Retail marketing expert Curt Munk on the modern-day shopper, the best campaigns of the year and how to nail your marketing strategy

  • News
  • December 13, 2016
  • Elly Strang
Retail marketing expert Curt Munk on the modern-day shopper, the best campaigns of the year and how to nail your marketing strategy

Munk hails from Chicago and was last in New Zealand in 2008.

He says in eight years, the local retail scene has developed rapidly.

“There’s been a tremendous revolution in and around Auckland in retail approaches, the idea of what customer service is and clarity of in-store communications, it’s really evolved. You have great brands down here that are working really hard to make shoppers lives easier and you guys are world class in terms of communication,” he says.

See our chat with Munk below.

Can you describe the modern-day shopper and their main wants and needs when it comes to retail marketing?

That’s a pretty big question. We think that there’s a big opportunity for us to get better at creating the buying intersection between a brand’s purpose and a shopper’s mission and need to buy. This entire business of retail and shopper marketing really is the intersection of what the brand is about and what the shopper needs or wants at that particular moment. I think you can define the best parts of this industry when you think about those two dynamics: brand need and consumer need. The evolution of our retail space has been following those needs.

In the US, there’s the increasing role that Amazon plays in people’s lives. Amazon is a technology leader, but is also creating shopping and buying experiences that are easier, faster, more delightful and more educational than other types of buying decisions. That is the personification of evolved retail: how are you moving with consumers and how are you leading consumers in a better way? That’s the space we’re in. I don’t think our time is different than other times in retail history, but the numbers of tools and retail options people have today is much greater than it has every has been. The leaders are agencies and brands thinking about how do we do it better than it’s ever been done before.

What were some of the most memorable campaigns that stuck with you over the course of this year?

Well I have to say here in New Zealand, some of the work the FCB Auckland agency did around Mitre 10. There’s something very wonderfully Kiwi about their approach to ‘do it yourself’. Mitre 10 is in the business of selling do it yourself products and that sense of empowerment and the understanding of the human condition – that’s what that advertising is really doing. I like that, because there’s a very human and emotional component which speaks to the barrier that people doing DIY face.

I actually am a big fan of the Apple Watch 2’s advertising campaign. There’s all the imagery of people sweating, swimming and doing the types of things we like to imagine we’re doing more of. There’s the idea that the device makes you a better and healthier person.

In the UK, I’m impressed with Harvey Nichols. They did a campaign called ‘Sorry, I spent it on myself’. It shows you can still buy things for yourself and I think that’s really, really important. There’s also been some really interesting work Ikea has done in Europe for the around crafting the home the way you want it to be without breaking the bank. They’re terribly clever about the way they do that.

Are there any common myths or misconceptions about shopper marketing that you’d like to see dispelled?

There’s always misconceptions about what consumers think and feel, certainly. There’s the idea of empathy in order to get insight about why people buying the way they are, or not buying the way they think would be better for them. The idea of human empathy is using the app or standing in that store with the pressure to find a product. One example is the pressure to find an analgesic product for a sick kid at a local pharmacy at 2am is pretty great. There’s that realisation that as a parent, you need to get that product because you need to make your kid feel better – you can’t fail at that task. It’s the ability to find the right product and take that home. To truly do this [retail] business well, you have to be empathetic around the shopper’s mission and you need to recognise that with someone buying an analgesic, you need to speed them onto that purchase, where as with paper clips and rubber bands, there’s far less emotion involved so the mission is completely different. The blending of those needs in large block stores is a complicated affair.

You’ve worked with huge brands like Nestle, Sony and Coca Cola. There’s a bit of perception that these brands are so present in consumer’s minds, there’s not as much of a need to advertise as a smaller, less well known brand. Is this true, or is there almost more pressure for these brands to advertise in creative ways?

In many ways, large brands are at a big of a disadvantage, because smaller brands can move a lot faster. Social media has the incredible power to create awareness around a product or issue or event. If larger brands can convert their largeness into social media flexibility and sensibility, they’re going to be in good shape. Social media has been the great equaliser from a customer experience standpoint. One of the things that makes this business today so exciting is no one - from retail or manufacturer standpoint - is barred from the conversation. Incredible mobile and digital based solutions have come from small brands and small retailers who wanted to do something in a new way. We love the innovation we see from small brands.

What are some ways retail brands, big or small, can be more effective with their advertising?

A lot of it has to do with the brand’s purpose – what they’re trying to accomplish and what the consumer need. One of my tips would be to understand your motivations for your shopper. Why are they in your category? Make sure you have a strong brand point-of-view that can be easily discerned from the background retail environment. Be emotionally and physically wherever your shopper needs to be - those buying moments happen well outside the shop floor. What’s your social, mobile or local app or online experience for that buying moment? That’s really important.

I think if I were to summarise into two things from a consumer and shopper standpoint, it’d be: be empathetic to your consumer and shopper’s plight, and from a brand standpoint, it’s to have a meaningful purpose that shoppers can get into.

Christmas is a make or break time of year for retailers when it comes to marketing. Are there any common mistakes you see?

I think a lot of it boils down into what I’ve saying in being empathetic. There’s a tremendous desire with brands and retailers who sometimes want to over-communicate. There’s a lot of offer messaging, particularly in New Zealand. In my travels around, sometimes I wonder if we get a little overboard with that offer communication and I wonder if that becomes clutter sometimes. I think it probably does. Be careful to make sure we’re staying true to our brand purpose and focus on the shopper needs and wants. Simplicity’s always good, you can appreciate the product more and the retail experience more.


What big trends do you expect to see in shopper marketing in 2017?

There’s the obvious - we expect digital and mobile and online to continue to grow. We’re getting much more into things that are more experiential. We have some research that indicates consumers and shoppers are expecting more experiences when they buy. It’s that idea of how can you participate in something or see or witness something that’s beyond just the transaction itself. That can be an experience you have with the brand prior to even walking in the shop and online or physically participating in the shopping. There’s also post-purchase experiences, which are really interesting – Mini did targets on their rear view mirrors for bug splatter. It’s reinforcing the specialness of that brand.

Best Buy will post reviews of their products in store so there’s a connection between people who bought the product and people that are shopping for it right now. It’s been a part of ecommerce for years but its showing up in physical retail now. It’s like the brand’s retail website has reviews that you look at while shopping in-store - it draws almost no distinction between mobile experience and in-store experience because lots of people are using mobile phones while shopping. If the reviews show up in front of the product, that’s great, you’re going to be searching online to find it anyway.

There’s a lot of traction about evolving shopper marketing to be more efficient for shoppers, we are probably closest to retail marketing as the people that create real experiences. At Selfridges there’s the Wonder Room, where you can go and experience artificially sized, larger-than-life products they sell. The Hermes purse you can actually walk through. That sort of thing becomes an experience, but it also becomes educational and highly social. Retail in many categories is going to need to consider all of those touch points with what they do and be ubiquitous in people’s lives,  but we want to do so in a way that’s natural, authentic and empathetic.


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