How effective PoP marketing and design influence shopper behavior

With consumers receiving brand and marketing messages from so many different outlets, it is more important than ever to have consistent brand equity builders—color, logo, patterns, tagline—across all touchpoints. 

That’s where point-of-purchase (PoP) marketing comes in. PoP marketing is a proven method of marketing in which messages are delivered to a brand’s target customers at the point of purchase either online or in a retail store.

“Building a strong brand equity system that extends consistently to all media touch points is hugely important,” says Lesley Stordahl, creative director at branding agency CBX. “That most certainly does not mean ‘matching luggage.’ With shopper journeys diversifying more every day, establishing brand awareness and consistency is a much bigger battle than it was 10 or so years ago.”

pop displayMoreover, gone are the days of “stack ‘em high and watch ‘em fly.” That’s why it’s important to bring an experience to life—letting shoppers have a sensorial connection to a brand through touch, taste or even smell.

“Shoppers are looking for curated experiences, stories that fit into their world,” she shares. “Both brands
 and retailers need to find new ways to educate and/or excite.


From candy-colored waves of La Croix seltzer when you walk into a Whole Foods to Sephora mascara endcaps, brands and retailers need to work together to create an experience that is tailored to what the shopper is looking for, rather than whatever message the brand wants to get out at the time.”

For instance, a quick message testing with a small group of online consumers can be very illuminating in helping to understand what shoppers want and help brands get out of their own way from time to time.

“With any retail environment, you are looking to not only stand out from other competitors on the shelf but have a point of differentiation,” says Hakyun Lee, vice president of Dot Matrix Design Group. “You want to have something different to say or else your brand or product could get lost in the sea of products on the shelves.”

While loud graphics and colors can call attention to a product, Lee notes that sometimes the easiest way to stand out is not the best way. Just capturing the consumers’ attention is not enough, and there needs to be more to further explain the benefits of one’s product over another.

“Having something honest in the story behind your product really is what’s trending now,” Lee says. “Optimally, the story will be on the product itself, but if you’re talking PoP, on the display case or shipper, somewhere that is easy to see.”

Once a brand is established, Stordahl notes the messaging should be tailored to the experience.

“Brands should be thinking like a shopper and tailoring their message to where they are in their journey of the day,” she says. “Empathy goes a long way from brands in environments where shoppers are being inundated with messages.”

Brands in Action

Jeff Camosci, vice president of marketing and sales, North America for Paragon Pet Products, manufacturers of Whimzees dog chews, notes PoP materials can help retailers educate consumers about their products as well as separate its product from the masses.

“We offer our retail partners a variety of PoP and on-shelf communication,” he says. “The goal of each display option is to clearly explain the benefits of oral health while highlighting our products’ features and benefits in a Whimz-ical way that engage a pet-parent shopper inside the store.”

Lee once served as design manager of Colgate and notes that in the past, the brand has leaned heavily on its brand recognition and the Colgate/Chevron banner was used very large and prominent because it meant something to consumers.

“People just felt safe with the company,” he says. “Where Colgate is today, they are leaning toward making the Colgate name smaller on their packaging and relying on their sub-branding to be more front and center.”

For example, on their optic white packaging, the optic white is taking more of the front and center hierarchy, with the Colgate/Chevron banner smaller behind it.

“I think the reason for that is that store brands are taking a bigger bite of the market and emerging brands are getting more credibility, especially with today’s consumer having a millennial mindset and more into the smaller mom-and-pop brands,” Lee says. “People are paying more attention to these sort of companies.”

For a brand strong in both brick and mortar and online, Stordahl points to the popular men’s grooming brand Harry’s, which recently transitioned from an online retailer to brick-and-mortar in Target.

“Their endcap and in-aisle displays are a great representation of creating a look and feel that not only connects strongly to the online brand, but also works seamlessly with the Target personality as well,” she says. “They eliminated traditional shelving on the harrysendcap, creating a fully designed brand world with less product but more education. In-aisle displays show the handle unboxed for customers to touch and feel. Overall, it makes the brand feel very approachable while retaining their ‘hipster’ online status.”

Tech Talk

A unique PoP display trend that Lee has seen lately is the idea of incorporating different technology into the displays themselves. That has resulted in a lot of freestanding LED displays running short animation and graphics for the brands on the shelves.

Technology can also help push coupons to a phone, which can take the PoP marketing to a new level. Geofencing is also on the rise. This allows a store or marketer to pinpoint when someone is in the vicinity of the store and they can push a message out to them by text.

“The whole PoP game is getting more complex, and it’s making things seamless and invisible to the consumers’ eyes,” Lee says. “These marketers know where people are now and how long they’ve been there, and they are making sure their messages are being seen.”

Stordahl says that while technology and digital displays are changing the way things are done, at the end of the day, these tools are all in service of creating a brand experience that allows shoppers to connect with products in more meaningful ways.

“Tactile displays with unboxed product in aisle, as well as education pieces that fit in endcaps are powerful tools to appeal to shoppers,” she says.

PoP in a Digital Age

Online retailers shouldn’t assume they get out of the “experience” conversation. While in-store and retail PoP marketing has most to do with quick purchases, digital PoP is focused on clicks and awareness, and is still vital to a company’s success.

This strategy attempts to market to shoppers who are already on the site and ready to make a purchase—and it provides a last-minute way for retailers to influence the details of that decision.

Stordahl says that the ability for shoppers to choose a complimentary sample, enjoy a “surprise and delight” of free shipping or discount at checkout, or even have access to reviews from the shopping cart to reinforce their decision can be powerful connection tools.

“What’s interesting with online retailers is that they are collecting more and more data from their online customers and learning their buying habits and seeing their whole history of purchases,” Lee says. “Through that data, they can suggest purchases during checkout that are tailored towards that consumer and whatever purchase they are making.”