NEW YORK: An increasing number of brand owners in the US are seeking to heighten their use of shopper marketing, in an effort to engage with their target audience at the "moment of truth".

Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson are examples of major companies that started to place an increased emphasis on this aspect of their operations over the last 12 months.

ConAgra Foods, which owns brands like Slim Jim and Chef Boyardee, also recently doubled the size of its integrated customer marketing team, which handles all of its in-store marketing activities.

This unit receives 20% of the resources dedicated to communications and promotions by ConAgra, based on the understanding that reaching consumers at the final stage of the purchase funnel is vital.

"You're talking about the finales of Seinfeld, Lost and American Idol. They're all walking through Wal-Mart every week," said Jesse Spungin, its vp of shopper marketing.

The Omaha-based firm is employing a range of new technologies to gain a deeper understanding of popular behaviour, an approach that has also been adopted by Campbell Soup.

As reported last month, the latter organisation has utilised biometric research techniques to gain a more in-depth understanding of how individuals shop.

Philip Mcgee, the company's director of shopper insights, argued each member of its target audience has a "budget" in terms of both their finances, and how long they will consider purchases for.

Generally, members of this group spend a minute or so searching for condensed soups, and if they find them before this period elapses, will "do some exploring" among their options in the remaining time.

Kraft is similarly analysing the psychology of the purchase process, and is aiming to integrate the iFood Assistant, its successful application for Apple's iPhone, with in-store opportunities going forward.

Laura McCorvie, its svp, customer growth and shopper marketing, added that the owner of Singles and Oreo has already established "deeply rooted psychological attachments" to its Macaroni & Cheese brand.

This applies to the product itself, and "to the occasion of shopping for your children", meaning Kraft has developed "mom cues" which emphasise values like "the satisfaction of a job well done."

On the retailer side, Wal-Mart has also established its Smart Network programme, which promises "a truly next-generation shopping experience by aligning your products with the needs of shoppers."

More specifically, it offers advertisers access to a range of digital screens across its store networks, with marketers able to tailor messages down to the individual store, screen and daypart.

A study released last year by Booz & Co, SheSpeaks and the GMA stated that shopper marketing typically took between 5% and 10% of advertising and promotional budgets among Booz's clients.

The GMA has previously forecast that this area would enjoy a compound annual growth rate of more than 20% from 2004 to 2010.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by Warc staff