SITTING ON THE SHELF
By Erwin Ephron
Some 20 years ago the way we plan advertising changed dramatically.
The old TV-driven idea of the 1950ís, that advertising works by teaching people about a brand through constant repetition, was replaced by a new model called Recency, or closeness in time.
The Recency model accepts that repetition builds brand familiarity, but says advertising actually helps to make the sale by reminding people of brands they already know, when they are ready to buy.
A Message in the Window
The new thinking is getting the message close to the purchase is key. Itís as if there are windows of opportunity in front of each purchase. Advertisingís job is to influence which brand is purchased, and mediaís job is to put that brandís message in the window.
This change in advertising strategy reflected a change in consumer behavior. Today most people are familiar with multiple brands, and many switch between them from purchase-to-purchase. So reminding consumers of the specific brand close to purchase is important.
Itís interesting that the old ďrepetition teachesĒ model still works in developing countries where people are learning about brands and how to shop.
The Empty Box
Here advertising doesnít tell people they should buy cereal, the empty box does that. And although Recency developed from advertising for frequently purchased products, it works for all products, including major purchases because every product category has its empty box. The car lease is up, the telephone bill is too high, the dish washer doesnít work.
Each day, for some reason independent of the advertising, people are in the market for products of all kinds, and advertisingís selling effect is on that small group of ready-to-buy consumers.
Which Consumers Are Ready to Buy?
The advertising planning problem is we donít know which consumers are ready-to-buy so we donít know when to send them a message. Instead we use mass media to reach potential purchasers over as many weeks as the budget will allow and let probability do our targeting. This strategy requires buying for reach, and more continuous advertising.
But today thereís one medium that lets us target people ready-to-buy. Itís advertising in the stores where the purchases are made.
On The Spot
If we think about what Recency says, the real media target isn't consumers, it's their purchases. And In-Store advertising is obviously the most cost-effective way to reach those purchases. In-Store advertising is an on-the-spot Recency medium.
Thirty years ago, Herbert Krugman, head of marketing research at General Electric, argued against the on-off flights of heavy TV advertising then popular. He suggested instead, that advertising behave like a brand.
He wrote "Advertising needs to be like a product sitting on the shelf, because you never know when the consumer is going to be looking for you, so advertising has to rent the shelf-space all the time."
Advertising renting shelf space, a perfect description of in-store advertising. And Herb was right again.
- October 1, 2009 -