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Three New Rules for CPG Brand-Building

NEW RULES FOR CPG BRANDING blog image with a light bulb

With shopping behavior expanding online through eCommerce buying and digital influence on in-store purchasing, brand building requires new rules to play and win.

Remember when you used to plan your marketing dollars and imagine a consumer becoming aware of your brand via passively (or enthusiastically) watching your brand's television spot, then gradually considering your brand as she planned her shopping trip with her FSI, then transitioning from consumer-state to shopper state when she faced the physical aisle and saw your flawless floor graphic and shelf dangler?

Things were so simple then! Marketing planning and implementation were rinse and repeat. And though most brands today are heavily investing in digital tactics to grow their brands, many aren’t optimizing the way they are planning those hard-earned investment dollars to effectively and sustainably reach their targets.

Making it even more challenging is the fact that the growth of digital shopping encourages more autopilot, convenience-seekign shopper behaviors:

  • Grocery shopping from the previous order history
  • Fewer in-store trips where that end-cap or incremental display are irrelevant
  • Out of stocks driving brand substitutions vs. more trips to new locations

As a result, I believe in three new rules for CPG brand-building, in order to capture (and retain) shoppers, and ensure that marketing budget works as hard as you do. And there should be no surprise that these principles are rooted in Shopper Marketing fundamentals.

Rule 1: The digital shelf needs to be central to your marketing strategy

Gone are the days of having a separate in-store and online marketing strategy. If you want to win shoppers effectively and efficiently, the digital shelf is key to driving both awareness and purchase, regardless of position in the physical store. We know that over 50% of pre-shop touchpoints are online. Digital shopping behavior is “sticky” as shoppers rely on convenience methods to shop, and additionally leverage some digital tools as a way to manage impulse through inflation.

Rule 2: Know where your shoppers are shopping (and where they aren’t)

We see a lot of CPG brands (both heritage and start-up) making the mistake in assuming shoppers are leveraging traditional, Google or Bing search for shopping. They are investing millions of dollars in search campaigns before they understand their webstites' search traffic, its sources and conversion rates. Additionally, they know little about how those SEM stats compare to the retailer.com traffic. When we uncover, via behavioral data, where many of their shoppers are converting within our clients’ categories, we see shoppers most engaged in retailer.com sites. In a recent example, we found search volume on the broader web to be 2% that of retailer.com search visits for a popular grocery category.

Retailer Search engines are one of the most powerful influencers for CPG brands (and could be even more efficient and effective than that actual influencer you paid to drink your product on Tiktok). They warrant a clear strategy and surgical management. Simply shifting that budget into retailer search investment without a clear strategy (and a fully empowered team) can be equally ineffective. Look at category growth rates, in-store and on-line, to understand which retailer and platform should command investment.

Rule 3: Integrate your search efforts and adopt a performance mindset

Often, brands have multiple teams managing search efforts. We see some teams having one team focused on organic versus paid, another team that has paid media efforts split across “national” media (or brand-building) and retailer (or shopper media). For brands to win the digital shelf, organic and paid search efforts must work together to drive efficiency and effectiveness.

This can be achieved through new ways of working, new agency partners, staffing models and tools that enable holistic development and surgical management of search. While models vary across organizations, what is most important is the adoption of a performance-based mindset (review and optimization based on KPIs) vs. an activity-based mindset (traditional status reports of what ran and when it ran).

A recent Partnering Group client experienced a 60% increase in ROI post engagement with us. They emphasized a performance-based approach to investments and we helped them distinguish the ideal relationship between organic and paid activations, based on the unique positioning of the category and brand within retailer ecosystems.

In conclusion, it’s no longer enough to be “online” with a search investment, digital shopper marketing plan and a strong social and display campaign. With shopping behaviors expanding online, brand-building requires new rules to play and win.

We should talk!

The Partnering Group’s Shopper & Commerce Marketing Practice features industry-recognized practitioners with leadership experience on both retailer and supplier sides, driving omni-channel transformation. Contact Liz Mayer at Lmayer@tpg-mail.com


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Liz Mayer

Liz Mayer

Liz is a Partner in Omnichannel Commerce, Marketing and Customer Development at the retail and CPG growth consultancy, The Partnering Group. She has over 20 years of experience in marketing, customer development, shopper and commerce marketing and integrated consumer engagement across heritage and emerging brands. Liz is an industry-recognized leader, receiving the Excellence in Leadership award from The Path to Purchase Institute. She has transformed multiple departments in her career, and having been an accomplished practitioner, understands the complexity that must be clarified to drive growth.
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