MARKET SURVEY: POP - In store impact - Once regarded as little more than cardboard eye candy, POP is defining a new role for itself as one of the few tools that directly addresses consumers in a fragmented media market

POP is enjoying a new prominence as its role in determining

purchasing patterns becomes more recognised. Companies are investing in

lenticular and digital technology, for example, while agencies such as

Triangle, Iris and Brewer Blackler are dedicating stand-alone operations

to POP.



'POP really has come into its own,' says Lucy Lynch, planning director

of Triangle's newly launched POP arm Hype Instore. 'It's now part of a

brand's marketing spend in its own right because in store media has

become more defined,' she adds. She puts the rise of POP down to many

peripheral influences, not least of which is the advent of digital media

and the burgeoning number of TV channels that have fragmented the

above-the-line market and made its effectiveness harder to evaluate.

'But most people still walk into stores and that's where brands can

still communicate with consumers,' says Lynch.



Distinct roles



Where once POP was seen as cardboard eye-candy, it now has four distinct

roles. Lynch defines these as: first, a call to action - because it

creates awareness for the product or triggers recall and so invites

interaction; as ambient media that set the tone in store and provide

theatre; as a communicator to educate or persuade consumers; and as a

facilitator to aid store navigation and purchasing decisions.



Added to these is the fact that you only get the key components needed

to sell a product - namely the consumer with money in hand, the retailer

recommendation, the brand and product - in a retail environment,

believes Iris account director Claire Glennane. 'POP makes consumers

understand the brand,' she says.



Glennane has carried out consumer research in this area. 'POP provides

visibility and can cut through the buying process. When shoppers enter a

store they've already narrowed down their purchase choice to two or

three brands. The last hurdle the brand has to cross is ensuring

consumers select it, and this is where POP delivers,' she explains.



For the launch of Ericsson's T10 phone, research indicated that the

actual technology was of less significance to its target youth audience

than the product's appearance and appeal to peer group members.



Because the phone came in different colours, Iris created POP material

that concentrated on this aspect of the phone and used eye-catching

colours to get the message and the attitude across. 'If consumers can't

find any information about the brand in store then it's too much of a

risk for them to buy. You must be able to get the whole message of the

brand across in a visual format that the consumer understands. And you

have a lot less time to do that than, say, a TV ad does,' says

Glennane.



Brand signposts



Nicola Scrafton, MD of Visuality Research, believes the growth of POP

comes from the consumer making more decisions in store. 'Consumers are

looking for more suggestions as they are spending less time on shopping

trips but make them more frequently. How products are displayed is very

important because they act as signposts for the category and the

brand.'



Aligned with this, according to Scrafton, is a more sophisticated form

of address to consumers and a move away from the hard sell. 'If the

clarity of fixture is too cluttered and disrupted you have 'lock out',

where it becomes too much effort for the consumer to get involved.' POP,

therefore, has evolved to be more clever and subtle. Scrafton points to

dual sighting - packaged custard next to bananas, for example - as one

way to achieve this: 'It's smaller POP that enables dual sighting. This

has really taken off in the snack and beer and wine sectors for occasion

shopping.'



Another development sees the use of more sophisticated materials and

techniques to extend POP's role. 'There is now a growing and definite

trend towards using interactive elements for more creative and involving

POP. People are on their PCs all day and are used to retrieving

information on their own terms. This is how interactive POP works,

because consumers have chosen to find the information out by

themselves,' says Glennane.



An obvious example of this is the Boots Advantage Card electronic stands

where customers are able to find out information on weekly promotions

and check how many Advantage points they have accrued.



In a market already used to touch-screen technology, the levels of

consumer expectation continue to rise. Again, the drinks sector is at

the vanguard of developments, in both the on- and off-trade. Recently,

Guinness has invested in state-of-the-art POP products which include

features such as moving images and chips. It has provided animated and

sequenced images that use lenticular technology for display. 'We have

carried out extensive behavioural research for the off-trade and we

found out that shoppers don't look at overhead signage. Instead, they

orientate themselves via signpost brands - 85 per cent orientate towards

stout through Guinness,' says Guinness visibility manager Zaid

Khalil.



'Too much noise in store is hard to take in, but POP provides signage to

categories,' he adds. He also insists that these category fixtures have

a very positive effect on sales and points to a 27 per cent rise in

sales for Guinness, 11 per cent for the stout category and a four per

cent rise in beer sales. 'It's confusing buying beer, but POP has a

positive effect.'



According to Hype Instore's Lynch there is a great deal of variation

between what retailers will accept. This view is shared by Poulter

Partners account director Aidan Flynn. The agency is currently facing

the task of working out how best to communicate the brand's proposition

for client Britvic Soft Drinks, within a 'defined' retail environment

where the retailer has become more sensitive to the intrusive elements

of POP.



Quality not quantity



'We've noticed in the last 12-18 months that less quantity and more

quality is required as never before. We are working on cutting down

visibility and building more links through brand association,' says

Flynn.



DraftWorldwide Edinburgh's business development director Graeme Athar,

who develops POP for client Jim Beam across Europe, says POP presence is

the key promotional technique and creates the most impact.



While more sophisticated and innovative POP is popular everywhere,

European bars are less fussy about what brands provide. 'Abroad, even

style bars see no contradiction in having well-designed POP and see it

as a way of being rewarded. In the UK they would see the brand as

thrusting the promotion on them,' he says.



But what is critical to success is a coherent brand message through all

marketing media, which of course includes POP. As Lynch maintains, POP

must reflect the brand values and the target market. So if that market

is older, it will not appreciate a fast-paced interactive POP with

whizzy graphics. So, you see, there is still room for cardboard after

all.



CASE STUDY: UDV/Smirnoff



UDV's Global Duty division wanted to create the ultimate in retail

theatre for its vodka brand, Smirnoff. Leisure House created an

interactive two-metre replica Smirnoff Blue bottle for Duty Free

outlets. The bottle features a built-in, easy-to-navigate touch screen

which runs a video loop with dynamic graphics.



The agency had to work out how to address time-pressed transient

consumers in a worthwhile way. The interaction is designed to be quick,

relevant and user friendly.



Voice activation and attractive graphics encourage consumer trial - once

it has engaged the user, the machine takes the consumer's photograph and

a voice message can be recorded. A free Smirnoff Blue-branded email can

then be sent to three friends.



According to Leisure House managing director Graham Massey, the target

market is the sophisticated traveller who is extremely marketing

savvy.



'Any communication had to be innovative, creating a point of difference

for the brand. Through the use of digital and interactive media, we

created a piece of permanent POP which is not only an interesting brand

message, but also has relevance to the target consumer.'



Between July and September, over 6,000 branded emails were sent to an

average of 2.5 email addresses - over 15,000 worldwide. The bottles,

sited in airports across the world, are fully automated with online

diagnostics, statistics and software that can be remote controlled via

the internet.



This has proven to be very practical and means that if a problem occurs

with the software in Sydney, there is no need to send staff out to fix

it.



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