Connie Buffone has led teams in product development/brand management and trade shows for Playtoy, Irwin Toy and Loblaw Brands. She has been with Spin Master for 17 years. When Buffone first joined Spin Master, she took on a hybrid of roles and began to develop the company’s trade marketing group. Within this group, she managed the sales support team as well as the trade show and prepack teams. In 2016, Buffone identified a gap that Spin Master didn’t focus enough on its shopper and began to elevate that experience at brick-and-mortar. In 2018, Spin Master launched the shopper marketing division.
What are your main job responsibilities?
BUFFONE: As senior director, I have three top areas of responsibility. One is shopper marketing, with a focus on taking our features to the next level through creativity, research and innovation. Another top area is trade marketing, with an emphasis on selling in and obtaining incremental features for the organization. The third area is trade shows, with a focus on creating best-in-class customer experiences for our retail partners for new brand launches at our toy fairs, retailer events and internal sales meetings.
What are the important characteristics of a mutually beneficial merchandising collaboration between a manufacturer and retailer?
BUFFONE: It’s important to have a great partnership with your salespeople who are passionate about the product and merchandising, and who have a great relationship with the retailer. Alongside that, the retailer and the manufacturer need to align with the same goals. Ultimately it’s sales of course, but we all need to align on pushing boundaries with creativity and innovation. If the retailer is on board, it’s win-win.
Tell us about the most successful merchandising work of your entire career.
BUFFONE: A few years back, a buyer gave us the challenge of creating a display that would allow for an interactive in-store experience. Our biggest concern was that this experience could be messy as it was an unattended display. However, we created this display that allowed for a surface where the product can be placed in that would allow children to play.
We did this at one store and within a few days, we were shocked to see how much product we were selling off this display. We kept refilling and it kept selling. We were watching it like it was a game – it was awesome. After two weeks in the store, the buyer came back and said she wanted this display in 2,000 more locations. With that came more features and feet awarded to us on our planogram.
BUFFONE: We were launching a new product within an existing brand at retail without any media. My team and I had to come up with a concept that was innovative and disruptive in a short amount of time. Through a quick collaborative brainstorming session with my designer, we came out with a primitive line drawing. This evolved into a concept that changed the way the organization looked at how P-O-P displays work for us.
When the product hit retail, we were surprised that in three to four weeks the product sold through. Remember, this was without any media behind it.