"When we collaborate with all the key constituents within Coca-Cola and our retailers, we have a much higher success rate," Mount points out. "Once that alignment is in place, it then comes down to how you break through with your account managers and merchandisers to make it win at retail."

Mount, who will speak at the ANA/BAA Shopper Marketing Conference July 25-27 in Amelia Island, Fla., explains how Coca-Cola connects retailers with shoppers, why the shopper mindset has changed for the better and how marketers can distinguish themselves.

Ken Beaulieu: In your experience, what are the key drivers of a successful path-to-purchase strategy?

John Mount: The key to a successful campaign is ensuring we hit on all three parts of the path to purchase: the pre-shop, the shopping trip and the audience. We have found that the first two are the easiest and where we find the most inspiring ideas. We believe the pre-shop must drive awareness of the campaign with the primary intent to incite buyer conversion in-outlet when they transition to shopping. We really try to ensure that the platform provides a shopper solution and that the pre-shop tactics sell that solution. This adds value for our customer by driving awareness that they are at a great place to shop. As for the shopping trip, we work hard to continue driving awareness with cues throughout the store (i.e., carts, security shrouds, in-store radio, etc.) leading to the display, which must deliver on compelling occasion-based messaging. As for audience, we try to hit the key target shoppers. We're getting much better in this space thanks to the proliferation of digital opportunities which allow us to connect with the right shoppers. At the end of the day, our customers expect great, collaborative platforms that connect their shoppers and increase buyer conversions.

Ken: In what tangible ways has the shopper mindset changed over the years? Has the new mindset provided more challenges or opportunities for brands?

John: I think the shopper mindset is extraordinarily dynamic right now. It's a great time to be in the food and beverage business. Shoppers are looking for creative ideas and meal solutions. Just look at the number of pictures Millennials are taking of what they eat. It's fascinating. The key is how we take advantage of this attentive audience and break through with meaningful content to drive sales. I personally think this mindset enables more opportunities for brands to connect and create loyalty.

Ken: Please talk about the importance of keeping shoppers, the customer and the brand in mind. How do you ensure your team remains focused on all three?

John: There is no doubt that this is a challenge. As retailers and brand managers continue to become more and more sophisticated, it's important to find the "triple win." The shopper solution/platform must be good for the shopper, our retailers and our brands. One way we find ourselves engaging even more is in co-creation of shopper platforms and collaborating on a joint visual ID.

Ken: As a member of Shopper Marketing magazine's Hall of Fame, what advice would you give to marketers looking to distinguish themselves in the industry?

John: The key is engagement. We all have been a part of something that we felt could have been better if we'd done this or that. Be vocal and share your thoughts on what can be done differently, then engage in that recommendation and make it come to fruition. You will distinguish yourself from the pack. I read a great book that was written by Lou Pritchett early in my career called Stop Paddling & Start Rocking the Boat. The idea is not to be a disrupter, but to be a change agent for good. You will only make it better for everyone involved.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet, Inc. management or associated bloggers.