Knowledge Bank Blog, Category Strategy, New Product Launches, Shopper Communication

Best Story Wins

On August 28th 1963 a man got to his feet to speak in front of a gathered crowd.

The crowd was 250,000 strong.  The location was the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.  The man was Martin Luther King Jr.

The speech he began delivering followed a script.  He was constantly looking down at his notes.  Reading verbatim.

Around halfway through the speech, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who was standing a few feet from King shouted out, “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin! Tell ‘em about the dream!”

King looked at her.  He slid the text of his speech to one side.  He paused for a few seconds.

Then he said… “I have a dream.”

“It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.  I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”

So began the speech that King had not intended to give.  But one that evoked emotion in millions of people.  Emotion that helped change history.

It was one of the best stories ever told.

Why are we talking about this?  Ever since there has been language, humans have been telling stories.

We think in stories.  Remember in stories.  Share experiences in stories.

Research has consistently shown that our brains process and retain stories more effectively than isolated facts or data.  It shows that we are often driven more by emotional arguments than rational arguments.

This is just as true in the FMCG world.  Our industry is driven by the stories that are told.

The stories you tell internally.  To get people aligned behind a common direction.  The stories you tell externally.  To get retailers excited about opportunities and the solutions you can bring.  The stories you tell shoppers.  To motivate them to buy your brand instead of a competitor brand.

Success is not based on who has the best data.  Who has the best ideas.  Who has the deepest pockets.

Success is based on the stories we tell.  And the best story wins.

Best category story wins.  Too many category strategies follow the same laboured formula.  Drown the audience in data up front.  Throw a bunch of easily forgettable growth drivers into the mix.  Reel off a shopping list of actions like “right range” that could apply to any category in any situation.  Then wonder why people internally and externally don’t get on board with it.

A great category strategy is powered by the story.  One that dramatises the category opportunity up front.  That leads to a small set of crystal-clear growth drivers.  That lead to a small number of relevant targeted actions.  That people can instantly remember and get on board with.

The battle for category leadership is a battle of stories.  And the best story wins.

Best new product story wins.  Too many new products are based on what you can do.  You can make the bigger pack size, new flavour or variant.  So you make it.  Then you scramble around trying to find a rationale for why you are doing it.  How it will help grow the category.  Knowing that in a few months’ time you’ll be back in front of the retailer defending the product in a range review.

A great new product story is driven by what you should do.  One that builds on the longer term opportunities you have identified.  That shows how you are bringing something different to the category.  That has a compelling rationale for why it will be a success.  That gets retailers wanting to back it.

The battle for new product support is a battle of stories.  And the best story wins.

Best shopper story wins.  Too much shopper communication is based on what you want to say.  Our product has got all these great benefits.  We need to tell shoppers about them.  All the benefits…?  Yep, all of them.  Our product can be used for a variety of different occasions.  We need to tell shoppers about them.  All the occasions…? Yep, all of them.

Great shopper communication is driven by what shoppers need to hear.  They need to know what the product is.  Obvious to you but often not obvious to a shopper.  They need to know why the product is good.  Not every reason.  The main reason.  They need to know when to use the product.  Not every occasion.  The main occasion.

The battle for shoppers is a battle of stories.  And best story wins.

Want to change promotional strategy?  Best story wins.  Want to be seen as leaders on sustainability?  Best story wins.  Want to… OK, you get the point.

So, look at the way you are communicating.  Are you telling the best stories?

If not, you might need to “tell ‘em about the dream.”

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

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