The best promos don't overlook the obvious

11/09/2012 09:19:00 AM
Denise Donohue

Denise Donohue, Donohue AssociatesAbout this time last year, I had a real eye-opener. What I learned is that to engage consumers at the store (retail activation), you need down-in-the-trenches marketing.

If that sounds like market speak, allow me to translate.

My phone rang after-hours last fall, and I was pleasantly surprised to be speaking with a muckety-muck from a large grocery chain.

In typical produce cut-to-the-chase, he said, “I don’t meet the first two criteria of your Big Promotion. But I won’t have any problem claiming my rebate from you folks, will I?”

If your IQ is anything higher than a box of rocks, I don’t need to tell you the answer here is: “No, sir.”

But this is one of those situations when you’re fishing for perch and you hook a swordfish. Not sure if your line is strong enough, or the boat big enough. But I really wanted to land this.

“No, sir,” I gulped.

“We can work something out for you. But if you can’t meet those two criteria, we need some proof of our product’s identity at the point of sale,” I added nervously.

“Sounds reasonable,” he said. “So-and-so will get in touch with you.”

A few weeks went by, with the rest of the U.S. well into the Big Promotion. Finally, so-and-so called and said, “We’re gonna make this work. I’ll need packets with promotional signs addressed to each store.”

No problem. We scrambled and in 24 hours, dozens were laid out on the mail counter.

The next week, he asked for a cover letter to go in each packet. No problem. We sent it that day. And waited for approval.

The third week, so-and-so says, “How will this promotion look again? I think I’ll have to get into a store and set it up so I can tell all the stores how it should go.”

Now this is a moment that separates the men from the boys when it comes to marketing.

We were already three weeks into a six-week promo — especially frustrating because we had top-level buy-in. How much longer would it take this person to get into a store, set up a display, take some photos and then send it to legal?

Answer: Too long, if he ever got around to it.

Produce buyers and managers have hundreds of tasks daily. For them, getting our Big Promotion moving was possibly, probably, a back-burner concept.

For me and our growers, it was way front-burner. It involved in-store signage and decorations during the biggest selling month, and thus could move huge volumes.


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Christopher Mitchell    
Kansas City, MO  |  November, 16, 2012 at 03:50 AM

I think if companies hired great people who are really enamored by what they do, and stores hired people genuinely passionate about produce, there wouldn't be a problem with making "retail activation" a success. But too often I have seen people wasting space until their time comes for promotion. It's not a perfect world yet.

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