Is it Trade Marketing, Customer Marketing, Shopper Marketing or something else?

When I started my career more than 2 decades ago, one of the job titles I was given was ” Marketing Executive” and what I really did was sell to Mom & Pop stores and not even once did spend any time designing a brand campaign or a promotion, just executed the standard Trade schemes of 10+1 or 12+1 etc. It is not that the organisation wanted to give me a fancy Marketing Title, there just was no difference in understanding between Marketing & Sales, they were synonymous with each other. Even today, in many emerging markets you might see a similar thing although in my second stint in Asia from 2011-2014, have seen much better distinction between the two. As my career progressed and I moved to Europe at the start of the century, I saw much clearer focus at least with respect to the Sales function although we were  not called Sales Managers or Executives, at Procter & Gamble, we were called Customer Business Development( CBD) Managers. The rationale the organisation gave was that we can only be successful if our Customers are successful and our key role was to ensure that we are able to develop the Customer’s business hence ” Customer Business Development” Manager. This was beautiful, made perfect sense, gave the right motivations, encouragement and instilled the right passion. Brand Marketing similarly had the right structure and definition. It was therefore clear that having right distinction of functions/roles based on responsibilities and objectives is critical for right efficiencies and effectiveness.

Being thought process pioneers is what P&G does very well and a good example of that was the introduction of a new function called “Market Strategy & Planning” (MS&P). Although MS&P function had existed in previous avatars as well, but the introduction of this new title had much more focus behind it and MS&P played a “Tactically Strategic” role. They were the go betweens between CBD & Marketing, were focused on Market strategies in relation to Channels & Customers with a slightly more near term view, 1-2 years. So the reason I call it “Tactically Strategic” is due to the fact that unlike more upstream strategic thinking by Brand Marketing & Design teams maybe 3-5 years out MS&Ps were tasked with thinking short term strategic and bringing both brand & commercial plans alive. They worked with the CBD folks, Finance, Demand Management( Some cases supply also),Brand Marketing teams and also Marketing teams focused on a particular Customer e.g. the Tesco or the Asda’s of this world as part of the multi-functional Customer teams. Their key objective was to make portfolio & initiatives including promo plans relevant for Channels & Customers thus ensuring the right return. Yours truly was one such MS&P and was lucky enough to experience that amazing role.

Almost a decade ago now, when I transitioned into the world of Consulting( we  call it Assisted Advisory® now as we feel that unless we assist our clients with getting the results through the advice we provide, it is of no real benefit to them and Consulting feels more one sided), I found a maze of views w.r.t this function, similar to a P&G MS&P which organisations were trying to replicate/refine. Trade Marketing, Customer Marketing, Shopper Marketing, Initiative Management, Innovation Management, Commercial Strategy, Trade Shopper, Trade Customer Marketing etc to name a few. In many cases, this specific function did not even exist and the responsibilities were bolted on to either the Sales or Marketing functions. It is not that the way the teams were structured or called or the way responsibilities were defined were not helpful to the particular organisation, in my view the confusion or maybe the potential for better clarity with regards to this function could have helped an organisation with more efficient and effective results.

The need for such a function arose because with increasing complexities and competition in the Retail landscape where Sales and Marketing functions needed to have pure focus on their responsibilities of getting numbers and building brands respectively, a role was required which could connect both Sales & Marketing with a view of winning with Channels & Customers. The responsibilities of this role included making portfolio & initiatives( classification of initiatives is a whole new subject and will share thoughts on that soon) relevant for Channels and Customers and hence the terms Trade Marketing & Customer Marketing came into play. The concepts such as First Moment of Truth, Category Management etc. arose which would help with making Portfolios relevant and effective and as these were built with the Shopper in mind, the concept of Shopper Marketing arose. In the effort to make such a function relevant in an organisation, based on the understanding of the leadership at the point of time, the function gained different names such as Trade Marketing, Customer Marketing, Shopper Marketing etc.

However, coming back to the title of this blog “Is it Trade Marketing, Customer Marketing,Shopper Marketing or something else?”,  what should or could be the key function to execute the intended roles & responsibilities? My view is that it is “Shopper Marketing” enabled through Trade & Customer and needs to be structured and planned accordingly in an organisation, Shopper Marketing needs to be the starting point. Applying the same analogy as”Customer Business Development” unless we are able to help our Customer win with their Shopper, all else is irrelevant. Only if we have the right rationale behind structuring of a particular function can we drive the right behaviours and results in an organisation. It takes even more importance with the changing Channel landscapes currently with new forces such as online taking prominence. Only if the Customer wins with the Shopper that there will be portfolios to market, initiatives to launch and margins to share.

