The roles of shopper marketing agencies are evolving as the landscape of new technologies and consumer desires and expectations continue to dramatically shift.
Mondelez International, maker of such well-known brands as Oreos, Ritz and Swedish Fish, employs a team of agencies that need to work collaboratively to win at retail and e-commerce; these include Geometry Global, HMT Associates, MOjO Marketing and Phoenix Creative, all of which participated in a Path to Purchase Expo panel discussion in November. The panel was moderated by Steve McGowan, regional vice president, shopper marketing & strategic partnerships at Mondelez.
“There are a lot of benefits to working with other agencies,” said Lisa Norat, SVP, business leadership at HMT. “Everybody brings different expertise to the table. ‘Collaborating’ is the operative word here. If you come in with your guard up, it’s not going to work as well. Each agency does provide best-in-class complementary offerings.” These include different data and other resources, she said.
Working with multiple agencies at once can be challenging for clients, acknowledged Abbey Ash, partner and director of shopper marketing at Phoenix Creative. “There is overlap of roles, and who focuses on parts of the business,” she said. “Each agency has a different process, structure and culture. … I’ve had clients where it can be very territorial between the agencies. Mondelez has done a great job making sure everyone knows the channels they focus on, and the [retailers] they focus on.”
The constantly evolving world of retail and e-commerce requires agencies and clients to continuously adapt, said Amy Stockwell, account director at Geometry Global. “As soon as you get comfortable, something changes. Keeping up with that evolution and creating moments that matter and disrupt shoppers, wherever they are, is what we’re in business to do.”
Shopper marketers need to push toward personalized experiences to gain shoppers’ attention, Norat said. “We are in a place where shoppers have power. They can buy anything they want, anytime they want, and practically anywhere they want. Our job is to figure out how to keep these folks engaged and drive their attention. The way to do that is to create customized and personalized experiences.”
To ensure they’re helping clients drive return-on-investment, agencies need to understand what those clients are trying to achieve with different initiatives, and what their sales goals are, said Nicole Trudo, president of MOjO Marketing. “They need to understand what their real capabilities are, what innovation is coming, and where they thrive. It’s about being able to decide to execute things differently and having them work well together.”
At the outset, agencies need to develop a 360-degree view of a campaign that starts with insights, Norat said. For example, while working on a condiment program, HMT talked to young consumers and asked how they would react if a favorite branded condiment was not available at a friend’s house where they were invited for dinner. “You would think that’s a small issue, but the reaction was super interesting,” Norat said. “It ranged from mild irritation to frustration. Understanding how these attachments are formed does inform your strategic approach.”
Agencies need to use those analytics to address retailers’ needs in a unique way that’s not interchangeable from one brand to the next, Stockwell said. In creating a campaign for Ritz at Lowes Foods grocery stores in North Carolina, Geometry Global used insights to come up with recipe toppers for in-store sampling tables. “That cracked the nut of using it in the retailer,” she said. “We brought [the campaign] in-store and made it very experiential. It’s those insights that make it fun, that make it customizable.”
McGowan asked each panelist what she thought her agency brought to Mondelez and the overall team. For Ash, it was being nimble, focusing on process and due dates, and bringing creativity to life. Trudo cited customer knowledge, continuity, problem solving and a history with Walmart given her agency’s roots in northwest Arkansas.
Norat said her agency is flexible and responsive, with little if any hierarchy and a deep understanding of the landscape. Stockwell mentioned an understanding of what’s important to the retailer, the “expertise to build first-class creative, and end-to-end commerce capabilities.”
But ultimately, all agreed that they needed to be – and strive to be – more than the sum of their parts.