The Sell: Is ‘pretty’ enough?

Date posted: March 12, 2013

Mimi Nicklin ?>

The Sell, a regular MarkLives column on shopper marketing, by Mimi Nicklin (@miminicklin)

It looks prettyMimi Nicklin
It’s pretty effective
It’s pretty social, a few thousands people have shared it
It pretty much won every award last year
And sure, it’s pretty much, reaching our goals
But in 2013 is pretty, really, enough?

I strongly believe in the power of brands and of the emotional connection we have with them. When you look into the psychology of buying you notice it is often based on those emotional connections that we have made as consumers of these brands. However, when you stop and really look at how these brands live in the worlds of shoppers, beyond the world of their consumer selves, there is ‘pretty much’ a gaping hole that remains unfilled.

Happiness becomes ‘buy 2 for less’, trust becomes ‘buy one get one free’ and your childhood love mark gets discounted to an ‘enter and win a car’ promo. Quite a sad state of affairs I’d say. What was pretty on TV, and pretty fantastic as an app on Facebook, has become pretty much benefit less and dull, not to mention commodotized, at the critical moment when we are asking the person to ‘pick up and buy us today.’

Surely in a post recession world, in a country where private labels increase almost daily, and within which consumer confidence is scarily low, we should be more than ‘pretty confident’ that the messages we communicate are those that our shoppers will buy into and crucially, become loyal to?

It is amazing to me that as an industry, a creative industry, we are so conservative, and perhaps even lazy, when it comes to change in the shopper space. There always has been amazing consumer communications, there always will be, but unquestionably we should be pushing for a faster speed of change within the mediums that talk to our shoppers directly.

We work constantly to perfect consumer models relevant to our fast paced, ‘always on’ and digitally savvy consumer. But whilst we recognise our shoppers are no longer loyal to just a couple of stores, but a proliferation of stores that meet their mission of the moment, and we see how shopping habits have changed, the communication model seems to have got stuck.

Our shoppers  swap from spaza to Shoprite and from offline to online quicker than they swap their newspaper, radio station or TV channel choice. Yet, we continue to talk in store as we always have. A price flash here, a promo girl there and a prize worth SMS’ing for when they sit and ogle our packs back at home. Or so we hope!

The good news?! We are in South Africa, the developing world, the tip of a region growing faster overall than Asia, and our opportunity is huge. Our country’s speed of change is fast, our middle classes booming, our retail growth indicators are positive, and we have all the opportunities in the world to turn this around, get it right and build our brands. Before our shoppers forget to shop on anything other than price.

As far as I am concerned, gone are the days of one beautiful campaign made for consumers, and ‘in’ are the days of marketing that realizes that the consumer and shopper hold a different relationship with brands. They don’t consume the brands in the same way and they certainly don’t follow the same decision making process. In fact cognitively, they couldn’t be much more different.

So how must we change the way we talk to our shoppers? Well, that’s pretty simple. We start by realizing that the very moment they decide who goes in, and who goes out, of their basket, presents an important opportunity to state your case. At shelf, in store, behind a trolley and not in front of their computer, TV or mobile phone screen.

Simple? No. But a challenge we either face head on or we risk losing their share of Rands even if we keep their hearts. And that, however you look at it, would pretty much be a disaster.


mimiMimi Nicklin (@MimiNicklin) followed her passion and experience in the consumer, retail and shopper space from regional roles in Europe and Asia, to South African shores in 2010. Having led global brands through the line for Procter & Gamble, and two of London and Hong Kong’s top agencies, her background gives her an international perspective to add to her depth of SA understanding. She serves as strategic director and a partner at 34 Group. Mimi contributes the monthly “The Sell” column concerning shopper marketing to MarkLives.