Contributed by Lor Gold, Global Chief Creative Officer of Schawk, Inc.

Earlier this year, Lor Gold, Schawk, Inc.’s Global Chief Creative Officer, addressed the company’s creative and account teams in Asia on how Asia could spearhead a revolution in creativity in shopper marketing. Here is a slightly abbreviated version of his passionate talk.

Lor Gold

This isn’t a talk about what has already been done in shopper marketing. Or a talk about the science of shopper marketing. Shopper science can easily defend itself.

This is the time to talk about aggressively expanding the creative freedom applied to shopper marketing.

Let’s begin by focusing on what has always been the most forceful and controlling factor of creativity: “The line.” “The line” has haphazardly defined what’s good creative and what’s not so good. “The line” has mandated a creative caste system that has been brutally demeaning of any sort of marketing communication innovation industry-wide and on a global basis.

Unknowingly at first, we, The Industry, created a line between creative work that goes to the mass and work that goes to an individual. The work that goes to an individual is only supposed to be a) hard-working, b) rarely exciting, c) extremely rational, and d) only satisfying an individual’s need to be told what to do.

We gave one creative group the high-level power to decide what work is emotional and valuable. And we asked the other group to focus only on what’s necessary.

Today, between “above the line” and “below the line” there’s a barrier that dangerously separates the “be something” message of the brand and “do something” call-to-action. This line has also encouraged marketers and their agencies to make a value judgment about the relative importance of consumers and shoppers – and which one deserves the “really good” communications. We talk about removing the line, but clients are growing impatient with too much talk, too much arrogance, too much pouting – and not enough action. They’re impatient with the level of impact (or lack of it) coming from creative content.

Here are three ways we can do it.

(1) Turn shopper marketing loose to reveal the real asian shopper.

Too many in our industry want to believe there is a single entity called the “Asian shopper.” Why? Because theoretically, if we can lump millions upon millions of people under one watertight umbrella, it makes our jobs easier. So agencies start with weak generalizations, generate weak, commoditized discoveries and wonder why they end up with weak, commoditized creative communications. Then they go on to wonder why clients are getting impatient.

Actually, Asia is the perfect place for highly gifted and creative individuals who embrace shopper marketing to create something brilliant without traditional limitations. What we’ll get out of freed-up, unfettered creative is something we might have to tame – but we’ll get fresh, relevant creative and ongoing results that will give shopper agencies greater value.

Sidestepping risky thinking about the individual shopper is a tremendous risk. When was it written that shopper’s are somehow void of emotion, somehow laughter-free, free of concern, worry-free, free of joy? When was it written that a consumer is fabulous and a shopper is somehow sub-human? A 50-year-old guy in his boxer shorts brushing his teeth at 6 in the morning is a consumer of toothpaste? How is that the marketing communication holy grail?

(2) Let shopper marketing into the brief.

The way the briefing for shopper marketing typically takes place is that the brand brief is developed with a creative idea guided by a consumer insight, not necessarily a shopper insight.

Once that’s complete, the shopper teams are brought (allowed) in.

This means that shopper behavior is considered after consumer insights have been studied under the microscope. And then, after the shopper is considered, retailers are considered.

As these important constituents are considered in a cruel linear hierarchy – from top to bottom or from “above to below” – shopper creative is developed (allowed) often in an adaptive way. This is not the most creative way or – crucially – the most effective way.

Right now in Asia, there can be a far more effective way of developing the brief: All relevant insights (about the consumer, the shopper, the retailer – the power trio) are poured into the top of the strategic development funnel at the very start and reflected in the brief. The line is obliterated and the result is more impactful – creative that is much more aligned with what can be executed in specific locations to stir specific shoppers.

And here’s one more thing that must be done:

(3) Think from the shelf out

If brands had no marketing communication budgets at all, the package would still have to be developed. It serves patiently as the closest point a shopper can get to the brand and the most important mediator between the brand and that shopper.

Yes, even packaging can touch every emotion. It can stimulate the senses. It can drive action.

And yet, those creative entities that sit above the line often ignore the powerful thinking that has gone into creating the sheath the brand lives in and on. This thinking should strategically and creatively inform all shopper-driven communications starting from the shelf, moving down the aisle, toward the door, out the door, into the street, all the way back to the car and to the house. And by the way, the mobile device is there the whole way.

Because yet again, it’s about obliterating lines. The outward-facing package is often the perfect meeting of form and function. This isn’t accidental. It’s painstakingly planned. But outside the shelf, “the form” has traditionally belonged to those who create brand advertising while “the function” has fallen to those who create the shopper messages. There should be no line drawn between form and function. All forms of communications should integrate, easily. Creatively co-exist. Naturally.

So let the product within retail speak loudly. Let its creativity influence all forms of communication – and let them influence it – so that there is no line and so that the loop from the shopper to the shop is unbroken. This is what I will be challenging my creative groups to do around the world, including in Asia, where shopper marketing will be welcomed into the brief and where we recognize there isn’t one Asian shopper but millions.

Lor Gold is Global Chief Creative Officer at Schawk, Inc. responsible for the vision and execution of the Schawk brand of creativity across the company’s global network. Gold has focused his 25-year career on creating innovative brand building, branded promotions, in-store and online retail experiences, and helping to found the important strategic direction of shopper marketing.