DIR Roundtable: The Point of Point-of-Purchase

DIR Roundtable: The Point of Point-of-Purchase


Generally point-of-purchase materials fall into either the “step up your camera” or the “do more with your photos” category. The former might show comparisons of smartphone and point-and-shoot images, the latter graphics of images on mugs, metal, premium papers, you name it. In all cases, POP exists to generate sales, and it’s also a compelling visual representation of what you offer.
The key word is “visual.” Producers and users of POP materials that rely on words might simply be wandering around in the pointless forest. Which was one of the first things I heard from the first person I talked with.

Barry Bluestein
Managing Partner and CEO, Source Communications
, Hackensack, New Jersey
Is there a common mistake that retailers make with POP materials? 

Barry-Bluestein-largeA lot of retailers’ promotional signs are basically adaptations of newspaper ads. I don’t think they’re effective. In-store POP should capture the imagination of the consumer, intrigue the consumer and give enough salient information that the person goes to the counter to find out more. POP isn’t about saying X camera is $399 with X lens. The best in-store POP should enhance the environment of the store.

In some cases it might even create the environment. Can POP ask a question? Like, Are you ready to move up to great pictures? Or show a great image and ask, Want to take this?

Absolutely. Those questions create intrigue. But the messages have to be very short and sweet. POP should not contain a lot of words, just enough to pique consumers’ interest. You’ll never get a consumer to stand in front of a piece of POP material for five minutes reading body copy. I’ve seen that mistake made too often.

Years ago you produced POP materials for Nikon; now you’re doing that for Sony. There’s new technology now—digital signage—but has anything else changed?

It’s an even more challenging assignment now because it’s difficult to create a uniform set of materials you can confidently say is going to work for every retailer. What we found works best are nimble materials that can be situated in multiple places in a store, like a small window cling or counter display.

And if a retailer has the real estate, what works well are freestanding displays situated strategically for optimal consumer facing—something you can put on a stand, place near the entrance or near the product area; something in the right place, with a bigger-than-life persona to it, maybe four or five feet high, with colorful graphics or message.

Education is something dealers have said is helping, if not saving, their businesses. Did you ever link POP with classes?

Educational classes are number one revenue drivers. They create an environment where sales happen more fluidly. When we worked for Nikon we produced materials that included educational offerings at the store, but they were basic “this class is happening on this date” items.

You’re Sony’s agency of record for retail promotion for their digital imaging division. What kind of POP materials do you create for them?

Everything we do for them is based on a customized application, which makes sense in today’s world with how much the photo specialty channel has shrunk. It’s the old 80-20 rule—80% of the business is being done by 20% of the dealers. That reality allows a brand to work on an individual basis with each of its key retail accounts and look at those store environments and determine what customized materials will work best. sourcead.com

Koby Marowelli
Owner, Image Gallery Graphic Solutions
Adrian, Michigan

As a full-service photo lab, you produce a lot of your own POP materials.

Koby-MarowelliWe do. About 80% of what we do is business-to-business commercial graphics and printing. We print on foamcore, Sintra board and banners—a bit of everything—and our POP is aimed at demonstrating our printing capabilities. We do some product-oriented POP graphics for the retail part, mostly to show off things on which photos can be placed—mugs, shirts, metal, that sort of thing. We’ve started doing more retail stuff on acrylic, which is gaining popularity.

With all that capability, do you change your displays and POP materials frequently to show all the things you can do?

I wish I could say it was a regularly scheduled thing, but it seems to come down to “when time allows,” which probably is two or three times a year—not often enough.

What type of display works best for you?

In general the bigger stuff gets the most attention. We’re doing 4×8-foot framed items, and life-size cutouts on foamcore. We did staff members holding the Fujifilm cameras we carry, and that got a lot of buzz. We probably ended up selling as many life-size cutouts as we did cameras from that display.

Any other POP for traditional photo gear—cameras, lenses, lighting equipment?

