Hang around any supermarket these days and watch kids pick up Kellogg's Corn Pops in their special collector's boxes that feature Batman, Robin, Two-Face and the Riddler. Step back and view the entire shelf as an in-store, in-line promotion. Check out the cashiers, and you might spot them wearing "Batman Forever" buttons.
This is all part of what happens when marketers of movies and package goods team up at the retail level. More products are sold, more videos are viewed, more excitement is generated and everyone is happier.
"We know this kind of partnership works," says Max Goldberg, vice president of promotion at Buena Vista Home Video, Burbank, Calif., which did a similar promotion with Ralston Chex cereals and "The Lion King." Cross-promotions between brand marketers and video titles, including theatrical releases, long ago proved their value in creating awareness and moving products. And supermarkets, now a major distribution point for video, are playing an increasingly important role in the success of these promotions.
The technique is helping the studios bring these retailers into the marketing equation and develop a growing sense of partnership.
Proof of this cooperation is evident in every joint sales call involving representatives of a studio and a brand marketer, says Steve Ross, vice president worldwide promotion for feature films and video at Twentieth Century-Fox, Los Angeles. He called such activities "a tremendous advantage and a way of leveraging your association with the property."
Adds Goldberg, "When you work together to gain incremental display and incremental advertising, you generate incremental sales and profits."
Despite this enthusiastic outlook, successful coordination of cross-promotion is often easier said than done. High-quality retail execution is critical to success at the store level.
"Promotions are only as good as their implementation," says Patti Ganguzza, vice president of Aim Promotions, Astoria, N.Y. "All brand marketers and studios need to endear themselves to the retailers, especially when you have great titles like 'Batman,' 'Power Rangers,' 'Casper,' 'Cinderella,' 'Santa Claus,' 'Goofy' and 'Free Willy II' all hitting the supermarkets at the same time, like they will in the fourth quarter of this year. "Here, the retailer becomes the third partner in the mix. It's the store manager who ultimately decides which display goes up, where it goes and how long it stays up."
An interesting element of supermarket video sales is that most of them occur in the first few days of the release -- much like the sales of magazines -- with basically the same people in and out of the stores every few days. Of concern for promoters is the tendency of store managers to relocate cross-promotion displays to less-visible positions once the products sell down in the shipper.
Ross of Twentieth Century-Fox says the more the studio can do to support the retailer and the packaged goods tie-in promotional partner, the better the chance the display will receive greater exposure and staying up.
"If the display is visually enticing and interesting, and if you can keep it refreshed, exciting and different, it will stand longer in stores," he says.
Des Walsh, vice president and general manger at SuperComm, a Dallas-based video distributor, contends that a display has to really stand out among the clutter. "You have to reach out and grab the customer." For a display to be really effective, however, it also must be easy to execute on the retail level.
Whether the studio or the packaged goods company provides the display often depends on the individual arrangement between the cross-promotion partners. Goldberg cites a recent promotion with Pillsbury and the "Return of Jafar" video as an example of a manufacturer's display. To increase traffic in-store and draw attention to the promotion, Pillsbury floated an inflatable head of Jafar and the Pillsbury Dough Boy over the department with the tie-in products.
Disney often designs its own displays in such a way that the retailer and the partner can either copy the design or make a complimentary design that creates an endcap or front-of-store display with more impact.
The studio also regularly mounts display contests, such as the one with Nabisco cookies and crackers and "Jungle Book" last summer. A grocer at a Kroger supermarket built a small house out of Nabisco cookie and cracker boxes and put a television set inside with a VCR that continually played the Disney video. Kids could sit inside the structure and watch the video while mom shopped in the store.
Despite such successes, retail display participation is hardly automatic. Retailers assess each proposed program with a critical eye, as one executive at A&P, Montvale, N.J., relates.
"Disney and those companies will come to us with ideas for displays. We look at that the way we look at any other promotion. We evaluate at what's involved, what the product is, what the tie-in is, and what's the consumer appeal. And we look at whether they will help us advertise and promote it," says Mike Rourke, senior vice president of communications and corporate affairs.
Kellogg also decides whether to do these promotions on the basis of their consumer appeal. "Obviously, if it's going to be very popular with consumers, the trade is going to interested in stocking the tie-in product as well. We feel that 'Batman' is going to be big and a great equity to tie into, one that our consumers are going to enjoy," says Karen McLeod, spokeswoman at Kellogg USA, Battle Creek, Mich.
To successfully cross-promote video titles and packaged goods, the relationship between the title and the product must be a strong and natural one, according to studio and brand marketing executives.
"Each title has its own market segment that it appeals to," says Art Averbook, president of Miami-based Co-op Promotions. "For a promotion to be very successful, you need to create an environment for retail where more products for the same demo are in the same place."
Goldberg at Buena Vista contends that the key to a successful promotion starts with choosing a packaged goods company that has good retail distribution and is No. 1 in its field or product category.
"Then it's a lot easier to combine efforts to make a larger event happen at retail because the retailer realizes the power that not only the studio brings to the party but also the power of the major packaged goods company brings," he says.
Adds Ross of Twentieth Century-Fox, "Clearly, the ability for a studio to get its titles distributed in conjunction with the packaging displays of its promotional partner ensure a very successful sell-through."
He also maintains that totally integrating a movie tie-in, whether it's film or video, allows the exciting nature of the property itself to take hold at the retail level. "One of my big tactics is to give screening passes to clients who then give them to retailers as incentives to create excitement, keep displays up longer, whatever," he says.
Craig Van Gorp, vice president of sell-through at Turner Home Video, which owns the Hanna Barbera Library along with New Line Cinema and Castlerock, says a successful cross-promotion requires that many elements work together.
"Teaming with partners who are already in the supermarkets, doing dual sales presentations with their sales staff, creating a marketing campaign around the partner's [freestanding inserts] and including their FSI with any advertising we're doing makes it a full, rounded sales promotion," he says.
"We often do sales presentations, conventions or in-store events in full character costumes," Van Gorp adds, "depending on how much the retailer wants to get involved with the promotion."
Ross says joint sales calls convey power and importance to the marketing mix. He says he looks for "the ability to have our sales guys go in with the client's sales guys and make a joint sales call on a retailer."
Disney's videos, whose cross-promotions are among the most successful, sell well in supermarkets because of their affiliation with quality products, the wide audience for their titles, their pricing structure, and their extensive use of trailers on related videos. The company also contends that the magic of the Disney characters is involved in their success.
"When consumers and their children are in a retail environment and the kids see a Disney character, they automatically gravitate to that character," says Goldberg.