5 critical strategies to win a shopper marketing pitch, conversation with Rahul Saigal [INTERVIEW]

The winning team: Rahul Saigal [VP, Shopper & Trade Marketing], Vipul Salvi [Creative Lead], Devang Raiyani [Client Servicing Lead], Himani Karwal [Planning Director], Sanjay Thapar [Group President] 

As OA India’s VP of Retail and team leader for the pitch, Rahul conduced an eager and talented team to captivate one of the most serious shopper marketing players.

Having witnessed the magic first hand working with them, I wanted him to share some of the key lessons directly. So he answered my questions, despite the amount of briefs already coming in after the appointment. 

Here are —in the team's view— the 5 winning strategies that gave us the edge:

1. Determine the client's state of preparedness: In India, every client is at a very different stage of evolution when it comes to shopper marketing. Some clients are at the advanced stage of category management, while others are still trying to create ‘eye catching’  danglers. First, understand what stage the client is at. 

2. Research: Conduct primary research or spend a good amount of time  analysing existing data to identify shopper behaviour that inhibits  purchase. Narrow down focus areas to one or two key points.

3. Collaborate internally: If you are in a market where there are few shopper marketing case studies, rely on international case studies. Reach out to people like Dani Comar [Regional ECD], Manita Khuller [Regional Trade & Shopper Marketing Director], Orit Peleg [VP Shopper Marketing Strategy]... There are some interesting case studies in the OgilvyAction world and a bunch of people eager to help.

4. Co-author strategy with client: Make sure that your insights and key focus areas are completely in line with the client's. Conduct a workshop or one-on-one interviews to align strategies (this is very important given that all clients, as mentioned earlier, are likely to be at different stages of evolution when it comes to shopper marketing). 

5. Surprise with imaginative creative solutions: Make sure that each idea ties in to one key focus area and has what it takes to change  shopper behaviour. The shop floor lends itself quite beautifully to ideas that haven’t been done before.


For even more insightful learnings from the pitch, keep reading below:


Dani: The pitch was just the culmination of a long engagement process. How did you kick things off and what did do prior to the pitch to earn trust?

Rahul: We started with a one-off project, meant to demonstrate capability in the areas of deriving shopper insights and creative solutions. We worked on increasing the incidence of Coca-Cola at multiplexes. This  assignment helped establish credibility and the right connections. We pursued these connections for over a year, constantly engaging key clients in conversations around their current and desired state of shopper engagement. By the time of the pitch (about a year later), we had managed to position ourselves as a team of competent and imaginative shopper marketing  professionals.


A key requirement of the pitch brief was to demonstrate ability to analyse data and derive useful insights. How did you approach that task?

We used FastTrack (a proprietary method) to understand all factors related to shopper behaviour that contributed to or prevented purchase (for the entire category). Next, we interviewed key members of the client team to identify key focus areas (from the entire list of 15 solution areas identified through data analysis).  


You mentioned that it was important to understand Coke's corporate culture and speak their language?

This was very important indeed. Coca-Cola has been investing in shopper  marketing across the globe and they tend to share international best  practices. It helped that we'd recently won the business in Latin America (that helped us understand the client's expectations). Also, Orit's experience with Coca-Cola helped us understand the company’s  approach towards shopper marketing (such as defining the picture of success, roles of different zones in the store, etc). By speaking the Coca-Cola language at the pitch, we came across as being strategically aligned on the subject of shopper marketing. 


What part did the creative work play? How did you turn the insights into ideas?

Given that Coca-Cola invests heavily in research, they were keen to understand how an agency would help convert observations into actionable insights and subsequently into effective creative solutions meant to influence shopper behaviour. We draw valuable insights from the observations and turn those insights into questions (which when answered, led directly to creative solutions). 

It helped that we had several creative minds working simultaneously to crack ideas. The team in India was supported by you -this helped us gain an outside perspective and discard solutions that did not tie into the big idea(s).


What does this win mean now for OA India?

This win is very important. Coca-Cola is a very sophisticated client. They’ve invested heavily in research. Together, we will do some outstanding work in the area of shopper marketing. 


If you have other questions, please post them in the comments section below. I’m sure Rahul will be able to answer them himself.

Regional Executive Creative Director, Geometry Global Asia Pacific