Apparently Marketers Still Have A Lot To Learn

Adweek reports that in a recent Nielsen study of shoppers’ in-store behavior, even the study authors were surprised to discover how little some marketers seem to know about what works and what doesn’t. First, they determined how we shop for specific product categories:

The study found that shoppers look for discounts and special offers for canned tuna, canned fruit and pasta sauce, but they want products like cheese, mayonnaise and coffee to be recognizable and easy to find.

For energy drinks and chocolate, shoppers care little about price but want eye-catching ads and snazzy packages. When it comes to salad dressings and chewing gum, they want to try out new products.

Armed with this sort of strangely personal insight, they overlaid data on the type and amount of marketing spent in each category to determine where marketers are wasting money. For example, we shoppers don’t care about price when it comes to energy drinks—we just want funny looking packaging. Companies, however, “are still spending fortunes on price promotions,” says a Nielsen exec. The article sums up, “Traditional consumer research is often just an expensive pat on the back to the status quo.”

“POV: Brands in the Dark” [Adweek]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Buran says:

    Someone just wants to get paid to tell us what we already knew. Anyone else surprised?

  2. Framling says:

    The combinations of products in that blurb is baffling. It’s like the Futurama episode where Lurr says the Omicronians will eat all the humans, “starting with themath teachers, then the firemen, and on in that fashion.”

  3. TomK says:

    The marketers should read that manipulation of human behavior study the government wrote a few years back. Their tax dollars paid for it…

  4. mantari says:

    I believe in some of this, but damn, energy drinks are seriously overpriced.

  5. bigdirty says:

    Actually – I do worry about price on energy drinks, that’s why I drink Liquid Lightning ($3.99 / 6 Pack 8.3 ounce cans) or Monster ($2.19 for 16oz can) as opposed to the snazzy ones like Red Bull at $1.99+ for an 8.3 ounce can! Just further proves the cluelessness of the marketers.

  6. Parting says:

    I can buy a latte for a price of energy drink, and there a lot less calories in a latte, and as much caffeine.
    Even better, a normal coffee is even cheaper.
    Energy drinks are fashionabe right now, thanks to marketing.
    In couple of years, some new ”enregy” product, will probably replace overpriced drinks anyway.

  7. humphrmi says:

    Wow, the fact that people think they need energy drinks is a testament to the fact that the scummy marketers are winning.

  8. shiftless says:

    I like energy drinks that actually have something to them, not just being expensive and have embarrassing logos slapped on them. I go to for more detailed information because a lot of energy drinks are just packaging and hardly anything else.

  9. J_Sensei says:

    Actually, they’re kind of wrong when it comes to me. I pick the cheapest energy drink, so long as it has caffeine, and I’m quite the gum snob. I only chew Dentyne Ice Arctic Blast…. Though I admit most people aren’t as picky about gum.

  10. Secularsage says:

    Being a marketing student / professional myself, I don’t think the problem has as much to do with bad marketing as it has to do with established marketing versus more effective marketing.

    The energy drink / soda example misses an important point: discounting is occurring because two major brands (Coke and Pepsi) are a draw. Supermarkets love to carry discounted Coke and Pepsi products as a low-margin or loss leader product to get customers in the door. So, since both of these companies are also producing energy drinks, they’re using the same strategies on lines like Propel, Vitamin Water, Monster, Amp, and so forth.

    The idea that Red Bull is customer savvy for sitting on its price is a little misguided; Red Bull is sitting on its price because it’s the top energy drink and it’s got no straight substitute. If people want Red Bull, they’ll buy it. But if people want Coke and Pepsi’s half the price, they’ll consider Pepsi because it’s perceived as being a brand of equal quality.

    With that said, I do agree that many companies are complacent about their marketing, and I think that a lot of product decisions are made out of panic rather than resulting from solid marketing research. I live in the St. Louis area, which is a major test market for new products, and I’m constantly surprised at how companies introduce new stuff all the time without considering that maybe the reason they’re losing market share is because they’re not paying enough attention to what they’ve already got.

