Shhh! The store is talking to you

A look at some exceptions to Fraser's Rule of 3,4,5

By now many people in the industry have heard or used “Fraser’s Rule of 3, 4, 5″ . The rule is a very simple guide for developing or evaluating point of purchase communications.

When evaluating a sign for example, the shopper should be able to understand the message in three seconds; see the message from four paces away; and say the message in under five words. This is of course a guideline but generally speaking it is very effective.

The purpose of this piece however is not to further explain the rule, but rather to help identify notable exceptions to the rule, i.e. when as a retailer you can say more.

To do this, I am going to tap into an example that I just addressed while keynoting a two day summit for the pet food industry in Chicago.

During our infield research in preparation for the conference our team made a very interesting observation. The pet food category has the unique opportunity to say more in the section.

While a pet food shopper was just as likely to ignore a shelf talker as a shopper in any other category, they were far more engaged in non traditional tools such as digital terminals, spinning information wheels and large seemingly complicated displays. Why? The responses that we got from actual shoppers were almost unanimously uniform: “…because I love my pet (dog, cat, bird) and I am always looking for the best products.”

OK, on its own probably not astounding information if you own a pet. But it forced us to ask why are more grocery retailers not tapping into this insight.

Rather, the typical pet food aisles are cluttered with display ready packaging and too much shelf communication both of which are saying too much and differentiating not nearly enough. When categories exist that the shopper has invited the retailer to say more, the retailer should say more.

How can you tell which categories they are? Here’s a hint – don’t just walk the store, observe the store, it has a way of telling you what’s really going on.