But what of our beloved brands – how did they fare this Christmas? Whilst the industry looks forward to January retailer announcements with a mix of eagerness and trepidation, there is no comparative seasonal marker of brand success in-store.
What there is, however, are a series of annual ranking surveys, such as Interbrand’s Best Global Brand ranking, and YouGov’s annual BrandIndex ranking. Some may be unaware of YouGov’s BrandIndex rankings, or UK Top Buzz rankings, to be more precise. It gives brand’s a Buzz score which asks respondents, “If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?” The Buzz Rankings chart shows the brands with the highest average Buzz scores between January and December 2015. It makes for interesting reading.
So who do you think came top in 2015? Apple, Google, Amazon? Not even close – Apple only just made the Top Ten. In fact, Aldi (that’s right) ranked number one, closely followed by another major discount retailer, Lidl, in number two spot.
Now we all know that there was a great deal of positive talk during 2015 about the impact that both retailers were having on UK grocery retailing – if you’re a shopper that is. It’s perhaps unsurprising that retailer John Lewis also made the list. As well as being famed for its great customer service, surely the buzz around its annual festive campaign (it now ‘owns’ the Christmas advert discussion) must also have helped its cause.
But for us, the YouGov rankings are interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it’s that retailers once again lead the way. Where are the brands? Yorkshire Tea is one of only FMCG brand to have made it into the Top Ten out of all those great brands out there – in grocery, health and beauty, consumer electronics, automotive sectors, and beyond. It’s in stark contrast to results in China, where Dove and Chanel came out on top. Whilst in Germany, Nivea and Haribo scored highly. Clearly, the results from the YouGov rankings demonstrate that brands still have much work to do if they are to penetrate the psyche, as well as the pockets, of UK shoppers through in-store activity. Secondly, it’s that the role that retail marketing – the point at which shoppers have the greatest opportunities to physically connect with brands – appears to have no influence on the rankings.
Although Christmas is only just behind us, attention has already been focusing on the first big seasonal in-store event of 2016 – Valentine’s Day. Whilst it’s easy to default to the all-to-familiar clichés that will be flying around over the coming weeks as couples (and would-be couples) splash their hard earned cash to impress each other – the need to ‘bring a sense of romance’ into store – we think now is the perfect time for marketers to turn cupid’s arrow on their own brands. Or, to be more specific, lavish love and attention on them through improving the effectiveness of their in-store activations.
The endless downward spiral of price competition has seen brand loyalty and engagement amongst shoppers fall, leading to greater brand promiscuity. With the month of love coming up, isn’t about time that brands began to invest more in finding new ways to increase the effectiveness of brand execution to drive greater engagement with shoppers, create a bigger buzz, spread the love and, ultimately, drive increased sales.
As POPAI members and regular attendees of their industry events, we are often in awe at some of the imaginative activations presented by trend and insights agency GDR Creative Intelligence, like Philips clever marketing stunt to promote its electric fryer that used air to fry food, by stocking shelves with a fake product called Air-Oil – an empty bottle of air. Another highlight from 2015, and particularly relevant as we approach February, was a presentation focused on Tesco’s ‘Love Baldock’ Valentine's Day experiential activation, which saw the retailer’s entire store front taken over by a giant 3D projection, displaying romantic tweets.
Such examples demonstrate a truly imaginative approach to in-store engagement. But they remain all-too isolated examples. Yes, in the case of brands, it demands that many retailers be braver and allow them more freedom. It also requires specialist implementation expertise to successfully plan and deliver such campaigns with genuine scalability and impact – across tens or even hundreds of stores, not just a handful.
So perhaps it is time for the industry to begin conducting its own in-store engagement rankings, underlining the importance of investment in creative P-O-P advertising to generate meaningful brand relationships with shoppers within the retail environment and positive word of mouth outside it. We for one would certainly love to help our clients capture top spot.