Knowledge Bank Blog, Pricing & Promotions, Range & Portfolio

Asking The Right New Year Question

What is going to change in the next 10 years?

It’s a very popular question as we enter a new decade.  Many people have opinions.  You will have heard a lot of them recently – whether it relates to politics, technology, science, sport.

But is it the right question to be asking?  Well, if you listen to Jeff Bezos, it’s not.  This is what he says…

“I very frequently get the question: “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?”  And that is a very interesting question.  It’s a very common one.  I almost never get the question: “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” And I submit to you that the second question is the more important of the two – because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable over time”.

He goes on to say…

“It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says “Jeff, I love Amazon, I just wish the prices were a little higher,” or “I love Amazon, I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly”.  Impossible. We know the energy we put into those things will still be paying dividends for our customers 10 years from now”.

So, which question are you asking yourselves at the moment?  Are you asking what is going to change in the next 10 years?  Or are you asking what is not going to change in the next 10 years?

It could make a big difference to how you see the world.

Why are we talking about this?  The FMCG industry (like every other industry) is awash with people trying to answer the “what is going to change” question.  But there are a lot less people trying to answer the “what is not going to change” question.

The “what is going to change” question is more exciting.  Everyone wants to look forward.  Everyone wants to do new and different things.  We are in an industry that places a big premium on new.  For instance, look at the number of new products launched each year.

But the “what is not going to change” question is often the more important one.  It is not a boring one. It can be an exciting one.  It can help you do new and different things – Amazon are one of the most innovative companies around.

Crucially, it helps you do more of the right things.  It does this because it focuses you on the things that are most important.  The things that have always been important.  The things that will always be important.

So, what are some of the things that we think are not going to change this decade?

Product Quality.  Having a great product has, and always will be, important.  You could argue that in a world of increased competition, a world of tertiary brands in Discounters, it has never been more important.  And where it is most important of all, is on the products that most shoppers buy regularly.  If you are in chilled juice it means having the best orange juice.  If you are in ice cream it means having the best vanilla.  Having a competitive advantage on quality.  Being better where it matters.

Price.  We are talking here about having a base price that shoppers are prepared to pay for your product.  Promotional intensity has distorted prices in the market.  Many brands have a base price that is essentially a price from which to promote.  A lot of shoppers know that.  So, they fall into your promotion cycle.  They have been trained to treat the £1 promoted price as the price to pay not the £2 base price.  The right base price is one shoppers are prepared to pay.  The right level of promotion is one where your average price is not so much lower than your base price, that the base price looks like a rip-off to shoppers.

Distribution & Visibility.  A lot of effort in our industry goes on getting products into more stores.  Much of this effort is focused on NPD.  This is important – NPD needs a quick distribution build.  However, this is distribution for products that have yet to be sold.  Much less effort goes into increasing the distribution of products that already sell well.  Proven products that have opportunities to go further.  Coca Cola’s “within arm’s reach of desire” strategy is a great example of taking winning products and getting them distributed as widely and visibly as possible.

Proposition.  Having a point of difference has always been important.  Communicating consistently has always been important.  Communicating clearly has always been important.  Having a really strong visual identity has always been important.  This is not going to change in the next decade.  We all know this – it’s marketing 101.  But just because we know it, doesn’t mean we do it.  In fact, it is often because we know it that we don’t do it.  It gets taken for granted.  Then all the focus goes onto the next funky creative.  How different do you think Red Bull’s communication will be in 10 years’ time?  Not very.

Important stuff is important stuff.  It’s the stuff that doesn’t change.  Spend as much (more) time on the stuff that won’t change as the stuff that will.

Even better, it’s the way to guarantee New Year resolution success:

”I didn’t go the gym last year and I am committed to not going again this year”…

Feel free to forward. Have a great weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.