Thinking Differently... About Shopper Communication


Let’s think about a regular household scenario…


You’re relaxing on the sofa watching Netflix when your partner says, “I’m going out, can you empty the dishwasher?” What do you do?


Do you immediately think “OK, I’ll just pause the TV and do it now.” The sooner you do it, the better it is for everyone, right?


Or do you think, “OK, I’ll just finish this episode and then I’ll crack on with it.” Then at the end of the episode, think “I’m sure there is something I need to do, but I can’t remember what it is.”


So you settle in for the next episode. Until your partner comes back in and says, “when I said, “can you empty the dishwasher?” I meant do it NOW!”


Most of you reading this will know you should do the first thing. But you will also know that you usually do the second thing.


This is because there is often a big difference between what we get in principle and what we do in practice.


These differences can end up having a significant impact on our lives…


“So, you’re telling me you want a divorce because he never empties the f***** dishwasher?” (it’s always a ‘he’…).


Why are we talking about this? In our industry there are lots of things that we get in principle but don’t apply in practice.


There are lots of examples. However, a key one is how brands communicate with shoppers. Everyone gets that they need to make things as easy as possible for shoppers. Nobody turns round and says “No. You’re wrong. We need to make things harder for them.”


But in practice brands often do make it harder for shoppers. Much harder than it needs to be. Much harder than it should be.


And… this is a problem. Because the easier you make it for shoppers to do what you want them to do, the more likely they are to do it.


So how do you put what you know in principle into practice?


Prioritise CONSISTENCY. Too often brands change things. They think it’s more interesting to say something new. It is. For the people working on the brand. For the creative agency. But it isn’t for shoppers. Shoppers are paying much less attention. They don’t get bored as quickly as you do. Shoppers value consistency. Consistency across touchpoints. Consistency over time. It makes things much easier for them.


Ask yourself whether you are communicating for awards? If so, keep changing it up. Or whether you are communicating for sales? If so, keep it consistent.


Prioritise what the SHOPPER NEEDS TO HEAR. Too often brands focus on what they want to tell shoppers. It could be the skincare product that is so excited by its new ceramide ingredients that they keep talking about their “proprietary ceramide complex”. They are so into it, that they’ve forgotten that no shopper knows what ceramide is in the first place.


Or it could be a snacking product that is so focused on the micro battle (why it is a better choice than the biggest competitor) that it loses sight of the macro battle (why it is the best choice vs the wider snacking competitive set).


Instead, brands need to tell shoppers what they need to hear. What the product is. Why it’s good. Why it’s the best choice they can make.


Say the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Too often brands ADD. They say A. Then B. Then C. Then D. They think lots of things are important, so they try to communicate all of them. It’s why you see packs or POS scattered with messages. But all those messages are doing is distracting shoppers from the single most important thing.


Instead, brands need to SUBTRACT. Remove messages A, B and C. So you are left with D. The message that really matters. And if you don’t know what the message that really matters is, you don’t know your brand well enough.


Keep it SIMPLE. Too often brands use lots of words. Too often they use long words. Too often they use complicated or funky language. Clever stuff with a deeper meaning that everyone in the meeting room understands but passes every shopper by.


There are a few simple rules brands should follow. Use fewer words. Use short words. Use everyday language. “Eat more fish” is not clever. But it is effective. So is “brush day and night.” So is “got gum?”


We all know what to do in principle. But we find it much harder to do in practice.


So, you need checks and balances in the system. The principles need to be there in briefs. They need to be there when you’re discussing options. They need to be there when you’re making final decisions.


They need to be there before someone shouts “I told you to empty the f****** dishwasher!”


Feel free to forward. Have good weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.