POP displays can lift a product’s selling power and presence, writes Robin Cobb

POP displays can lift a product’s selling power and presence, writes

Robin Cobb

Point of purchase is the last chance saloon in the marketing chain. It

used to be that POP displays were employed simply as ‘we are here’ brand

and product reminders. Now they are seen as strategic tools, targeting

consumers with tailored messages and eye-catching designs and mechanics.

This is the result of retailers being more receptive to innovative

approaches and more willing to allow secondary displays which are not

constrained by having to fit to a shelf space.

‘Retailers in general are more positive about putting in place high

quality, specifically developed, strong eye-catching displays,’ confirms

Henry Coates, trade marketing controller for KP Foods.

Coates explains the reason for this shift. ‘POP is a critical part of

the mix for the retailer. It can lift the outlet out of run-of-the-mill

and present product categories more constructively to the shopper.’

He believes POP has a number of benefits. ‘Turnover, incremental value

to the category and added interest and excitement within the store - POP

can deliver all of these.’

There are good commercial reasons, too, for making secondary sites

available. ‘These invariably drive additional offtake,’ Coates says.

‘With appropriate and creative techniques, you can get payback on your

investment in a matter of weeks.’

Another opportunity for putting POP to good use comes when there is

major brand news, such as a product launch or promotional event.

‘Significant returns for both the retailer and the brand owner can be

achieved by investing in dressing and presenting that news or event at

the point- of-purchase,’ he observes.

POP may target specific consumer groups. However, he contends: ‘The

principal driver for POP development and design is the type of outlet

and, correspondingly, the sort of people who shop there.’

As well as supermarkets and shops, KP Foods pays attention to other

outlets. ‘We have developed uplifts by ensuring a quality presentation

of our crisps and snacks range in pubs,’ Coates explains.

‘Traditionally, crisps have always been stuffed behind the bar. By

taking a little bit of trouble to get a small presentation unit on the

back of the bar, we are getting increased distribution levels because

more outlets are recognising the value that this category can bring. We

have given pubs a mechanic for selling it.’

While agreements on POP have to be negotiated at head office with the

major multiples, Coates stresses: ‘If you haven’t also got the

involvement and support of local management, then you are not doing

your job properly.’

Cadbury’s point-of-purchase development manager Brian Pearson notes:

‘The nature of the promotion and the offer itself targets the particular

consumer. We try to make it interesting; to create that extra impact.’

Perhaps the future is to be seen in some of the cosmetics and fragrances

departments, where there is a move away from standard shelving and

counters to individual presentations. Virtually all major beauty brands

have tailored units for display and testing.

Stand-alone units are employed in other product categories and are

competing for floor space as well as shelf footing.

Pearson welcomes this trend.

‘People get bored with bland POP which looks the same every time they go

into the store. Shopping needs to be a pleasurable experience, ’ says


Secondary displays need to be durable. ‘You don’t put a flimsy cardboard

unit into a multiple grocer where it is going to get bashed by

trolleys,’ he points out. ‘At the same time, it must be as simple as

possible to erect.’

Security is a particular consideration in outlets such as mini-stores

and forecourt shops, where staffing may be limited to one or two at a

checkout. This calls for restricting the height of displays so that they

do not block the view across the store.

According to Pearson, the adversarial situation between the multiples’

own-brand products and other branded goods is on the wane. They are seen

as complementary, meeting consumer demand for choice. As a result, the

grocery groups are allowing greater scope with in-store promotion.

‘There has been an increase in the number of outlets willing to take

branded POP material,’ he says. ‘The power of the brand is becoming a

recognised asset within the store. We can develop POP hand-in-hand with

the retailer.’

One way of standing out is by being the only product of its type in a

store. Mobile phones and services compete for attention in the

specialist shops but Mercury One-2-One had the audience to itself

through a deal with Sainsbury’s Homebase.

Large gondola end displays, designed and produced by NDI Display, were

set up in 64 Homebase outlets.

The benefits of mobile telephony for family use were explained by video,

graphics and text. Phones were displayed as complete service packages,

which the purchaser could simply take home and switch on.

‘Homebase customers are loyal consumers, relatively affluent and well

informed; they go to Homebase to look for ideas,’ explains One-2-One

retail marketing manager Salvatore d’Angelo. ‘This matches the profile

we were seeking. We wanted our service to be sold in an open environment

where consumers could see exactly what they were getting and the

benefits of it.’

