Saturday, September 21, 2013

Retailing: Getting to be more fun in the Philippines

"In the future, advertising will be waged 
not on TV or print but in Retail."  

-- So said my professor back in college.  It was a taunt, a scare, that what we were learning from his class (Visuals for Advertising) in college will most probably be obsolete by the time we have the chance to practice them in our careers.  But no one got scared.  Or nobody listened; maybe no one except me.  Because I did feel a little twitch in my heart, hurting on the thought that my expensive college education will be spent learning obsolete ideas.  So I disagreed in my head about the idea that the future wont be about advertising on ATL and decidedly forget that thought throughout my college years majoring in Advertising.  

But of course my professor was right.  Working abroad, I surmise that he had seen the future of marketing, advertising and retail in a more advanced economy and how it will soon spread to the Philippines.  And so, 10 years after college, 2 internships, 2 ad agency jobs both as a suit and as a writer, more than a year in digital marketing and 4 years doing brand activations, here I am doing RETAIL for a multinational.  Yep, retail, as in in-store.  Partly Shopper Marketing, partly merchandising, partly Activations.  In short, very much Retail.  

This is not my brand.  I think it's even competitive.  But this just shows how retail can be, or is, as captivating as a TVC.  Plus it's closer to purchase.  
The Marketing & Sales industry calls it now "Shopper Marketing."  Or as my official title says - "Field Activations."  Ramble:  Technically they're different but I find them the same.  Shopper Marketing is the thinking part and Field Activations is the execution part.  

And rambling further:  Activations is a very, very, very misunderstood, misjudged and under-recognized part of the IMC mix. Many people just don't get it that while its main output is execution, it's 80% lies in strategy and planning, whether the execution is a promo, merchandising or an event.  Well that's just my number, please don't quote me on that, but yea, that's the amount of time I spent doing these things.  

Anyway, the point is, I think that "Shopper Marketing" is still the plain old 4P's but with zoom-in focus in-store - from the market, now called the shopper, to the promotions.  No?  Let's not debate on this and move on.

So I've spent the past few months scanning and learning the retail landscape and I must say that I'm getting impressed with the quality of work we are doing on retail in the Philippines.  Especially with department stores in malls, they are really focusing now on Shopping Experience.  

I mean, fine, the store ladies in the country's malls have ever been helpful and courteous and pretty since the time the only SM I knew was in Cubao; but even brands' placements on ordinary store shelves have improved displays now versus the old-style, firing range displays.  

Just look at that topshelf above - this is at SM Department Store's Personal Care / Health and Beauty section managed by Watsons.  Lighted glass glorifier, asymmetric acrylic holder, a look book (a look book!), name plates and the actual products themselves are so well put.  They're like a fashion collection in Rustans!  Kidding.  They're like a fashion collection in a branded store!  It's so - Cherie Gil-sosyal!  In SM!  Not even Aura!  In SM Bicutan!  Joke again.  This is in Mega Mall!  :)

I haven't seen advertising from Toni&Guy locally and here is this brand, competing in-store, convincing me to buy a P450 (I think) Pomade versus a P100 Gatsby gel.  And I bought it, (mabuhay)!  Amazing.  Simply amazing how this is so possible now!  This is the Starbucks strategy of Experience and Engagement happening along department store aisles.  

This is from Etude.  Or as they call it, the "House of Etude."  And on display are not toys, but bottles of lotion and hand creams.  If they don't get your attention, you must have had a sad childhood.  Or you're a straight guy.
Foreign brands are entering the Philippines.  International retailers are coming whether with their own brands (Watsons and Wellcome), or through partnerships with local retailers.  Foreign consumer brands are coming in too.  Some US-based brands have long been staples in Philippine stores but other international sellers are also setting up shop like Etude of Korea - bringing with them fresh ways of promoting their products in-store, in the absence of ATL budgets.  Of course all of these, thanks to the growing Philippine economy.  

Given these shifts, I wonder how and why other locally-managed brands still stick to their old promotions formulae.  Some even treat Digital as TV advertising - measuring eyeballs and clicks (sooo 2008).  And whether we call promotions in-store as Retail Marketing or Shopper Marketing or Demo Marketing or Promo Marketing or CRM or whut-ever, the way consumers (in shopper mode) experience and interact with brands and products on store shelves are becoming a key factor in winning the war for the Filipino customers' trial, preference and loyalty.  Truly, and as always, it's time for change.

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