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)

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