Coca-Cola embraces "new school" shopper marketing

Stephen Whiteside

Shopper marketing is undergoing a profound transformation. More specifically, the "old school" model, where brands were utterly dominant, has been replaced by a "new school" approach based on genuine partnerships between retailers and suppliers.

That was the message of Alison Lewis, the outgoing SVP/marketing for North America at Coca-Cola, while speaking at the Shopper Marketing Expo, held in Chicago in October 2013.

In the recent past, Lewis suggested, the relationship was so unbalanced that major players like Coca-Cola could present a proposal to a vendor, promise no kind of customisation and pursue minimal negotiations over the terms of agreement. "It was pretty much a take it or leave it situation," she said. "The only thing we'd really collaborate on was pricing."

Today, however, the retail sector is consolidated and differentiated, housing powerful chains from Walmart and Target to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Often, these companies boast large private-label lines, and so are less reliant on national brands to deliver footfall. "The 'new school' is much more about how we work together, and think about how we get to the win-win-win between the retailer, the brand and the shopper. And it has to be a three-way win across all of those groups," Lewis said.