From ATL advertising to BTL (Visual Merchandising)

ATL and BTL are some of the most known acronyms for these 2 realms of communication: Above The Line and Below The Line.

Communication instruments in modern companies have evolved rapidly since the seventies (70´s), in which the ATL media had hoarded the advertising scene with approximate participation of 80% vs. 20% from BTL instruments. But along the eighties, they started to scratch this value rising up to 40% and finally with the new century became the 70% BTL vs. 30% ATL. *Salen, H. (abril, 2008). Seminario Internacional Merchandising Activo. Merchandising visual, de seducción: una necesidad actual y creciente.

This means that with the new century most companies made a bet for BTL communication: salesforce, window display, Visual Merchandising, public relationship, patronage, and sponsorship. The communication at the point of purchase (which is the one we are going to talk here in this blog) might have many topics or classifications -it depends on the author- but here, we are going to get straight to the point:

Communication at point of sale could be divide into two big main blocks, the signage communication, and the setting communication. Both are important and they must be balanced.

Ambientación con dos «luminarias» planas en mdf y señalización del corner Custo Barcelona con la marca en acrílico, en una tienda multimarca. Año 2004. Fotografía del autor.

To balance them is a very difficult thing, especially in supermarkets and department stores, first and fore more in the food category, as shown below:

Fotografía de un supermercado tipo español con carteles de señalización de precios y ofertas y al fondo señalización de las secciones.

Even when there are a large number of suppliers within the same category and almost all are at the same level of competitiveness and all at the same time want to have the best portion of the shelf to display and highlight their products. This is when the retailer’s cash register begins to invoice and invoice the sale of privileged spaces within the linear.

But, which is the point between a good visual merchandising and the disastrous of becoming something (derogatory in nature), in the Spanish language aka «Mercado Persa»?

Recuperado de:

First things first, so we have to know what are the assets we have and which is the «promo» we have to communicate in the store (inside and outside in the window or facade). In a normal retail company you could have a large variety of elements for supporting publicity such as shown hereunder (images speak for themselves):

Fotografía tomada en el año 2006, en la sección de tecnología de una cadena de tiendas por departamentos ubicada en Colombia. Fuente: Fotografía y edición del autor.
Fotografía del año 2006 en la categoría de frutas y verduras de Almacenes Vivero durante la temporada navideña. Fuente: Foto y edición del autor.
Punta de góndola en la sección de hogar. En la foto la exhibición pagada por un proveedor de utensilios de cocina junto con exhibición adicional sobre el pasillo, próximo a la punta de góndola. Fuente: Foto y edición del autor.

Different categories and sections, the same instruments and tools. Now, in fashion retail, for instance, we got this:

Año 2005, (Diesel Flagship) además del material P.O.P. de señalización también tenemos el de ambientación, en este caso particular, la silla blanca playera estampada con el nombre de la campaña, un letrero hablador y una imagen publicitaria de campaña. Adicional el show de exhibición con producto tanto en el muro como con una mesa adicional de exhibición. Fuente: foto y edición del autor.

As a part of the campaign, you can promote each SKU among your visitors and consumers, and guess what! This is P.O.P. too:

Material P.O.P. promocional con el nombre de la referencia del jean en el que se lee:
«Jake (con «Rabox») Yo en «Reggins!!». Rabox y Reggins dos de las referencias de jeans de la colección de ese año (2005).
Fuente: Foto y edición del autor.

In fact, basics are the same for each industry, but creativity must be the difference at the time you implement your visual merchandising ideas, being within the guidelines from marketing, brand, publicity (collection and campaign images), and consumer behavior.

Of course, you can sell the same product but aim to different types of buyers. At that time (2005) there was a huge difference between selling the same jean for a college university guy than selling it to a new professional or recently graduated in his first professional job.

Then we have the same campaign, the same product, the same p.o.p design (for setting and signage communication), the same brand and visual merchandising guidelines; but we have a different consumer and a different type of merchandising in a different point of purchase.

Now you can ask yourself this: Is that setting & communication publicity at the point of purchase relevant for your costumers, buyers, or clients? (just in case, all three are different, but we will talk about them in another post on this blog).

According to the theoreticians marketing writers, the answer is: YES!

Tomado de: Rivera, Raul F. (2019). Flashcards Visual Merchandising. ArtLex. pag. 29. Bucaramanga, Colombia.

Especially if the store brings to the visitor a big amount of greatest happiness and sensations and experiences, precisely those that the buyer is expecting to find in that place. Naturally, it would be traduced into increased sales.

That is me in October, 2004. I am in the mirror with the bald man, the outsider collaborator from who I learned a lot, particularly in the effective color usage. By the way, you can get more pics like this on:

The window display can not scape from P.O.P. material and also many props you have to deploy just to catch attention besides the fact that you have to communicate exactly what the brand and its campaigns must be or have to say. (Remember the main target is to increases sells).

This window with stickers, banner and props, according to the advertising campaign.
In this particular case, it was the launch of jeans collections SS/04.
Fuente: Fotografía y edición del autor.
After the window display launching campaign, all the props were re-located inside the store in the beachwear and underwear section. Fuente: Fotografía y edición del autor.

To conclude, the most important aspect could be summarized as:

  1. To respect all campaign guidelines such as branding and visual merchandising.
  2. Smart use of resources: instruments, tools, and props available. This may include the re-use of the props by giving them a new «air» by the use of color and texture, just to transform them into a «new» prop.
  3. Finally, give it up to P.O.P. the strength and starring it deserves through the use of creativity, being careful to not transgress the visual merchandising, campaign, and branding guidelines.

In other words, it means «landing» the ATL advertising campaign into several «small pieces of communication» inside the store called P.O.P.

I forgot to say that this toilet bowl and lavatory were unused. It was stowed in the warehouse because the construction manager bought three instead of two when the the store was designed and built. So, I saw it and I used it. Fuente: Foto y edición del autor.

Now leave a comment and I will show the entire transformation from an advertising campaign to a P.O.P., through the use of visual merchandising concepts!