Product & Trade Marketing

4 June 2024

Interview with Marco Repezza. Senior Business Consultant at Trade Marketing Studio, he has participated in several category management projects at Conad s.c.a.r.l. and global key accounting for other international retailers. He is Marketing and Trade Marketing Director at Italpizza SpA.

At BBS he teaches B2B and B2C Web marketing, key account management and trade marketing and Retail management & e-commerce in the Business Administration Professional Master.


Today we hear so much about marketing associated with terms that specialize it and often make it complex for non-experts to understand what it means operatively. What does it mean today to do trade marketing?

Marketing is sometimes a rather overused term, used loosely. A legacy of the past to refer exclusively to communication activities and the world of advertising.

Over the years, with the specialization of business departments and high-level training, this way of looking at marketing has changed radically and has necessarily been segmented.

Marketing is a discipline that enters every aspect of business and enterprise, actively participating in almost every area of business. Quoting the words of a close professional friend of mine, “In a business, EVERYONE does marketing.”

Trade Marketing, in particular, was born in the mid-1990s and today has an “office” and specific expertise in almost every large consumer packaged goods company. For some companies – as in my case, with Italpizza – it is a dominant part of the corporate DNA. It is a “modus operandi” rather than a department.

But what does trade marketing mean? Operating in a multidisciplinary and directional way by putting the satisfaction of the distributor customer at the center. So we are not talking about the end consumer, but about that customer – wholesalers, distributors, organized chains – who has a very strong bargaining power and, therefore concentrated in a few players.

Not only commercial, but also managerial skills come into play: it is necessary to be able to thoroughly analyze sales channels, and product performance, but also customer performance, and to know and consider the nature of the customer companies with which one collaborates. Also participate in the product development pipeline by including these needs, mainly related to optimization, stock rotation, and enhancement of physical sales space. It is a corporate culture, a trait d’union, a discipline that seeks to balance brand needs with efficient business management for intermediate customers.


What do we mean by Product Marketing and how can there be general “norms” governing marketing for extremely different products?

The overall strategy aimed at the product and now universally recognized is still tied to the famous “4p” of marketing: product, price, placing, and promotion.

All the marketing rules still remain in place, but their declination changes depending on the category: it is necessary to approach a product differently depending on whether it is a commodity or an occasional purchase, whether it is a food product or a luxury good because the approach and the role perceived by both the distributor and the consumer is different. And I would add the buyer as well.

In the end, it is about understanding the place – contextual and physical – of the product and proceeding consequently.


What do you think is the best training path to get to be fully aware of the techniques and tools needed to make a positive impact in Trade Marketing today?

The Trade Marketing Manager is a “numbers and data” professional: the analytical aspect, solid skills in analyzing market performance (sell-out), purchasing data and portfolio mix (sell-in) must be extremely advanced.

The tools related to the analytical database need to be complemented by commercial skills to understand the flow of goods, then also the logistical elements: the pipeline of products, the operation of channels and various sales formats (store-format), down to how the consumer acts in the store (the shopper) or front of an online site.

Then there is an important negotiation aspect: accounting and business skills are needed to get the best results in dialogue with the few decision-makers who concentrate a lot of bargaining power.


Your experience at Italpizza, a huge and ever-expanding company, is an example of a success story: what is your focus? What determined its success?

The great success has been that it has interpreted better and faster than other competing companies in both marketing aspects, such as consumer expectations, competitive elements on the product and in general on the category, and customer service in conditions and time adapted to the growing needs of large retailers. In short: it has always placed “both” customers, consumer and distributor, at the center of every decision and strategy; another rather overused “corporate slogan,” but one of complex application.

Italpizza’s success did not come through a market explosion but came from a large investment in large-scale distribution. Acquiring, through distribution, the necessary shelf space created awareness for the market and, therefore, for the end customer, at a moment when the company’s communication was still at an early stage of introduction.

Another key aspect has been the incredible speed of innovation: we have maintained a pace of new product introduction far above that of our competitors.

I can say that in addition to deploying the necessary skills, I believed in competing vigorously by pursuing a clear vision, having also been lucky enough to meet an enlightened entrepreneur who shared every strategic choice. In such cases, the shared participation of top management and delegation toward professionalized management is a key aspect of rapid growth.


What is the figure of the trade marketing manager in the domestic and international markets today?

Everything that is trade marketing will grow in importance in the business scenario: channel and volume concentration will be at the center of business strategies, both in Italy and in the global market.

I don’t think the role will transform, but marketing and sales will have to acquire more trade marketing-oriented skills: rather than an office, it will increasingly become the sharing of tools and corporate culture that will influence all activities and all business functions.

If one thinks only of marketing, the development of communication and product strategies while forgetting placement, all work loses importance, because the very realization of the enterprise is at risk: the best product in the world, placed without care, dignity of space, and proper support on a shelf is just a museum exhibit.

The study of a “living” discipline such as Trade Marketing must therefore be entrusted to professionals in close contact with the market, which is why Bologna Business School can offer Master Programs that are a true privileged access to the discipline and the business world.

The School, set since its inception on offering pragmatic knowledge derived from the demands of companies, makes its international network the key element to constant updating towards innovation and trends, to provide all the tools needed to have immediate and successful access to the business world.


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