Self-adhesive films provide opportunities for branded in-store campaigns.

Klem's turned to FLEXmark floor art to promote The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. in its stores.

Consumers spend countless hours in malls, supermarkets, department stores and pharmacies each year. Brand owners and retailers welcome the traffic, although the economy has forced many people to be selective with their purchases.

As a result, brand owners and retailers have adjusted their strategies in the ongoing battle to attract and retain consumer mindshare, as well as increase purchase size. More resources are being invested in shopper marketing and implementing consumer insights within the store. In addition, retailers are redesigning stores with a “customer-centric” focus and collaborating with brands to connect them with shoppers and create a memorable experience that has a positive impact on sales.

To accomplish this, brand owners and retailers must embrace and invest in the branded-zone concept by using the aisles, walls, shelves, windows, outdoor facades and product packaging as canvases for evocative graphics. Branded zones come to life with imaginative point-of-purchase (POP) displays such as wall graphics and murals; two-way window graphics; and graphic advertising on floors, indoor carpets, and outdoor walkways.

A branded zone typically uses several of these components to make an ideal shopping experience - if not destination. Ultimately, the goal is to create a store-within-a-store environment that engages consumers and gains their trust, thus building loyalty. By bringing a brand experience fashioned with relevant lifestyle content right to the shopper, an affinity for the merchandise is forged, driving purchasing behaviors.

The Cincinnati Reds suite at the Great American Ball Park (before).

Suite of Dreams

Arena or stadium luxury suites provide 20-40 fans with posh surroundings and an unparalleled view of sporting events or concerts. The suites’ non-descript interiors provide the perfect canvas for branded zones. The Cincinnati Reds’ management recognized this and transformed one of its suites at the team’s home, the Great American Ball Park.

The Cincinnati Reds suite at the Great American Ball Park (after).

This suite features a lounge area, kitchenette and box seats on a private veranda. However, instead of a cookie-cutter design, the suite is amplified with colorful Reds logos and close-up images of a baseball’s bright red stitching on snow-white leather. Life-sized wall graphics depict a game from yesteryear in black and white on one side and colorful images of a large American Flag in the shape of the United States unfurled by servicemen on a present-day field.

Market Trends and What's Working

The opportunities to stir up emotions, engage consumers and gain their trust, and build loyalty can be lost if an in-store marketing campaign doesn’t live up to shoppers’ needs and expectations.

Customers’ fiscal prudence is a symptom of the economic downturn. With increasing gas and food prices, tightening credit, and a slumping housing market, consumers have less money. Therefore, their purchases are focused more on what’s needed than what’s wanted.

For retailers and brand owners, it’s more than just a shopper looking for better values; careful spending among shoppers spurs deliberate purchase decisions. Thus, consumers are keeping tabs on the actions of brand owners and retailers, rather than just hearing their talk.

This is why a branded zone is critical. A retailer or brand that is serious about earning trust must understand the consumer’s needs and expectations for a particular store or category in order to ensure that the in-store experience is a hit. The brand only stands to benefit in the long term when a brand owner or retailer harnesses the power of shopper demographics.

At the same time, the concept of a branded zone is subject to great interpretation. Many brand owners and retailers have rolled out graphic advertising for floors and shelving under the impression that they had, in fact, established a branded zone. The notion of a branded zone goes beyond these effective in-store marketing strategies by dedicating a specific area of the retail environment to a brand and its products, just like the Cincinnati Reds did with the suite at the Great American Ball Park.

Alternative advertising using self-adhesive films in a retail environment has become essential for successful new-product launches, as well as for sustaining and growing sales of existing products. The use of traditional small-format floor advertising in front of a product can yield a 7-16% increase in lift rates, according to News America Marketing, a Wilton, CT-based provider of consumer marketing services and information.

A branded zone at Klem’s, an eclectic department store in Spencer, MA, worked for Carhartt, a manufacturer of premium work clothes. Floor-based murals of workers in Carhartt clothing, printed on a self-adhesive film system made up of vinyls, delivered a bold visual attraction for shoppers. In fact, the general manager noted that many customers were asking department store staff for “the coat in the picture on the floor.”

Along with stretching their hard-earned dollars, consumers are also looking for relevant information or “way finding,” which promotes lingering and makes shopping an experience as opposed to just an errand.

“These advancements aim to enhance the shopping experience, lifting it to more than just a trip to a store, but rather a theatrical experience where purchasing merchandise is only part of the journey,” according to Craig Hubbell, executive vice president of Media Services for PlayNetwork Inc.1

Carhartt and Klem’s have seen a 31% increase in clothing sales. Many brand owners and retailers are following suit, increasing their reliance on branding with self-adhesive films to reach and influence target audiences in places where they can more easily stand out from the crowd. Procter & Gamble, for example, spent approximately $3.5 billion in 2008 on trade promotion and shopper marketing in the United States and Canada.

That spending seems to fall in line with a forecast by PQ Media. The Stamford, CT-based provider of alternative media and econometrics for media stakeholders predicts that one in every four dollars will be spent on alternative media by 2012 as advertising strategies change along with consumer habits. This comes on the heels of a projection made by Veronis Suhler Stevenson, a New York-based private-equity firm specializing in media and communication companies. The firm reported an 8.5% growth in alternative media spending and nearly an 11% drop in traditional advertising spending in 2009.

