We’re on the precipice of a big shakeup for the marketing of consumer goods brands, with the heady days romanticised by AMC’s Mad Men potentially to return.

We’re on the precipice of a big shakeup for the marketing of consumer goods brands, with the heady days romanticised by AMC’s Mad Men potentially to return.

For decades, the war to ensure brand/business success in the world of consumer goods was won with traditional above-the-line media: television first and foremost, supported by out of home, print and radio. The success of the brand was determined by quality creative informed by solid strategy, executed by good people.

With advancements in technology, fragmentation of media, multi-screening behaviour, and on-demand services, traditional media is no longer consumed in the same way, and as a result, the way in which brands engage consumers has had to change.

Consequently, the war for market share is now fought in-store with the weapons being pack design, brand-blocking, negotiations for eye-level placement, NPD to command greater share of shelf, price promotion, deep-discounts, innovative point of sale material, and off-location stocking.

The future of technology may change the landscape again: the rise of online shopping, popularity of home delivery services (either meal components, or takeaway foods), improved online retail stores, and increased adoption of the Internet-Of-Things (IoT) . Upwards of 3-in-4 Australians are already shopping online, with many of these buying food (takeaway, components or groceries), and less than 1 in 20 outright rejecting online shopping (research conducted by Nature & I-Link, March 2018, n=363 Australians, nationally representative in terms of age, gender and location).

Against this backdrop, Australia’s supermarket landscape may quickly find itself changing. Traditional brick and mortar stores are no longer required to remain competitive. One need only reflect on how time-poor consumers are, coupled with increasing urban congestion in metro-regions and increased regional spread/travel time to realise the market is poised for greater adoption of online grocery shopping.

Given the rise of home-hubs (Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, etc.) and IoT devices (like smart fridges), it’s not hard to imagine a world where consumers order their shopping with voice commands (even their fridge might do it for them): 84% of Australians are open to using these technologies to do their grocery shopping (Nature & I-Link, 2018). Perhaps even then, intelligent homes can learn brand preferences (brand, price, dietary requirements), monitor one’s cupboards / fridges for ingredients, be able to work out a shopping order from nothing more than an “Alexa, I’d like lasagna tonight” and dispatch the necessary ingredients by drone to arrive at one’s doorstep.

The reality for brands, then, will be a return to yesteryear – where the war for share will be won through brand building and education, supported by carefully considered and curated media buy, new product launches through social media, and the power of Word Of Mouth will return. In the future, pack design won’t help cut-through at point of sale when consumers are shopping with voice. Competitive pricing might help, but not if the brand is unknown. In-store navigation will no longer be relevant, as there may not be a traditional ‘store’ to navigate.

Exciting times lie ahead, with some very real challenges for brand building and product promotion, but in this there lies some familiar territory, and some comfort in the return to quality creative informed by solid strategy, executed by good people.