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Consumers and Shoppers Have Different Brand Relationships

Deepening the Emotional Connection

I’m often asked why we need shopper marketing (thankfully less now than before). There are many possible answers – but here is one: Shopper marketing exists because shoppers and consumers have fundamentally different relationships with brands. Consumer marketers spend an enormous amount of energy creating (or at least attempting to create) ‘brand-love’. But brand relationships aren’t all about love. And that love is, unfortunately, far from ubiquitous. This is no more true than in the world of shopper marketing. Or, to put it another way, The Beatles would have made lousy shopper marketers. In the world of the shopper we need more than love.

Consumers and their brand relationships

Consumers can have very intense brand relationships. For example, there are some brands I really love. Not many, but some are truly awesome. But let’s explore that love a little.  When do I love these brands? Where do I love them? I love them when I’m consuming. I love them at the point of consumption (or at the point of anticipation of consumption). I love my minty shower gel when it zings me in the shower in the morning. After that, I don’t give it a second thought for the rest of the day. At that precise moment, it is awesome. Ten minutes later I’ve “dumped” it for that Illy coffee which is hitting the spot at the breakfast table. Consumers are promiscuous, and their love is short-lived. I don’t mean within a category necessarily, but my love lasts for a few precious moments of consumption, and then I’m off professing my love for the next brand. A consumer’s brand relationships may be intense, and  may be long lasting, but the periods of intensity that you, my dear brand, are ‘in the zone’, are fleeting.

Shoppers often have very different brand relationships

This is especially true when I’m shopping. Most brands fail to create that quality of relationship with shoppers. Apple may be able to recreate powerful brand relationships in their stores, but they are the exception. Out there in the store the shopper may not even be the consumer.  But even if the shopper is the end consumer, they are now in shopping mode, not loving mode…. And that makes the shopper a completely different target with a very different brand relationship.

Here on the shelf the brand I love is just another product, and it’s hard for marketers to conjure up that “consumer-love” that exists at the point of consumption. In the store brand relationships are diluted by all of the other stuff that is going on: the noise, the deals, and all the other elements of my shopping mission. In the shower, that shower gel was the main event, if you like, but here in the store it is only a small contributor: my budget, my time, the check-out queue, the other things I need to buy today – they are all vying for my attentions.  At this point, as a shopper, I am so far removed from the intimacy of the consumption moment –  it is hard to believe that marketers believe that what works for me as a consumer would also work for me as a shopper. Where I do buy a brand regularly, it is often out of habit, more than love – it’s easier that way, and no other brand is offering enough of a reason for me to switch.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, dear brand. Whilst the in-store environment may never be quite as intimate and close as those consumption occasions we share, there are things you can do to woo me in the store.

What can brands do to improve brand relationships and create a little love in the store?

  • Be realistic. Not everyone loves your brand. And those that do probably feel that love in or around the moment of consumption – only at that point of relevance. Be realistic and recognize the real reach and power of brand-love.
  • Rekindle the romance. Can the magic be conjured up in-store? Is it possible to remind the shopper, there in the store, of just how special that consumption moment is? And, no, I don’t mean playing your commercial on in-store TV – but what cues can be delivered to rekindle the romance? It might be difficult to build significant brand value in a store, but reminding shoppers of values that already exist is often eminently possible.
  • Check if the consumer is the shopper. If they are not, then that consumer love is even harder to work with. The shopper almost certainly has little love for your brand. Live with it.
  • Recognize habits – don’t disrupt them. If your brand relies on shopper habits, then please let’s not disrupt those habits. Execution focus must be on availability, and almost certainly on the home shelf. Take care with promotions, or any activity which makes it harder to maintain availability. The last thing we want to do is to force shoppers to change their habits.
  • Add value to the shopper. Consider if there is anything that can be done to add value to the shopper (and I don’t mean a coupon!). What would make their life easier as a shopper? Easier to carry? Easier to shop? Easier to find? Choice of sizes? By understanding the shopper’s value points as distinct from the consumers, we may be able to find something to build just a little ‘shopper-love’.

Understanding brands as they work across consumers and shoppers requires a paradigm shift. Successful brands require a Total Marketing mix which recognizes that the target market is a consumer AND a shopper. By understanding the difference between the brand relationship at the point of consumption, and that at the point of purchase, our plans in both areas can be much more effective. Integrating consumer marketing and shopper marketing can be a challenge. If you’d like to learn more, join one of my workshops.

This blog found in Course 33: Your Brand and Your Shopper.

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