Knowledge Bank Blog, Behaviour Change, Shopper Communication, Channel Execution

Building the Right Association

Are you giving shoppers the right signals?

Let’s start this week with a problem for you to solve – the candle task.

Look at the visual above.  The task = fix a candle to the wall and light it in a way that ensures the candle wax doesn’t drip on the table below.  You have 2 things as well as the candle – a book of matches and a box of drawing pins.  How do you do it?

If you haven’t got anything better to do on a Friday afternoon, stop reading and see if you can figure out the solution.  For those of you who have a little less time on your hands, or frankly, can’t be bothered, here is the answer.

The solution is to empty the box of drawing pins.  Then use the drawing pins to fix the box to the wall.  Put the candle in the box.  Then light the candle with one of the matches.  It sounds easy when you put it like that, but most people don’t get to this solution.  Some try to fix the candle to the wall without using the drawing pin box.  Some attempt to melt some of the candle wax and then use that to stick the candle to the wall.  Neither method works.

The solution is the box.  Most people who see the drawing pins in the box can only see the box as something that holds the drawing pins and not as a separate component that can be used to solve the task.  However, if you give people the same task, but this time take the drawing pins out of the box at the start, people are much more likely to get to the correct solution, much quicker.

If you change the association, you change the outcome.

Why is this important?  Well, shoppers walk around stores with associations in their mind – about the retailer, about categories, about brands.  At a store level it could be low prices.  Walk around a discounter and this is consistently reinforced.  At a category level it could be fresh and natural associations – think fruit and veg.   At a brand level it could be expertise, it could be quality, it could be fun.  Of course it depends on the brand.

What is most important is that the shopper is developing the right associations.  These are the associations that work for your store, category or brand, not against it.  Take chilled juice – are shoppers thinking “fresh, one of my 5 a day” or are they thinking “lots of sugar”.   The association will lead to the outcome.  Just like the candle task.

So, how can you build the right associations?

The WHAT.  This is about the store, category or brand proposition.  What do you want the store to be associated with – price, quality, choice, innovation, service?  Are the signals the store gives out reflecting this for existing shoppers?  Priming it for new shoppers?  If you are a category that wants to be associated with health, is the category giving ‘health’ signals?  If you are a brand that wants to be associated with quality and trust, are you giving the right quality and trust signals?

It could be merchandising.  It could be imagery.  It could be packaging.  It could be the language you use.  Whatever the tactics, they need to ladder up to the right overall associations.

The WHEN.  This is all about occasion.  When do you want your product to be used or consumed – e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, evening sofa moment.  For some products it can be quite obvious.  For others, it is much less obvious.

We often find that brands rely too much on implicit associations around occasion– things that are clear to someone close to the brand, but are not clear to the average shopper.   Here is an example – a pack has a background visual of a sun.  If you look closely the sun is rising.   So, that means the product should be consumed in the morning, right?  Yes.   Assuming…the shopper sees the yellow.  Then notices it is a sun.  Then notices it is a sun rising.  Then makes the connection between that and consuming the product in the morning.  How many shoppers will get there?  Quickly enough?  Why not just say “use every morning”?

The WHERE.  Where a category or product is in store, can have a big influence on the association the shopper has with it.  Want to be seen as a convenient, ‘on the go’, solution?  Then you need to be in amongst the other ‘on the go’ products, in the relevant part of the store.  Want to be seen as healthy?  Get close to other healthy products.  Want to be seen as premium?  Get away from mainstream parts of the category and into the premium part.

Location can also impact the association a shopper has with how often they should buy and use a product.  Located close to categories that are bought less frequently?  You might be seen as a less frequent purchase.  And vice versa if you are close to higher frequency categories.

In life, we all walk around with associations in our mind.  Say the word “Trump” and some things will immediately pop into your head (sorry about that!).

The association often leads to the outcome.  Are the drawing pins in the box or next to the box?

Feel free to forward.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.