Why should brand managers study the behavior of retailers? Because retailers are the kings of integrated marketing, advertising to bring bodies into their stores. A retailer doesn't need sophisticated research to tell him if the ad that ran over the weekend worked at generating awareness or image. He checks the cash register to see if his program worked or not.
The operative word here is "program." A retailer knows every dollar spent in marketing must have a direct impact on driving traffic. Retailers clearly need to attract attention and communicate their point of difference. Yet, in the retail world, if you don't also use the opportunity to offer a compelling reason, a la short term promotional offer, program or event, you'll never get those consumers to come to your store.
Yet for some reason, most small and mid-size brands with under $10 million advertising budgets are still running product benefit or image ads without any promotional offer. They might drop an FSI during the flight to try to get better display/feature ad space; but any sales person will tell you the trade doesn't place the kind of importance on FSIs that they used to. Why? Because they don't see any appreciable impact on volume in their store. Advertising flights generally help secure feature ads and possibly displays. But everybody does that and the trade support still goes to the highest bidder.
But come to the trade with an "integrated marketing program" that advertises the "added value offer" in addition to brand image and note the difference. The trade will generally respond more favorably because now you're doing what they do-giving consumers another reason to come to buy your product.
What's funny is the brands with the most money to spend are starting to integrate-Coke's "Monster of the Gridiron," Diet Pepsi's "Fill the Fridge," Marlboro's Gear and the Bud Bowl. And of course the fast-food chains have always advertised integrated marketing programs-they're retailers. These brands utilize both image advertising as well as integrated marketing programs. But they can afford to! The point is that most brands can't afford to do both yet they opt for the product/image sell. Wrong. If you have under $10 million to spend you should be spending it only on integrated programs, several times a year, that generate awareness and image but also give the trade and consumers a reason to buy!
Does this always work? Of course not. All the basics have to be in place from a good product to a good ad with a good program. But it can work wonders and better than straight product/image ads alone at both trade support and consumer pull. Let's face it, an awful lot of ads are for similar products, and consumers know it.
And don't be told it can't be done so that both long-term brand franchise building and short-term volume are equally well served. Sure it's hard, but it takes the right head set on the part of the brand team and, importantly, the creative team at the agency. The fact that many brands still don't get it is your competitive advantage. Leverage it.
Mr. Rowe is president and founding partner of Manhattan Marketing Ensemble in New York.