One Blog |December 15, 2010 | Point-of-Sale Marketing Management

Marketing at-Retail - Standing Out in an Overcrowded Market - Part 1

Mark Fullerton

Part 1

Let’s face it, many of the alcohol beverage products sold at retail today are, from the retail consumer’s perspective, commodities. Sure, there are Bud Lite and Miller Lite loyalists. And there are also Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Claret loyalists. But studies have shown that the majority of consumers of alcohol beverages are typically not loyal to a specific brand, even if they are loyal to a category (e.g., light beer, Merlot, etc.).

Combine the lack of brand loyalty, with a product-category saturated market, all in a recovering economy, and I think you’ll agree that many, if not most, alcohol beverage products are considered commodities. And we all know how tough it is to differentiate yourself when what you sell is thought of as a commodity.

If you are a supplier, distributor or even a retailer of alcohol beverages in the US, your marketing and sales issues are further compounded by the maze-like distribution system born after the repeal of Prohibition. Much of the marketing power in the alcohol beverage industry currently is in the hands of a few, very large distributors. Recent consolidations have only made this situation worse.

Alcohol beverage marketing is one of the most challenging subjects in the business world today. Yet the solutions to these challenges have produced some very creative strategies and tactics in marketing. Indeed, a difficult to enter, crowded, regulated and commoditized retail marketplace became the foundation for the new approaches in Marketing at-Retail (POP and POS.)

In spite of the difficulties facing alcohol beverage marketers, I am so impressed with the often fiercely independent suppliers and distributors who have embraced the approach that it’s not so much what products are being sold that really matters; but how those products are sold.

Clearly I can buy a bottle of a Mondavi Cabernet or Miller Lite or Da Vinci Chianti, just about anywhere. But my preference is to head to my locally owned beer, wine and liquor store, or to the ‘store-within-a-store’ at some of the newer Kroger or Giant Eagle 'market place' outlets. I'm referring to the ones that have a floating in-house sommeliers or wine aficionado; frequently sourced from the local distributors; often at-the-ready with $.25 samples. (Aka, liquid POS.)

My behavior shouldn’t be surprising because my desire, even when I am shopping at a huge retail grocery outlet, is for what Rick DeHerder and Dick Blatt* call 'Shopper Intimacy'

I'm not alone in this. In an overcrowded alcohol beverage product market, most customers crave and appreciate even the appearance of a personal one-to-one connection. Customers will be drawn to your products if those products can be differentiated.

So, how do you effectively and efficiently stand out in a commoditized crowd?

Check out Part 2 of this blog for a few things you can start doing to leverage Marketing at-Retail to differentiate your products and drive sales.

* Shopper Intimacy; by — Rick DeHerder & Dick Blatt; © 2011 by Pearson Education, Inc., Publishing as FT Press.

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