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Brand Trio – Merging Brands and the Holidays

Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob Ultra are three iconic beer brands and marrying them in one point-of-sale piece was not easy. We were tasked with showcasing all three premium brands in one sign communicating a total basket offer to the shoppers of Publix Grocery Stores. The sign was placed inside Publix markets. These three brands have rigorous guidelines, but no specifics when it comes to combining them all in one sign.

This marketing asset was more than just a coupon or just a sign. It needed to consider the shopper in aisle, mid-shop. It needed to highlight the offer, each brand, as well as add to the festive holiday shopping atmosphere. And since these three brands had not been combined in this way before, we had to find a way to make all these goals work.

We offered several different custom holiday looks for the client to review. From bells to bows, and ornaments to snowflakes, each brand stars in and shares the stage with their fellow iconic brand. We created and considered several headlines to capture the holiday shopping experience. We helped the iconic beers stay true to their brands while creating a fresh, new design that promotes celebration and captures the spirit of the holidays.

The client approved a festive layout, showcasing the Bud Light, Budweiser, and Michelob Ultra bottles wrapped in a gold bow in front of a red background with gold shimmer and a captivating headline, “Unwrap Your Holiday Savings.”

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The Disconnect Between Branding and Shopper Marketing

How many of you use or have heard of the old ad world terms; “above-the-line creative” and “below-the-line creative?”

Maybe you’ve heard of it; maybe you haven’t.

Here’s a quick explanation:

Above-the-line typically refers to the big projects – the type of work you dream of doing when you’re in art or marketing school. These are the assignments that make careers and grace the pages of PRINT, HOW, CA, and other prominent publications on design and marketing. Below-the-line work refers to the utility work, the day-to-day collateral such as coupons, POS, shippers, and many other in-store or social tactics that drive to retail. In most cases, below-the-line work has been required to closely follow the conceptual and visual mandates derived from the brand and image-focused above-the-line efforts.

However, the delineation described, while still adopted, is far outdated. The result is a significant rift in the effectiveness of retail, CPG, and shopper marketing.

Our industry can do better.

A number of retail brands have lulled themselves into believing that the above-the-line work, the development of a brand guideline full of brand assets, cultural studies, sharply stated consumer entry points, and the outlines for social media engagement is the only DNA that is needed to effectively extrapolate into a shopper marketing plan.

They’re wrong.

Brand considerations are, of course, important, but it’s not the full scope of thinking that should be leveraged in order to market a brand that must win at retail in order to succeed and stay alive.

Brand marketing is not shopper marketing. They are two relevant but separate tasks and they need to be treated as such. While both brand and shopper strategies are important, maybe our industry needs to flip the sequence of development. Rather than the brand guideline driving shopper strategies, maybe shopper strategies should drive brand marketing and ultimately the brand itself.

In the age of fluid content marketing, it makes little sense to continue to design CPG messaging from the static structure of a brand guideline. Brands would benefit from starting from ground zero, where the rubber meets the road. It would be best if the heart of every CPG brand formed around the ever-evolving realities of how humans interact with retail environments—whether physical, social, or e-commerce. Doing so doesn’t distract from the tenants of branding such as building a tribe, culturing loyal brand advocates, or building brand reputation, it improves upon all by focusing on how and why the shopper will engage with the product at the point of purchase.

The instances where it’s made sense for Phoenix Creative to encourage brands to break free from their brand-exclusive thinking and begin to develop shopper efforts as uniquely considered, messaged, and deployed tactics have seen great success.

I believe our industry needs to flip the sequence of branding more. Start with the channels in which the product is purchased, figure out how to be relevant to the shopper, and focus on the product. In other words, allow the below-the-line learning drive the above-the-line brand. By allowing branding to be shaped by what happens at retail, CPGs can better speak to shoppers, also known as people, in a way that brand messaging alone simply can’t do within physical or digital retail environments.

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Judging the 2018 Effies

As I reflect on the past year, I can’t help but focus on a trip I took to Chicago in December to be a judge for the 2018 Effie Awards – one of the most prestigious awards you can win within the Shopper Marketing industry. PHX has submitted programs to the Effie Awards in the past, but I’ve never been a judge so this was something completely new for our agency as well as myself.

When I originally submitted my application to become a judge, I didn’t know what to expect. There were several questions spinning in my mind; How would I fit in? Were there going to be 50 judges from top agencies? Or the most daunting question for me; How would Phoenix Creative compare to the larger, global Shopper Marketing agencies in the room—those agencies that submitted for the same top awards that Phoenix was competing for?

After going through the experience of being a judge, I knew in my heart that Phoenix was right where we needed to be and that we deserved a seat at the judge’s table.

So, how did I know? It’s simple: as the day progressed, it became clear through judging entries and talking with fellow judges that the brand experiences I’ve had at Phoenix provided me with valid first-hand experience and insights that contribute to the larger conversation about Shopper Marketing. Another belief was reinforced while I judged; opportunity matters—and I’m thankful to the many brands that have given me the experiences necessary to put new thinking in retail to use for them.

In reviewing the entries I was given to judge, I witnessed how important it is that PHX has begun to fully know and understand how retailers think and market just as much as the brands we support. At the end of the day, our job is to help sell more products for our customers, but we can’t do it without a superior relationship and understanding of the retailers.

As we drove back through downtown Chicago to O’Hare, I began to process the very quick, but highly beneficial day—I couldn’t help but be so thankful to the clients that asked me to consider becoming a judge and the opportunities that experience has provided—and of course held hope that our agency had some finalists in the mix for Effie Awards!

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Phoenix Creative Co.