In-Store Media - User Friendly or Specialized Craft?

The more I read about in-store media lately, the more tense I get. With the genesis of the "in-store GRP", or at least a reasonable theory on how to create one, there is a big push to create a future where in-store is planned right along side other traditional media vehicles. The way the process is discussed, it’s as though there will be some magical way to plan/buy 1000 GRPs of "in-store media" that can be thrown on a flowchart between TV and Print. As someone that spent the first part of may career planning traditional media, peppered in some online and now have moved to in-store, I see a few problems with this...

1. Having recently shifted focus to solely in-store media, its hard to envision your average media planner doing what I do. Not because I'm special, but strictly from a time and energy standpoint. Understanding in-store media requires a lot of space in ones brain to catalog and track all the vendor products (which are ever evolving), retailer likes/dislikes, latest shopping trends, etc... We aren't planning 30 second spots or full page four color bleed ads. There is no standard anything. Further, it’s a full planning process to "do it right"; however, the process has different inputs then traditional media planning. See point 2.

2. Even if you wanted to buy 1000 GRPs of in-store, you couldn't. Even if the metric existed, you still couldn't. It’s not bought, sold, planned or even concepted that way. A primary problem is retailer realities. Not all retailers take the same media from a vendor or the same vendors for that matter. Also, you have clients that want more differentiation for their retailers to make them feel like there getting something different, but you have legal hurdles that say you can't do that. Its a complex landscape that I don't see your average media planner navigating successfully, let alone excelling at to provide clients effective, innovative solutions.

3. Lastly, one of the complaints of in-store media folk is that we are just a line item under promotions, a tactic. My thought is…what's the difference if you go from a line item under promotions to a line item under media. If you have non-specialized planner in control of the line item, how is the medium better served. I compare in-store often to online, for a while the industry attempted to fold it in with traditional media, but it proved to be just too different. Any good online planner will tell you that behind all the numbers, there is an art to online planning; as there is to mastering the planning of any vehicle. However, at the same time, they did create superb metrics which were comparable with traditional media so it could live in the same presentations. I believe this is more of where in-store needs to go. Yes, let’s create metrics and language that are inline with other media vehicles so clients don't need to learn and entirely new lexicon for every meeting. However, let’s leave the art to the craftsman.

I don’t want to sound as though I don’t have faith in numbers, great planning should always be rooted in solid research. At the end of the day we are solving business issues and that should be quantifiable somehow. As I read that Nielsen is now on board to help create a definitive in-store metric, I get excited to see the outcome. I anxiously await the arrival of a magic number I can provide which helps with selling the store "as a medium" not just a generator of short term lift. But let the number just be that, another important chapter in a well crafted story. A chapter along side, brand objectives, retailer objectives, shopper behavior, channel analysis and a host of other new inputs that going into creating an effective in-store plan.


The omni-present Sunsilk

Thought I would start this thing off with the on-going case study of Sunsilk which I'm sure many of you have probably heard of, seen on TV or seen in-store.

My interest in Sunsilk began when I came across them in-store with a series of humorous cross category placements far from the hair care aisle in both grocery and mass. When they launched this campaign they viewed the store truly as a medium capitalizing on the reach of the whole store, not just the HABA categories. Placements ran near soda, ice cream, laundry and so on, all with contextually relevant messages that brought the brand's fun, humorous personality to life.

While this intrigued me, I was more impressed as I began to dig deeper and see how the in-store leg of the campaign worked so well within the broader media mix.

As I am not an 18-34 year old female, I haven't seen a ton of their TV, but by all accounts, most young women have. Along with a ton of national magazines, in-theater ads and online media, the TV rounded out a compelling campaign which had roots in a larger idea. A non-traditional idea for the category certainly. The brand is the star of the spots, this fun, clever persona which they created takes center stage, not Hair. There aren't dramatic slow mo shots of hair being flipped about present in any of the ads.

The last piece of the campaign, and the goal of much of the communication was a drive online to, the brands site. After some initial intro which set up the tone not only for the site but the brand, the first thing I noticed were the two promo modules on
the homepage, one for a free sample and one for a sweeps. While there is certainly plenty of content around the site to keep users around for a while (video, blog, advice etc...), they didn't completely disguise there intentions... get a free sample, enter a sweeps, we are incenting you interact with us and our brand.

While I don't find my hair to be particularly in need of special care, I signed up under the free sample section and was met a few weeks later with a nice DM piece with my sample and a couple other fun things which again illustrating the playfullness of the brand and typically driving you back online to the site.

Overall, this started in-store, but through that I stumbled on to a very interesting and well glued-together wholistic campaign.

Subsequently, now out of the launched phase, they have evolved there in-store strategy with stronger purchase drivers. Currently they are now more focused in the hair care aisle with banners bookending the product and a coupon machine to drive trial.

Final bits...

1. In terms of non-traditional, I don't know the category
tremendously well, but I find it interesting that their spokespeople
are three hair models.

2. Integration, integration, integration...they do a great job
of maintaining consistency of message, look and feel accross all
their vehicles, but, they don't neccessarily try and do everything
everywhere. For example, we never see the spokespeople in-store,
but the same humor is used.

Strange side note:
I'm not sure if its a new Unilever thing, but I saw another
out of category placement today at Safeway for Suave in the laundry
aisle. Interestingly, its the second Unilever brand in the past
couple months to put hair care in the laundry aisle.

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