An Assortment of POS Displays

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s hard not to notice all the costumes, pumpkins, decorations and candy being promoted in retail stores. For many, it’s an exciting occasion surpassed in hype only by the Christmas holidays.

For businesses, it spells opportunity. But while most established brands are practically guaranteed shelf space every season, other brands either don’t have long-standing relationships with retailers or simply don’t belong in a category that can afford them the benefits (or risks) of seasonality. The alternative, if they can get into key retailers, is point-of-sale (POS) displays, which essentially function as additional shelf space for temporary promotions.

POS displays are particularly fascinating to me primarily due to their varying degrees of effectiveness in achieving the brand’s objectives. And it’s fun trying to figure out the planning and rationale behind their setup, which includes everything from what is being promoted to who the target market is to where the display is placed in-store.

Like any shopper, I’ve come across a fairly wide variety of such displays and for the most part, it’s usually pretty intuitive what the intended marketing strategy is. The most common POS displays tend to stock items in the same or similar category as those items in the aisles in which the displays are placed, promoting some new flavour, size, model, or variation of their product:

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The benefit here is that your target market remains the same. Halloween-themed chocolate for regular chocolate lovers, or a versatile stain remover to perhaps get you to switch cleaning brands. Other times, though, the promoted product need not belong in the same category, just in the same market or sub-category, as with complimentary products:


Toothbrushes and mouthwash for your oral care needs or shavers to go with the rest of your personal care morning routine. And sometimes, you don’t even need to be fancy. Simple and obvious is all you need, as with these plentiful stacks:

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I would venture a guess that this type of setup was pioneered by Coca-Cola, who figured that all they need is a sea of red boxes in the middle of the floor to let shoppers know there is a sale going on. No need for fancy animal-shaped stands or catchy taglines; the product sells itself.

Notwithstanding the simpler POS trade promotions, there are also those which, at first glance, may seem counter-intuitive given that the promoted products and the products on shelf are in completely different categories.

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Normally you would find baby formula somewhere in the canned goods section, but this display saves new mothers an extra detour – a great way to increase customer value. As for the gum display placed beside the canned meat, I’m guessing the brand team for Dentyne figured that you will want to freshen your breath after a fishy meal.

Still, there are some promotions that are not only strange, but somewhat amusing as well.

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In the diapers aisle, I can understand the soap bars being a part of parents’ baby care needs but I’m curious about the mini plastic shot glasses. I would expect to find those closer to the plastic cutlery section or maybe beside fruit juices during the summer when it’s BBQ season. Perhaps the little cups can function as cute toys for toddlers. As for the bananas, they are not exactly trade promotions but I thought it was interesting to see their placement just outside the drinks aisle and specifically beside the energy drinks – perhaps a complementary item for athletes on the go. Plus, retailers will always look for new ways to grow all of their categories, packaged or otherwise.

But I think the winner of funny POS promotions goes to this amusing placement…

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What do you think? It’s important to note that POS displays are often intended to induce trial, so products that trigger impulse purchases work very well. That being said, I’d be very curious to see how this promotion came to be discussed and approved, and what incremental volume (if any) of chocolate almonds were sold during the period (no pun intended) in question. Sure it’s a lesser-known private label brand, but I have even seen blatant packages of Hershey’s kisses placed in the feminine hygiene aisle.

There’s no doubt that a significant amount of resources, analysis, and planning goes into trade marketing (another reason why I find CPG so exciting). Retail space is prime real estate for manufacturers and can be worth top dollar, so companies spend a lot of time trying to ensure a return on their investment, however long the promotion.

The last set of examples shown above caught my attention precisely because of their irregularity. Trying new methods opens up new ideas and possibilities and encourages unconventional thinking. It got me thinking about what other ways CPG companies can promote new breakthrough innovation and also help retailers grow multiple categories. What about putting buns and bread in the meat and poultry section to help you assemble a sandwich? Or maybe toilet paper in the cleaning products section, mixed with toothbrushes to go with all your bathroom needs. Or how about sauces and syrup in the frozen ice cream section? It’s all stuff you need for your dessert anyway. Check out this setup I recently saw at Metro: bacon bits right beside the cheese section within full view of all the fresh produce (behind the camera)  – perfect for someone looking to make a classic BLT salad.

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Paco Underhill actually advocates this type of setup in his book Why We Buy. That is, retailing and shopping not by category, but by the logical set and order in which you need your specific items. It certainly offers interest, but it would require a significant logistical rearrangement in-store for it to become a reality, and it’s unlikely to be any more practical than the way stores are set up today.

Nonetheless, I would still be curious to see how well the previously suggested promotions would work. More than likely they have already been tried and tested. Successful or not, there is always something to be learned from any marketing campaign or promotion. Kudos to companies that are willing to experiment and think outside the box.


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