  11. Secularsage says:

    By the way, the reason people perceive marketers are clueless is because they have a very narrow definition of what “marketing” is. Marketing is really about building relationships with customers through the 4 P’s (Product, Price, Promotion and Place), not just snazzy packaging and sexy advertising.

    Before I got into the world of marketing myself, I didn’t know any better either.

  12. nardo218 says:

    @J_Sensei: I only buy royal-blue dentyne sticks. I don’t even know what flavor it is, but I won’t buy any other color. It seems to me that to most people, their gum preference is like their cigarettes.

    Also: the second some company reads this and jacks up their craptastic energy drink is five minutes before that company’s line ceases to sell. People may not care *as much* about energy drink prices as food staples, but they don’t want to be shafted.

  13. courtarro says:

    Remember that, since energy drinks cost a fortune, the sorts of people who are buying them aren’t penny pinchers who check prices … if they were, they’d know better than to buy energy drinks in the first place, and they’d just get coffee.

  14. gibsonic says:

    i play soccer. 2 sudafed and a redbull before a game keep me ticking at full speed with a nice comfortable ride down from the adrenaline rush afterwards.

    I haven’t tried it with other energy drinks but the above combination works so I stay with it.

  15. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @gibsonic: Your urinary tract called and said it wants a divorce.

  16. Echodork says:

    Cue the “I’m too smart to be marketed to” crowd :)

    Mayo and coffee are habit products. I know exactly which brand of mayonnaise I like, and I want to buy the exact jar I’m used to seeing. I don’t want to take a gamble on a new brand. Same with coffee, I know what I like, and I want to see it front and center.

    Energy drinks are just snake oil. You’re paying an exortibtant price for caffeine, which you can get much cheaper via soda, coffee, or pills. So if you’re willing to buy an energy drink in the first place, you’re clearly the kind of consumer who has no problem paying $2 for 8 ounces of beverage.

  17. ParkerTheDog says:

    What you said!

    Diet Pepsi Max is a wonderful thing. Decent taste and the caffeine of an energy drink at the cost of standard Pepsi. (I could be wrong about the decent taste, I liked Crystal Pepsi – remember that?). I’ll be so sad when they eventually decide to discontinue it.

  18. @gibsonic: “2 sudafed and a redbull”

    Oh my God, isn’t that a heart palpitation/stroke waiting to happen?

  19. jaredgood1 says:

    I’ll buy an energy drink maybe once every two weeks (usually the sugar free No Fear), and use it as an additional sports supplement. The caffeine level in energy drinks does little for me since I average between 6-8 cups of coffee a day.

  20. FullFlava says:


    Some people just like the taste of energy drinks. I *love* RedBull and the guava Rockstar. I wish they’d make caffeine-free versions so I could drink them whenever and not worry about being up all night.

    Regarding “snake oil,” I really do feel a different kick from an energy drink than I do from downing a few cups of coffee. It’s not just caffeine, it’s the mega-doses of B-vitamins and (maybe) Taurine, though its specific effects are still debated. Really, I just prefer a cold energy drink to a hot cup of coffee most days (can’t stand iced coffee).

    As far as the price, I agree they’re way too expensive, but you can usually find them on sale or a some kind of promotion, and Costco carries cases at a pretty decent discount.

    I have recently been drinking a lot of Diet Pepsi Max, though… you can get a 12-pack of that stuff for the price of two Red Bulls @_@

  21. Elviswasntmyhero says:

    “”By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. No, this is not a joke: kill yourself . . . I know what the marketing people are thinking now too: ‘Oh. He’s going for that anti-marketing dollar. That’s a good market.’ Oh man, I am not doing that, you fucking evil scumbags.”

    –Bill Hicks

  22. ShadowFalls says:

    If you want to sell food, save your money on commercials and set up stands for taste testing in stores. Then customers can try it and see if it is any good. Best way to get a customer to buy your product, is for them to know they like it.