We’ve started doing quite a bit with studio equipment for up-and-coming shooters—lighting gear, backgrounds, stands, light tents. There are so many people getting into it right now. We do POP for that, and we just recently put up a small studio inside the retail space so customers can get a hands-on experience.

That’s probably the most effective POP possible. Do you ever use materials supplied by the manufacturers?

A little bit. Some of it’s from Fujifilm, and we are a ProMaster dealer, so we use a lot of their stuff. And we’re associated with IPI [Independent Photo Imagers], and their Marketing Solutions program provides some great POP posters and electronic marketing items. What’s probably working best is digital signage. The program has provided some great emotional marketing videos, and in our studio area there’s a flat screen showing some really nice videos from PRO that demo how to use the products.

You mentioned “emotional marketing videos”—families, holidays, lifestyles…?

That kind of subject. One of the IPI spots shows a married couple, then they’re having their first baby, then the baby is growing up and they’re capturing all those moments in pictures and actually printing pictures to archive the memories. Another one has somebody coming across parents’ and grandparents’ film and transferring it. They’ve got an emotional memory-grab going on.

All on large screens in brilliant color?

We run them on 42-inch flat screens. You can’t beat it. imagegallerygraphics.com

Jeff Lyden, Operations Coordinator, F-11 Photographic Supplies
Bozeman, Montana

Most of what we use for point-of-purchase is either digital files we get from the companies or material we make in-house for our lab services. What works best are brochures that Jeff-Lyden-largeare small enough to tuck into bags.

Are the brochures situational how-to, photo tips or “we make great stuff” text?

Some are specs, some are whole catalogs, some are how-to and other educational material. Tamron, for example, has educational material, catalogs, tips and beautiful books that show what their lenses can do.

Any supplied POP materials that miss the mark?

Those would be the 1980s- and ’90s-style posters that show pretty pictures but don’t give any information; there’s no concrete example of why you’re showing that picture. The posters that work show the lenses used, or the lens and camera combo. What’s also working very well are some of the [ad campaign] slogans and themes that are more personal, like Nikon’s I Am Generation Image campaign. And the campaign Canon used for their Explorers of Light. They have a personal connection that seems to be effective with our customers. The Nikon one has a clean, graphically appealing look and the message that people should go forward with their own creativity.

Does the POP material you produce in-house have that personal connection?

It does, in the sense that you can get your own individual, unique item.

What do you promote with POP?

We do a lot with people printing from mobile now, so we’re doing a lot of Instagram posters that have examples, or a collage, or exact images of somebody’s life story. Typically it’s something about “print your story” or “share your memories.” We’ve occasionally done the “get them out of your digital safe” message.

And onto prints or products?

On metal, ceramic, glass, fine art paper and traditional silver halide, too. We’re one of the only shops in our area still doing traditional silver prints.

So POP ties into everything that establishes an identity for the shop?

It does. We do our promotions with posters, brochures, prints, stuffers, cards, and we’re really good about doing it cross-platform and using the same imagery in our ads in local papers, regional magazines and online. f11photo.com

Larry Steiner
Owner, Spectrum Photo and Digital Services
Ashland, Ohio

Larry-Steiner-largeAnything a manufacturer provides us we’re always interested in looking at, but we’re in the IPI member network, so we primarily get a lot of POP material there. Yesterday I put up a new VHS-to-DVD transfer sign—basically I opened up the file they provided, reset the price, put our logo in the corner and printed it. We also do a lot of low-tack adhesive vinyl for holiday cards; we’ll make up giant cards and put them on our windows.

Do you produce any of your own POP?

From time to time. If you’ve got a large-format printer, you can do a lot of your own POP in-house in terms of actual production, but a lot of times we start with IPI collateral material and customize it.

How often do you change out the POP displays?

