Every marketer needs to be strategic, but none more so than those working with small budgets. “With all the tactics and tools out there, it becomes a trial on what’s going to work for your objectives,” says Chris Costello, national sales manager-retail at R.C. Bigelow Inc. (aka Bigelow Tea). “That’s the hardest thing we’re facing. We don’t have the luxury like some of these larger CPGs that can do everything.”
Among the challenges Fairfield, Conn.-based Bigelow faces is not being able to keep an agency on retainer. Several years ago, Costello says, Bigelow went through the RFP (request for proposal) process but found that “it would eat into a significant part of my budget with no guarantee.” Today, the company works with a small agency on creative as needed.
But while you’d think a marketer might have his/her hands tied trying to compete without the proper resources, there are strategies to get the job done – starting with gathering insights and working with retailers.
Companies with limited dollars may be tempted to skimp on shopper insights, but the right data can be invaluable as you determine where and how to get the biggest bang for your buck. Management at Barilla, for example, has been supportive about making that investment, says Debbie Zefting, director, customer and shopper development, North America. The Bannockburn, Ill.-based company uses primary, secondary and syndicated information to understand both shoppers and retail partners. “Proprietary studies include focus groups, attitude and usage, and a path-to-purchase analysis, including customer-specific results,” she says. “We also rely on our agency (IN Marketing) to help with insights.”
FLAVORx, Columbia, Md., collaborates with retail partners to use POS data to gather insights. “We also constantly scour trade publications and the Web for facts, figures and trends to support our value proposition to our retail partners,” says Chad Baker, vice president, strategic accounts.
Bigelow has worked with SmartRevenue, Nielsen and IRI to gather insights. “Research has been a huge investment for us,” explains Costello, who says that the insights live well beyond the time they are captured. “We did a segmentation study several years ago, and we’re just breaking the surface on that now when it comes to execution.”
Regardless of a company’s size or the size of its budget, it’s imperative to not shy away from partnering with retailers. “Years ago, we had an arm’s-length relationship with our retail partners,” FLAVORx’s Baker says. “We were afraid to ask for help because we thought we were too small and assumed every request would be shot down. Getting over that mental hurdle has changed everything.”
Dylan Spencer, brand manager at San Clemente, Calif.-based Sambazon Co., says the key is finding the hot button for your buyer. When a buyer was experiencing slowness in organic produce, for example, Sambazon used neck hangers and shelf danglers to offer a discount on organic produce with the purchase of a Sambazon juice SKU. And signage in the produce department pointed shoppers to Sambazon products. “This allowed for incremental visibility in an extremely limited department,” Spencer says.
Tapping into the insight that Ahold USA’s shoppers are looking for meal solutions and expect brands to support causes, Barilla teamed with nonprofit Feeding America in April for a “double the donation” promotion. Half pallets in-store at Stop & Shop, Giant Landover, Giant Carlisle and Martin’s stocked both Barilla sauce and pasta. For every jar of sauce purchased, Barilla pledged the equivalent of two pounds of fresh produce: one pound to the charity’s national program and one to a local Feeding America food bank. “Aligning with our national brand program helps stretch our shopper marketing dollars,” says Zefting.
In other activity based on the insight that BJ’s Wholesale Club shoppers are looking for both experiences and meal solutions, Barilla partnered with Pinnacle Foods in May to pair its tri-color pasta with Pinnacle’s Wish-Bone dressing for in-store demonstrations. “Barilla’s goal is to understand our shoppers well,” Zefting says. “Then we use our insights to develop solutions that address key business issues for us and our retail partners.”
The more limited the budget, the more vital it is to choose the right retail partner, Bigelow’s Costello says. “It’s easy to spend X dollars with a major retailer just to say you’re doing a program, but we’ve found working with some of the super regionals and regional players, that our experience is they tend to be the ones who really get behind a program 360. They make an effort, feel ownership and will do what they can to make it effective.”
Bigelow teamed with Woodman’s Food Markets, which operates 15 stores in Wisconsin and Illinois, to celebrate Hot Tea Month in January. A sweepstakes offered a grand-prize $500 in store gift cards. In-store displays helped create excitement, and the brand received added attention on Woodman’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Digital is an important strategy for the smaller budgets at Hillshire Brands. To drive awareness and trial for its American Craft sausage links, the company launched a digital program with Meijer. The mix included banner ads, brand content, food pairings, blogger activation and an mPerks coupon. In-store floor graphics supported the program.
Hillshire employs a digital menu marketing tool called Playbook that includes national brand programs that field sales adopt and customize for their retailers. The tool contains category insights, brand objectives, creative assets and tactics for the entire path to purchase. “It reduces the amount of time and creative required across our team and the brand while elevating our shopper programs,” says Kathleen Perreault, director, shopper marketing.
Organic Valley, La Farge, Wis., builds relationships with retailers by bringing them to its farms for one of 40 retailer tours held annually in various regions. Executives, dairy buyers, clerks and dietician/nutrition associates spend up to four hours meeting the farmer, learning about Organic Valley’s cooperative model and core aspects of organic farming practices. “Retail personnel take that knowledge back to their stores and their customers,” says Lewis Goldstein, vice president of brand marketing.
Through its “Own Your Community” program, farmer-initiated marketing efforts are supported with product and marketing materials. “Farmers visit retail stores to meet the staff, demo products and connect with consumers to share their farm family story,” Goldstein says.
Good old-fashioned PR and the resulting earned media is also key to the marketing plan. In December 2013, Organic Valley announced a scientific study about how organic milk is nutritionally superior. Coverage resulted in The New York Times and on “The Today Show” and NPR, among others. And an article in The Wall Street Journal about one of its on-staff veterinarians was seen by millions of readers, says Theresa Marquez, Organic Valley’s mission executive.
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