NEW YORK -- Marketers can build brand equity at the retail level through properly-developed account-specific promotions, according to John Young, senior vice president of MARS Advertising. "It's not always the easiest path to follow and clearly presents more development and creative challenges than straight merchandising or display programs," he said. "But the short- and long-term brand benefits are worth the extra effort." Young spoke at an account-specific promotions conference sponsored by the Strategic Research Institute here. MARS, headquartered in Southfield, Mich., has developed thousands of account-specific, regional and national promotions and customized advertising programs over the past 22 years. Young said brand marketers have an opportunity at retail to affect consumer behavior, reinforce brand awareness and product benefits and stimulate purchase behavior.
"When you can develop and sell in a fully-integrated account-specific promotion that includes upfront customized broadcast advertising, backed up with impacting in-store materials and an appealing consumer offer -- all with elements of brand equity building -- then you have achieved the very essence of what account-specific marketing is capable of delivering for your brand and company investment," he said. Young stressed the importance of spreading the word about account-specific promotions through mass media to reinforce the message at the point of sale. "All of the best planning and development, creative ideas, on-target consumer purchase incentives, flawless sales execution and outstanding merchandising support combined will not deliver maximum results if nobody knows about or hears about the promotion. "Quite simply, the upfront use and integration of television, radio and print in your account-specific marketing programs to broadly communicate the promotion and brand equity is far too often overlooked as a critical factor in a program's success," he said. According to Young, today's retailers are not only asking for "dollars" like the retailers of the past. They're asking for an "acceptable level of financial support" along with account-specific, customized programs. "When basic [everyday-low-price] operators like Food Lion and Winn-Dixie -- who candidly admit they just want you to dead-net your products -- are also now asking you to bring them customized co-marketing programs, we know that there's a new retailer view evolving," he said. Young said it's important for brand marketers to empower sales people to walk away from retailer programs that don't make good economic sense. Sales people often automatically say "yes" to customers, he said, but that response is not always based on sound financial analysis. "That also suggests that if you have a great account-specific marketing program in place," he added, "you build into that program the proper planning and financial evaluation tools, as well as adequate training, that will equip your sales force with the ability to make these informed decisions."