by Jeffrey Gottheil

When was the last time you walked down an aisle of a department store and didn’t bump into something or someone? Am I the only person who sees the shelves closing in and the aisles getting tighter? Then there’s the obstacle course of brown corrugate displays, cunningly scattered by hopeful manufacturers to literally stop shoppers in their tracks.

I believe that both retailers and manufacturers must take responsibility in finding ways to make the shopping experience more pleasant and profitable. It is no wonder why more and more stores are implementing a “Clean Floor” policy. Consumers want an uncluttered shopping environment, and this more enjoyable experience will keep them coming back. So a Clean Floor policy is good for the retailer’s business.

Manufacturers need to keep this new challenge in mind when they design their in-store marketing programs. The generic corrugate floor display could be a casualty of clean floor. It’s increasingly difficult to convince a retailer to accept a display. But I see this as a huge opportunity for manufacturers, not as a threat. The opportunity is to become better in-store marketers, and to reap the rewards of more effective point of purchase material.

The generic floor display does nothing for a brand. If you’re using standard dies just to save money, then you’re not using POP to promote your core brand objectives; you’re just providing the store with more shelves. Think of POP as an extension of your brand, packaging, and advertising in a highly controlled and competitive environment.

Like all marketing communication, the first objective of POP is to capture a consumer’s attention with a compelling message. POP cannot simply inventory product. If your only POP is a display with brown cardboard on three sides, customers won’t notice your products. If your package is not a brown box, then why is your display?

Sure, putting your product in a white display with a 4-colour litho header might provide contrast, but that still does little to convince a consumer why she should buy your product over your competitor’s. A consumer will buy your product because there is a perceived value and benefit to her – and your POP should be conveying your brand’s benefit.

Manufacturers must understand the opportunity. POP is critical and must be an integrated part of your overall marketing strategy. You have a captive audience. You have a chance to talk to the consumer one on one.

Think of Election Day. All parties ran an aggressive ad campaign. The voter has pencil in hand and is ready to make her decision. If your candidate were allowed to advertise in the voting booth, wouldn’t you have a competitive advantage? Think of the consumer as a voter; instead of a pencil in her hand she has cash in her hand, and she’s ready to make her decision.

In the same way, POP can influence decisions. Most consumers today are undecided and are easily influenced. We are all looking for a change, a fresher, richer, healthier, cheaper or more fulfilling promise. Since 66% of all purchase decisions are made in-store, you should put more time, attention and strategic design into your POP material.

Companies are spending money on POP, but they are not integrating their marketing with their POP design. What good is frequency if the message is wrong? The message doesn’t get better if you keep repeating it. Why use a standard display just because you can save money on the die? It’s like using someone else’s advertising just to save money. You are not doing anything for your brand.

Some manufacturers seem to think floor displays are the only form of in-store marketig. If you ask a salesperson for a particular product, they guide you to the department/section it’s in, not to a display! You must look at the section your product is in, and then design a POP program that will differentiate your brand and build on its key product attributes. Displays are a good reinforcement medium. But there are great ways to create POP for your product at the shelf/peg board level, by simple enhancements or by departmentalizing your product from the competition.

The other (and often overlooked) ingredient is an external visual media campaign (print, outdoor or TV) to support your in-store communications. Combining consistent visual reminders in-store and in your advertising will fortify your brand in the customer’s mind.

Respect the store’s culture, understand their customers, and design POP that not only supports your brand but also addresses the needs and shopping behavior of those customers. POP can be designed with all of this in mind, and still be produced efficiently.

Here are 9 quick considerations for manufacturers developing POP:

1. Good POP can help your product get listed. Retailers will stock a supported brand. POP is the “sell message” of your brand.

2. Design POP to complement the retail chain’s culture and reach the target consumer.

3. POP must be the call to action: it must influence the consumer and sell product. POP is your final vehicle to influence the consumer at the time of purchase. Make it good!

4. How you package your product is how consumers perceive your brand. POP design must complement your packaging. Stop buying standard displays. Design your displays to reflect your product. Think marketing first, not manufacturing first

5. Forget the expression, “It’s what inside the package that counts”. In POP, it’s what’s outside that counts in getting your first purchase; what’s inside gets the second purchase. But remember: without the first purchase, you don’t have a second.

6. POP displays are not just shelves. Let the stores provide the shelves; you provide the reason to purchase your brand.

7. Wherever you place POP in a store, you must also repeat the message at the core shelf level. POPAI tells us that if you have dual placement your sales will go up by over 20%. POP must be reinforced at the shelf level and show consistency in its core message.

8. If you support your in-store efforts with external media, your success will be greater than the sum of its parts.

Is there a happy balance between a store wanting the customer to have a more pleasant shopping experience/environment (less clutter, more breathing room) and a manufacturer wanting more attention given to their products? Yes! But it takes thought, understanding and respect for a very powerful medium. It takes creative marketing first, not manufacturing. It also needs manufactures to be less executional and more strategic. It takes creative POP.