolio is we tend to compete in basic essentials that consumers use without regard to the economy. I’m talking about tissues, feminine care and diapers. Whether the economy be up, down or sideways, they will still use our products. Our challenge, of course, is to demonstrate the value our brands have relative to other choices they have within those categories.
BW: What portion of Kimberly-Clark’s total ad budget does shopper marketing currently make up? Have you increased spending in this regard since the recession began? Why so?
MS: [We don’t break down marketing spend.] Having said that, we did in December actually formalize a shopper marketing structure in North America, where we’ve got some folks out in the field on some of our customer teams and some dedicated shopper marketing resources imbedded into our brand teams. All of that is intended to make sure we have the right shopper and customer choice at the right time as we build integrated marketing plans. Because we really want to put the consumer and the shopper—who, in many instances are the same—at the center of everything we do and we get deep insights [from] them.
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