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By Karen Post, The Branding Diva®

Power packaged-good brands have earned a place in marketing history. Once an industry where brands were built with 30-second TV spots, and where generations of families passed down the trusted brand; today it is a whole new ball game. Shelf space is expensive and limited and consumers have over 3000 choices every time they enter a store. Their brains have limited attention and their hearts even less loyalty.

To compete and win, CPG marketers must embrace a new world of connecting to consumers and buyers. The days of pure hard selling are now balanced with conversations that offer help, education, and category expertise. Instead of buying your way into their minds, the CPG company must think about earning attention and deserving loyalty. Disruption is now annoying and engagement is how you build lasting relationships.

Below are five trends cited by in an Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) report on CPG; followed by some commentary reflecting real-world market observations and idea opportunities.

1) Trip-Based Merchandising
2) Solutions Merchandising
3) Sustainability
4) Merchandising as an Educational Platform
5) High-Tech Merchandising

1) Trip-Based Merchandising: Through new advances in shopper insights, retailers are able to identify high-potential shopping trips and specifically target them through merchandising, marketing, and assortment. Manufacturers are empowered to build promotions that align directly with shopping patterns, greatly upping the odds for success. Merchandising will become more targeted and strategic as this new level of consumer understanding is leveraged.

Holidays, seasonal happenings, and even high-profile sporting events are just a sample of what drives consumers to retailers. The CPG marketer needs to keep eyes on fashion and lifestyle fads to segment messaging and build brand extensions. Social media will play an important role in bringing stories and real-world-themed experiences to consumers 24/7.

2) Solutions Merchandising: Both manufacturers and retailers are increasingly recognizing that merchandising has the potential to deliver solutions to consumers—not just products and price points. Expect to see a surge in multi-category promotions around themes, such as meal solutions and spring-cleaning. These promotions will often involve multiple manufacturers, working in partnership with retailers to deliver more bang for the buck on display space and to make shopping easier for consumers.

Two key factors here are 1) What is the solution? Back to school, Flu season, Relax and pamper yourself, or New eco-safe pet care. 2) What does the retailers’ brand stand for? Whole Foods and Central Markets are a very different experience than Wal-mart.

3) Sustainability: Meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs—or sustainability—has evolved from a buzzword to a guiding business principle that has the potential to change merchandising dramatically. For instance, there is already growing demand for less material and recyclable material used in displays. In addition, as packages become more environmentally friendly, they will shrink in size, creating more shelf space but less package area with which to promote a product.

Green everything is certainly a media darling, however, proceed with good judgment. A recent study revealed most consumers don’t know what ‘Sustainability’ is.
“It’s this huge buzz term, but it’s such a client term,” said Carol Fitzgerald, president of the market research firm (Havas Media). “So maybe there’s a disconnect with consumers.”

4) Merchandising as an Educational Platform: As CPG products become more considered purchases (e.g., consumers evaluating health benefits, sustainability benefits, etc.), there is a growing need for in-store education and store signage that clearly identifies product benefits.

Merchandising will get smarter. Embracing a “we are here to help and educate you” is a well-received method by most consumers. Providing easy-to-access, understandable, and honest data is critical. The beauty of the Web allows low-cost content management and the most current information.

5) High-Tech Merchandising: New technologies are emerging within retail that offer promising new ways to reach consumers, such as in-store TV networks, digital signage, and intelligent carts, as traditional merchandising opportunities diminish.

Today’s consumers and their behavior are truly by-products of technology. Expectations have risen. Speed, simplicity, and a functioning communication channel are not optional, and mal-functioning equipment is a degrading reflection on the brand.

In summary, there is a whole lot of relationship building and communication going on in the Internet today. Couponing/value delivery, contests, gaming, education, and entertainment just cover a few hot opportunities. CPG marketers need to open their eyes to the behaviors and trends on- and off-line to keep moving their products forward.

About the author: Karen Post, a.k.a. The Branding Diva® is an international authority on branding, marketing, and entrepreneurial matters. She is has been featured as a business expert in print publications; on TV, radio, and on Web channels. Karen authored the best-selling book Brain Tattoos, Creating Unique Brands That Stick in your Customers’ Minds and she is co-founder and CEO of Oddpodz.com, an idea engine for creative professionals and business. Her work has benefited large and small organizations in the United States and around the world.