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Design to disrupt: Best practice for shopper marketing creative

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

A successful shopper campaign needs all its components to work together seamlessly; selecting the right media mix, aligning to retailer agendas, and ensuring compliance are all important factors. But too often, the effort that goes into getting these components right is let down by poor creative.

In some cases this is because a brand is trying to be cost efficient in using existing ATL creative on shopper media or even believes one design works in all scenarios. In other cases, its because the shopper creative has been designed in silo from the media plan. 

ATL creative must be adapted for the shopper mindset and environment to drive shoppers to consider purchase, visit the category and ultimately buy – reminding them of the emotional benefits that drive preference but converting them with functional reasons to believe at the point of purchase.

Admittedly, shopper is a challenging context to master. Many shoppers operate on ‘autopilot’ with low dwell times in store, wanting to conduct their shops as quickly and efficiently as possible. Others are increasingly cynical and resentful of advertising. Retailers have restrictions that limit what brands can do in store, and of course, omnichannel behaviour means the shopper journey is much more complex than it used to be.

It is these things themselves that can also make a brand now want to invest in designing good shopper creative whether in house or through an agency. But the truth is, the mere fact that as shopper marketers we only have a few seconds to get the advert noticed and influence the shopper, means it’s crucial we get the creative right for the shopping environment. 

So how can we make sure we communicate effectively in this context?

Design to disrupt

A good rule of thumb is to stick to 3 key elements, keeping visuals as simple and uncluttered as possible to make them easier for shoppers to process in a glance. Research has shown that 80% of short-sighted shoppers leave their eyeglasses at home, so it’s crucial that copy and imagery can be seen and read from a distance. Key principles will help to design for disruption better. Did you know? Caps work for short words like NEW and FREE but can make longer words difficult to read, especially for shoppers in a hurry.

Tricks like gaze cueing can help to take advantage of the fact that humans tend to follow the gaze of others. Placing your most important elements within the gaze path of a model ensures your audience will have their gaze automatically drawn towards the desired elements.

Lastly, creating crave appeal is absolutely crucial to driving purchase in food & drink – so ensure your product is presented in its best, most mouth-watering light.

Sweat your brand assets

Brands are more than just their name and logo: fonts, colours, shapes, slogans and even associations make up their identity and help us recognise them when we’re out and about.

Shoppers use visual shortcuts (heuristics) to find what they’re looking for in a cluttered environment – the shape of the Heinz ketchup bottle for example, or the colour of the Smirnoff label. Make sure you understand your key identity elements (colour, logo, shape) and leverage them consistently to ensure recognition and maintain habitual purchase.

Evoke the consumption occasion

More than 50% of purchases are made with a specific consumption occasion in mind, and evoking that occasion makes it more likely your brand will be selected. The occasion should feel familiar and credible to the shopper if it is going to work. A sausage brand associating itself with a sweet baking occasion, for example, just doesn’t work as strongly as the association with a summer bbq. 

It helps to leverage any rituals associated with your product; rituals create a self-reinforcing cycle of brand loyalty through the comfort of repetition. The effect is compounded if the ritual is rooted in an occasion, as with Belvita (breakfast), Kit-Kat (breaks) or Pimm’s (summertime).

Tailor your messaging

If it gets their attention, shoppers will look at POSM for just a few seconds, and are only likely to take in around 5 words. This means we need to be brutally and persuasively single-minded with our messaging.

A good rule of thumb is to always lead with a benefit – one that makes your product the right choice for your shopper. Think about how to word it most compellingly – for example, as a call to action or a question. A call to action is a short, simple imperative that prompts shoppers to choose your product, while questions are a powerful way to create relevance by making them aware of a problem your product can solve.

Lastly, it may be necessary to evolve your messaging across the path to purchase: focus on engaging early on, then use claims to convert.

Remember: get shopper wrong and everything else in your marketing plan will be less effective. Get it right, and you’ll improve the efficiency of your whole marketing budget and strategy.

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