It has been suggested that a handful of retail chains are today as critical to a brand's success as a handful of television networks used to be. Given the consolidation of retail and the concurrent fragmentation of media, it is a highly compelling observation. Wal-Mart alone attracts 100 million shoppers each day.
Let's take a closer look at this idea. If a retail chain is like a television network, then a chain's retail stores are like the affiliates. As such, their success depends on a mix of quality programming and, of course, commercials.
Quality "programming" at retail would be the shopping experience itself. Done properly, the shopping experience is entertaining and informational -- even grocery shopping. Granted, few supermarket chains have evolved very far in that regard, although the evolution is inevitable.
In the same vein, "commercials" at retail should apply many of the same principles as their televised brethren. Just like a television commercial, a retail commercial should captivate the consumer's attention in the first two seconds. Otherwise, as we all know, the other 28 seconds are for naught.
Doing so requires developing a point-of-shopping storyboard -- just like a television commercial storyboard. Step-by-step, frame-by-frame, the marketer must collaborate with the retailer to engage and then direct the shopper's journey through the store.
When the storyboard is for the store, the shopper is the hero and the star. From the moment the shopper sets foot in the store, nothing should be left to chance. A combination of signage and other visual cues should lead the shopper from the first two seconds to the final four -- down the aisle, at the shelf, in the decision corridor.
The storyboard should entice the shopper to a specific category, aisle and brand. It should provide cues to other categories, aisles and shelves where shoppers can assemble solutions to their needs. Relying on a random, unorchestrated assortment of in-store signage and end-aisle displays falls far short of what's required to leverage strategically the retail store as a collaborative marketing medium.
Creating a point-of-shopping storyboard requires the same level of creativity and strategic thinking that is routinely applied to the development of television commercials. Such energies are almost never applied to creating retail commercials. For whatever reason, the overwhelming majority of marketing executives persist in regarding the retail store as a merchandising landfill instead of the marketing goldmine that it truly is.
Not to disparage television as a medium, but the store is bursting with multisensory possibilities that make TV pale in comparison. With television, you have sight and sound. With retail, you have sight and sound -- plus smell, touch and taste. Think about it: When was the last time you could reach into a TV screen during a commercial and pull out a bottle of ketchup? You also have the ability to touch consumers while they are in a highly emotional state -- that is, while they are shopping!
Our research finds, in fact, that each of the four major consumer packaged goods retail channels has its own culture. Each culture elicits a very specific set of emotional behaviors by consumers. The supermarket culture is largely premised on nurturing, for example. In mass merchandise, it's a dreamer's culture. The drug store culture is about expertise and in club it is novelty. Shoppers behave accordingly.
In other words, the retail store is a chief creative officer's dream! The creative possibilities in the store are without limits. Even more important, the retail store is also a chief financial officer's dream. That's because, unlike television, the retail store is also the place where the purchase is made.
When you think about all the dollars spent to reach consumers when they are miles and days away from the store, it's just plain common sense to continue the same level of communication when they are in the store and headed down the decision corridor. Storyboarding "commercials" at retail will not only make the shopping experience more rewarding for the shopper, it will also increase sales for the manufacturer and the retailer. It's high time the marketing community recognized the other white-hot medium. It's time we paid attention to the other 30-second mission. It's time to storyboard the store.
MEL KORN is chief executive officer of Collaborative Marketing Worldwide, a new marketing services unit of Publicis Groupe.