Knowledge Bank Blog, Category Strategy

Category Development : Champions League

Who are you competing against…?

Despite a last gasp victory over Bayern Munich on Tuesday, for the third year out of four, Manchester City, the English Premier League Champions, are struggling to make it out of the group stage of the Champions League.  The football fans amongst you will know that they have had unusually hard draws in these years.  Still, you would expect the English Champions to be good enough to make it into the Top 16 teams in Europe, wouldn’t you?

What this shows is that getting a winning formula against the teams you play against each week in England is one thing.  However, getting a winning formula against the best teams in Europe is a lot harder.  And winning against the best is typically how success is judged.

Why are we talking about this?  Well, we think there are a lot of parallels with the FMCG world.  For a brand or product, winning was traditionally about winning against a narrowly defined competitive set.  Other products like yours.  If you are in the Tea category, did you beat other Teas?  If you sold bread, did you have the best bread?

However, the rules of the game are changing.  As categories continue to blur and as more products compete to serve similar consumer needs, it is no longer good enough to win against products that are just like yours.   If you want to win in the Breakfast occasion, you have to compete against cereals, porridge pots, cereal bars, breakfast biscuits, yoghurt and fruit pots.  Being a great cereal is no longer enough.  You may beat other cereals, but can you compete and win in the Champions League of Breakfast products?

So, how can you give yourself the best chance of competing and winning in your Champions League?

Deliver Superb Product Quality.  Are you better than your wider competitive set?  Do you better meet key consumer needs?  For example, if you are looking to compete in the sweet treat area, can your product compete with the best that confectionery, biscuits and cakes have to offer?  Do you set taste benchmarks against other products in your category or the wider, and true, competitive set?

Superior Product and Pack Formats.  Do you have the most relevant and convenient product format or pack size for the need or occasion that you are targeting?  For example, many categories are developing snacking formats.  This is not just about developing a more convenient format of your current product.  But whether your product format is more convenient, and easy to eat on the go, than the big boys – chocolate bars, crisps and so on.

Be the Best Solution.  As our lives become busier and we have more choice than ever before, many shoppers are just looking for solutions.  If you are a food, can you demonstrate that you are part of the best solution to the problem of what to have for dinner tonight?  For many shoppers, the real question is “what will make a nice, easy dinner?”  They are not deciding between between 7 types of potato, but whether potato, rice or pasta is part of the best solution.

An Advantaged and Ownable Proposition.  Does your product have a reason to buy and use that other competing categories don’t?  For instance, chilled juice can claim to be 1 of your 5 a day.  Something that other products like tea, coffee, water, carbonated soft drinks, can’t.  Identifying the benefit that you can own is a great advantage as you compete against a wider competitive set.

Clearly, it is a basic requirement to win in your category.  If you don’t finish in the Top 4 in England, you don’t get into the Champions League in the first place.  However, a big part of category growth is targeting new occasions and new consumer needs.  When you do this, who you are competing against, and the rules for winning, change.

So, do you know who is in your Champions League group and do you know how to get out of it?

Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.