On big expensive things we try to do it two to three times a year; on less expensive things, we might go once a month. We recently changed our point-of-sale on our wall art, and that really helped the category. We have a little feature table where we might have some interesting decorative frames, and we leave them there for no more than 30 days. We’re heavily into the digital press—we do a lot of invitations and announcements—and on that wall we have maybe 60 or 70 samples. We try to swap that out seasonally. Right now we’ve got a big display of baby shower announcements, and in the next 30 days we’ll start putting up quite a bit of holiday-oriented stuff, particularly Christmas cards, and we’ll match that up with something on the front glass of the store.

Do you create any of the cards yourself?

It’s a mix. IPI is going to provide us with some templates, and we definitely feature those and put them on our website. We also make some of our own design. Our store is maybe a little bit unusual in that we’re very design driven. We’ve had our own designer for a long time, and that really drives a lot of business.

Customers seeing something different in your displays makes you stand out from the competition.

In a lot of categories it does. We just brought in a little foil machine, and we’re going to do foil decorations on our holiday cards. Nobody within 30 miles is going to have something like that.

And you’ll tie in your POP displays with that?

We’ll make some POP signs that will use the same materials and explain what it is they’re looking at. For a lot of smaller retailers like us, having something unique gives a little more security in the market because you don’t have to worry too much about what mass merchants are doing.

So manufacturers’ POP materials don’t play much of a role for you? 

We’ve pretty much left hard goods altogether. We were a Sony camera dealer for a long time, and they sent us some good materials. They had little flip books that explained why mirrorless technology was different from DSLR. They had a story to tell that was a little different from Canon and Nikon, and the book was a way to get certain customers talking.

Anything else working well for you?

Digital signage is doing quite well. IPI supplies us with a new video every month, and it [automatically plays] on a big-screen TV. Right now it’s giving a series of photo tips and discussing things like acrylic displays and metal. It shows all the products and services a print-oriented store like us offers. IPI also supplies two kinds of lifestyle videos—young people working with photography, and why photography is fun—and I put those on my Facebook page. In six days I got 2,700 views. We never had time to do what the big stores call the brand-building exercises, but with Facebook and digital signage I feel we’re on the edge of creating a brand. Signs are great and some are very important when it comes to selling, but I think for brand-building video is very powerful.

In a sense, digital signage and social media have turned you into your own marketing agency.

I’d say it’s a quasi-agency, but we do perform the functions for a lot of things we do. There’s almost too much out there, so we have to select what makes sense for our local business. ashlandphoto.com

Scott Farber
President, Hunt’s Photo & Video
Melrose, Massachusetts

Scott-Farber-largeWe have a lot of televisions scattered throughout the stores, and videos that talk about a product and show the product in use are very effective. More traditional stuff that’s been around a long time—a sign at the checkout counter or a mat on the showcase or a floor cling—doesn’t have the same effect. It gives a nice look to the brand, but people are coming into the store holding their smartphones in their hands, and it’s hard to grab their attention these days when they’ve got so much going on. But having said that, everything helps, so the traditional stuff is still wanted and needed.

Do you think some companies are just not getting the message about what retailers need in POP today?

The best thing a company can do for us is to get the POP material into the customers’ hands before they come into our store.

POP before they come in?

It’s being done with review sites like DP Review, and in magazines, on blog forums, on photographytalk.com. Anything that gets the buzz going outside the store. The companies that are actively going out and doing it that way really understand the market right now. I find the companies that try to lean on stores to get their message out to be really out of touch.

What “active” companies come to mind?

Westcott has done an amazing job building a social media community. Another company that’s been fantastic at it is the MAC Group, which has a lot of video content—a lot of advertising content—done in blogs and social media rather than a traditional format. For their Tenba bags, they put a cardboard cutout of a [spokesperson] sumo wrestler in basically every store in the country and ran an Instagram contest: take your picture with him and post it on social media. People are drawn to it, and it means the first time they hear about the product is not when they’re in your store. We know because people come in asking for a specific brand or product and often when we ask them how they knew about it, they say they saw someone speak, or saw them online, or read an article on a blog. That’s how to do it; some companies get it, some don’t. huntsphotoandvideo.com