At POP designer and manufacturer Kesslers International, marketing

director Charles Kessler says: ‘We have to satisfy the client, the store

and, most importantly, the consumer.’

This involves developing units and systems which meet the physical

specifications of stores, suit different types of outlet and

simultaneously, like the brands themselves, target socio-economic

groups, age and sex.

Some brands may have eccentric identities. Kesslers has been producing

display and testing units for the European launch of US cosmetics brand

Urban Decay. This post-grunge range of lipstick, eye shadow and nail

varnish has shades which include Rat Poison, Oil Slick and Bruise.

The design challenge was to produce a suitably gritty display. The end

product has such touches as graffiti and bare wire mesh. Kessler

describes the target as young people - not necessarily exclusively

female - who will use the cosmetics ‘as a statement of confidence’.

POP picker

Kessler asserts: ‘POP is a strategic tool in several ways. It may

highlight a particular message of a limited life, or it may be units

which imply permanence, reliability and stability. It focuses on the

target group you are trying to reach, while meeting the stipulations of

individual stores in terms of dimensions, modularity or colour scheme.’

Neil Halford, sales director of POP company Artform International, says:

‘With many of the POP objects we are asked to design, we are briefed on

the target audience. We also look at the positioning of the product and

its advertising imagery, and try to reflect all of that.’

The ‘multi-strike’ concept is advanced by Howard Frost, consultant to

display unit producer CPI (UK). ‘Customers will work their way up the

scale of unawareness, awareness, liking, preference, conviction and

ultimately purchase if various promotional messages are targeted towards

them,’ he suggests.

‘Only POP offers this direct form of multi-strike message, from

customers repeatedly entering retail environments and becoming

knowledgeable about the product.’

He adds: ‘POP is the silent sales person and encourages customer

interaction with the product. It greatly assists a brand’s personality

and the impression it makes on the consumer - fashionable, lively,

conservative, reliable, fun, effective, or whatever.’

An example of the way in which POP can reflect above-the-line

advertising themes and strategies is given by Martin Law, chief

executive of Fords Design Group. This came with the relaunch of the

Peperami spicy meat snack, with its freaky animated sticks on TV.

A free-standing merchandiser was designed to appeal to youngsters, with

the strapline ‘Attack the snack before the snack attacks you’. Giving

movement, a battery-operated Peperami pack, chained to the stand,

wriggles and crinkles as if trying to escape.

There are mixed views about the array of electronic attention grabbers

which are now available. Artform’s Halford says: ‘There is a wide range

of technical wizardry we can put into displays. You can have proximity

sensing devices that talk, flash a message, play a video or animate a

computer screen. But despite a lot of interest, there has so far been

little take-up.’

KP’s Coates points out: ‘Maintenance costs can be the killer. Imagine

having something that depends on batteries in a thousand outlets, which

is only dipping your toe in the water. Something that is simple, robust

and colourful can be more effective than complex gimmickry.’

Instead, new ideas from KP to be market tested next year will take

existing technologies in plastics and metals and be ‘applied in new

situations and different ways’.

Cadbury’s Pearson observes: ‘There have been advances in POP technology

which make it affordable and we are now looking more seriously at

electronics. I think we will see a growth in that type of display


Various ways of tackling the short attention span of children have been

devised. For instance, Tyco Matchbox had the problem that its boxed

model vehicles were lost on the retail shelves among the larger toys and

games. It briefed Oakley Young 4th Dimension, a point-of-purchase

specialist, to do something about this situation.

The result is a combined merchandiser, leaflet dispenser and storage

unit in the form of a bright yellow car and 6ft tall, which can be free-

standing or wall-mounted. It has a metal framework and sturdy panels to

withstand the strenuous attentions of children.

Another way of targeting the kiddie market is seen in Fords’ modular

shop-in-a-shop for Barbie dolls. These have been set up in Hamleys and

other toy stores. An important detail is that the merchandise and

visuals are set at a child’s eye-level rather than that of an adult.

The whole movement of POP is towards more imaginative promotion, which

should result in a livelier shopping environment. According to Evan

Ivey, planning director of Aspen Business Communication. ‘POP is where

you make that last impact when the final purchasing decision is being



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