( Ankur Shiv Bhandari is the Global MD of Asbicon group, Asbicon specialises in providing Retail & Distribution effectiveness for Consumer Goods & Services organisations)


Food Consumption Trends in one of the World’s largest Market- CEOs Synopsis

Few weeks ago I was invited to conduct a Masterclass on Shopper Driven Category Management at the India Food Forum ( annually held in Mumbai) but more interestingly to also moderate the panel of circa 10 prominent CEOs from the world of Food & Retail. The focus of the discussion was on the Future potential of the Food business in India. It was indeed an honour and I flew from London for  a quick few days in India.

The power of the panel was astounding with CEOs of the three biggest Retail chains , MDs of leading Out of Home eating franchises, owner/directors from leading food companies etc forming the think tank. I was also honoured to co-moderate this session with my dear friend, Sadashiv Nayak, the CEO of Big Bazaar( Future Group). We structured the discussion using 2 key questions :

  1. What in your view are the key disruptions( if any) in the Food Industry in the last 12 months?
  2. How would you attract/cater to a 20 year old in 4 years time when He or She get their first salary?

It resulted in quite a dynamic discussion with points of view at both end of the spectrum being debated, the crux however resulted in the following synopsis:

  • At Home Consumption:

    • Centre of the plate has hardly changed– The core components of consumption at home such as Dal(Lentils), Roti ( Bread), Chawal ( Rice) etc largely still remain the same. There have been some light experiments with the staples in the plate such as different flavour garnishings  ( schezwani tadka was mentioned) but by and large eating @ home hasn’t changed much. Companies that are providing a variation to existing consumption habits are seeing good success such as Capital foods with “Desi Chinese” concept or more organic/natural focused products such as Patanjali. Evolution not Revolution seems to be the trend here.
    • Cooking as a Celebration has joined Cooking for Subsistence– Although cooking is largely still for subsistence, social media has given rise to celebratory cooking as well. More mealtimes per week are getting converted to occasions where pride in cooking is exhibited and celebrated through pictures and videos on social media. There is a good opportunity for brands to capitalise on the trend.
    • Easier provision of semi-cooked/freshly cooked meals@ Home– There has been a tremendous rise of delivery startups who have provided an ecosystem for delivery of fresh home made food for consumers unable or unwilling to cook themselves. The consumption is still@home , still largely with centre of the plate staples, however, the opportunity for consumer to experiment is larger. This is also giving rise to Modern Retail focusing on providing Ready to cook solutions such as Idli/Dosa batters capitalising on the trend for Easy to cook/Freshly cooked solutions. Important point to note is that although Freshly Cooked & Delivered/Ready to Cook is gaining traction, packaged Ready to Eat still has some way to go before being properly adopted as a mainstream trend.
  • Out of Home Consumption:

    • New Cuisines and experiences are being embraced– This is where the desire for experimenting is larger, adoption of variations & New cuisines is much higher. While you see consumers enjoying Paneer Tikka pizzas , you can also see openness to try new Mexican, Lebanese or other cuisines, this is also evident in the recent emergence of casual diners across the country offering world cuisines. Experimenting with traditional Indian cuisines is also much more open. There is potential to use consumer behaviour of openness to experiment/change in Out of home to also influence changes in At Home consumption.
    • Technology has a key role to play– There is potential for further connection and interaction with the consumer, provision of better experience e.g: delivery and higher focus on health using technology.

Above are some of the key pointers from the discussion which could potentially be instrumental as Food brands in India or those that are planning to come to India could utilise as they develop future plans. You can also view the full discussion at the following link:


( Ankur Shiv Bhandari is the Global MD of Asbicon Group, ( based in Berkshire, United Kingdom. Asbicon specialises in providing Retail & Distribution effectiveness for Consumer Goods & Services organisations)


Asbicon congratulates Aditya Bhardwaj on his 5th Asbiversary

Asbicon heartily congratulates Aditya Bhardwaj on his 5th Asbiversary (Years with Asbicon). Aditya is an Operations Director with Asbicon based in Chandigarh, India. Aditya’s experience and expertise in need assessment, resource allocation, and project management have been instrumental in taking the company to great heights. We wish him all the best for many more years to come.