According to a recent Retail Systems Research report,Walking the Razor’s Edge: Managing the Store Experience in an Economic Singularity, 70% of retailers surveyed said they use in-store technologies to maintain or improve the customer experience and extend that experience past the lease line.

P&G recently toldAdvertising Agemagazine that they advise their creative ad agencies that if it no longer works at the store, it’s no longer a good marketing idea. “You have to have the end in mind when you’re coming up with the [marketing] idea,” says P&G spokeswoman Martha Depenbrock. “If it doesn’t work at the store, it’s a miss.”

Essentially, in-store marketing through branded zones is a practical idea, an economic stimulus package during a recession when many brand owners and retailers are vying for consumers at the shelf.

At-Retail Trends

The total shopping experience continues to be a hot button for consumers, with 69% of shoppers indicating it is the most important factor when deciding where to shop, according to the In-Store Marketing Institute’s (ISMI)Shopper Marketing Trends.

In addition, the ISMI found that 65% of shoppers make lists before leaving home, and 60% make a brand decision once they are in the store.

In-store branding influences brand decisions, the ISMI says, with 60% of mass-merchant shoppers making unplanned purchases and 66% of drugstore shoppers making unplanned purchases. In addition, the ISMI reported that 70% are attracted to aisle displays, 63% to merchandising displays, 58% to department signage and 52% to shelf strips.

In-store communication, the ISMI says, is considered more effective for brand awareness and product benefits than out-of-home advertising. Furthermore, the institute says brands will be using in-store communications with a laser focus in the future to connect with shoppers. That represents an overall reconditioning of consumers, who will seek deals or in-store branded zones, which will also bring them to other areas of the store. Ease of navigation doesn’t just entice shoppers; it reinforces positive experiences, influences repeat business, increases revenues, and boosts the overall success of the campaign for both the brand and retailer.

WalMart is introducing a “best deals” spot in its stores for product sampling and low-price solutions. Product comparisons, or compare-and-save scenarios, are ideal for branded zones, as these strategies are becoming increasingly important to consumers. The over 1,000 private-label products sold by CVS, as well as the 2,000 each sold by WalMart and Target, will be the focus of in-store strategies, as retailers know that consumers will connect to its brand names once they use these private-label products in the home.

At the same time, due to pressure from retailers’ private labels, brand owners will have to differentiate products in performance and packaging. That’s why getting the right product performance information in-store and on the product is a critical strategy for both.

Opportunities and Solutions through Collaboration

Engaging shoppers in the store is more important than ever, but retailers and brand owners must also understand each other’s perspective when reaching out to consumers.

A 2009 report by Retail Systems Research based on a survey of 88 retailers and manufacturers notes that a team approach is vital to a marketing cause. The report says that brands “get too promotional and miss the bigger picture of consumer engagement in the store, while retailers lack the more nuanced shopper insights that brands can provide.”

Central to a campaign’s success is collaboration with a self-adhesive film supplier, material application specialist, advertising agency, printer, retailer and brand owner. The retailer and supplier can help identify the canvases in a retail environment and recommend the right products for each surface. The brand owner and ad agency can then paint the picture that tells the brand’s story. Together, these parties can create memorable shopping experiences.

Finding a self-adhesive supplier who understands your needs and target demographics, and can provide customized and creative ways to execute product branding and branded zones, is necessary for any brand owner, retailer, and advertising agencies building a brand. In addition, many brand owners, retailers and advertising agencies are surprised to learn that any surface can be used for out-of-home advertising or a branded-zone canvas.

Whether a consumer approaches a counter at a convenience store for a candy bar or sets foot in a department store, the influence of vivid graphics at the point-of-purchase and within the at-retail environment enhances the shopper’s experience.

In fact, a study by Alexandria, VA-based POPAI, the global association for at-retail marketing, confirmed that self-adhesive ads showing a photo of a beverage placed on cooler doors lifted soft drink sales by nearly 33%.

That’s why Klem’s turned to FLEXcon to power its lawn and garden center with vivid floor coverage using FLEXmark®floor artTMto promote The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co.

The Scotts promotion consisted of 900 square feet of graphics depicting the "Klem's Lawn & Garden Center" branded zone. Upon entering the store, consumers first saw images of thick, green grass and the Scotts brand logo. The graphics continued down an aisle with images of Scotts’ 4-Step lawn care products, as well as graphics of bright, colorful flowers and other Scotts products. As a result, Scotts’ product sales at Klem’s increased by 29%.

The success that Carhartt and Scotts had with branded zones are just two examples of how self-adhesive film propelled effective brand building by transforming everyday surfaces into compelling, brand-building marketing.

At a time when consumers are more selective with their purchases, it is imperative that brand owners and ad agencies incorporate the branded-zone concept and other forms of alternative media advertising into their marketing campaign portfolios. Those who can implement strategies with branded content and messaging to create exciting and memorable at-retail experiences for shoppers will be the most successful at building brands and making meaningful connections with consumers long after they have left the store.

About FLEXcon

FLEXcon is a global supplier of self-adhesive film products for applications that include brand identity, brand promotion, and outdoor and indoor advertising. The company has partnered with many brand owners, retailers and advertising agencies to bring these alternative-media and full-branding campaigns to life.

For more information, contact FLEXcon’s Product Branding Business Team at (508) 885-8200, fax (508) 885-8400 or visit