The lost art of marketing: Mystery Shopper Scheme

Veteran advertising legend Ayaz Peerbhoy had established MAA in 1959. I had joined MAA in 1967. In 1973, we launched Ensor Razor Blade, a TTK product, and during that exercise, I realised that Advertising is the 4th P of Marketing.
His son and my friend Bunty was handling the account, and besides media, he made me handle the promotion schemes for consumers and retailers.
We organised contests for consumers and retailers. Not many in the current generation of advertising professionals would know about “The Mystery Shopper Scheme”. Why is it run amongst retailers to promote a product at the launch?


Mystery Shopping is a process in which a person visits a retail store, restaurant, bank branch, or any such location to measure the quality of customer experience.
Many companies define detailed processes and parameters to ensure that customers have a good experience in their sales locations. Some examples are:
How customers will be greeted
What is the maximum acceptable waiting time
What is the ambience of the place
How many products should be on display, etc.
A Mystery Shopper visits the location pretending to be a customer and carefully notes things they have been asked to measure. The data is reported to the mystery shopping company, who compiles and analyses data gathered from different locations to help their clients measure and improve their customer experience.

But for our Ensor blade campaign, we used a three-pronged marketing plan for our product. Two of them involved the retailers, while one was for the consumer. Spread over 45 days, I was responsible for all three – Mystery Shopper and Display Contest for the retailers and Complete the Slogan Contest for the consumers. I remember travelling from Churchgate to Borivali in the Western suburb, and then again, went about covering all the areas in the Eastern suburb, all in a day. In a way, I covered 36 cities in one city in a day. I say so because the area around a station in Mumbai is a city itself, isn’t it? Phew! It was too much travelling, but the interactions with the people fuelled my energy levels and kept me going.
The Mystery Shopper Scheme was on for about 45 days, and since the product was new, we had given prior intimation to the dealers about the same. That one and a half month were quite crucial because it was a pre-launch activity for Ensor blade. The advertising campaign was to be launched after this period, and in the meanwhile, we got ample time to check the inventory, keep the spirits high for the retailers and build a buzz among the customers.
Sometimes the mystery shopper used to go to the shops to buy a blade. He couldn’t ask for a blade straight away. As a regular customer, he would buy many items before asking for a blade brand. If the shopkeeper gave him an Ensor blade, the mystery shopper would reveal his identity and give him ₹1000 in cash right away as a “loyalty prize.” The mystery shopper had to get an invoice signed and then hand over the money. If the shopkeeper didn’t give Ensor blade to the mystery shopper, then it was the mystery shopper’s job to enlighten the shopkeeper about the ongoing promotional scheme. It used to be a considerable amount in those days. The exercise was to promote and encourage the customers to buy the Ensor blade. It was a mutually beneficial scheme where both the mystery shopper and retailer used to benefit. Both of them stood a chance to get a handsome amount in return.
In the Display Contest, we had given some promotional material to the retailers, and we expected them to display them at their outlet. The jury used to go around the city judging the best retail outlet, and the retailer stood another chance to win a prize.
We also had a contest for the consumers. They had to complete a slogan, and in return, they used to get some goodies. But this one was difficult because I had to liaison with different government departments to ensure that this one was skill-based and had nothing to do with chance. I remember spending long hours at the government offices ensuring that there was no breach of the law, especially for the consumer contest. I had to ensure that this one didn’t fall under the ambit of the Maharashtra Lotteries (Control and Tax) and Prize Competitions (Tax) Act, 1958.
I had implemented this scheme personally in Bombay (as it was called then) because my dear friend Bunty was handling the brand, and he had immense belief in my “marketing talent.”
I can bet that not even 5% of advertising professionals would know about the Marketing Schemes because guys do not think Advertising has anything to do with Marketing. Sadly, Marketing has become more of Sales. Hence, nobody is willing to guarantee the product’s sale as a result of the advertising campaign. We, even today, ensure the achievement of marketing goals, provided the Client doesn’t interfere in our job.

Author: ADnaama

Urdu connoisseur. Adman. Founder of Katha Kathan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: