Knowledge Bank Blog, New Product Launches, Range & Portfolio, Shopper Communication

Election Learning – Doing Things You Don’t Need to Do.

Are you doing things for the right reasons?

Let’s start with a question (apologies to non football fans).

If you were a goalkeeper facing a penalty what is the best way of saving it?  Should you dive to the left?  Dive to the right?  Or stay in the middle?  Don’t get clever and say it depends on who is taking it, their body language, their penalty taking history.  Generally, which action would give you the best chance of saving it?

A study was conducted a few years ago to look into this.   The academics analysed 286 penalties.  They found that the chances of a goalkeeper saving a penalty were highest when the goalkeeper stayed in the middle of the goal.  Yet on 94% of the occasions the goalie dived to the left or the right.

With all the data available in football these days, it is inconceivable that professional goalkeepers don’t know this.  However, if you look at all the penalties taken last season, you would see that most goalkeepers still dive to the left or right.

Why?  They are afraid of doing nothing.  If they stayed in the middle of the goal and the penalty taker calmly places it to their left or right, they would look like they hadn’t made an effort.  So, they usually dive to one side.  It decreases their chance of saving the penalty, but it makes them appear decisive.

Why are we talking about this?  Well, we thought it was particularly apt this week in the UK, given we are seeing the fall out from something that didn’t need to be done.  Instead of staying in the middle of the goal, Theresa May chose to dive.  To her right, obviously.  It’s one thing to lose a lead of 20% in the polls.  It’s another one to lose it in an election you didn’t need to call.

There is always pressure to be seen to be doing things.  You see it in our industry.  When Dave Lewis arrived at Tesco there was a lot of pressure to quickly say what he was going to do.  But he resisted that in order to figure out what the right things to do were.  Any brand that is struggling will feel the pressure to do things.  You need to be acting, right?  Yet often this rush to do something means you don’t do the right things.

A bias for action is only a good thing if it is the right action.

So, how do you make sure that you are not just doing things, but doing the right things?

Portfolio & Proposition.  Be absolutely clear what you stand for.  How many times have you seen a new CEO for a company or a new Marketing Director for a brand say, “we moved too far away from what we stood for.  We need to get back to what we are all about”.  It happens a lot.  Every little move away from the core proposition doesn’t feel much at the time.  But, over time, these moves mean you end up with something that is very different from where you started.

If you have a portfolio of brands you need to be absolutely clear what each stands for.  And make sure that each brand is differentiated enough – in the mind of a shopper, not in your mind.  Too often we see brands in a portfolio widening their proposition to try to attract new shoppers.  It can work initially, but then things start blurring.  You can end up with a portfolio that is competing against itself.  Just moving money around.

NPD.  There is pressure in our industry to bring new news to a category.  Manufacturers are set up to work on NPD.  Retailers often ask for it.  But a lot of NPD gets in the way.  It adds complexity to the fixture, it is often not differentiated enough and it is rarely supported for long enough.  The NPD gets a bit of support, then attention moves on to the next project in the pipeline.

Shopper behaviour change doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time.  Behaviour won’t change if you keep changing what you are asking shoppers to buy.  So, ask whether the NPD is helping or hindering the behaviour change you are seeking.  And if it might hinder, don’t do it.

Packaging.  The pack is the easiest thing to change.  Many brands have been through numerous pack refreshes in recent years.  Some feel like they are in permanent refresh.  This can be OK if you have a big issue with your packaging – it has weak stand out, it is too complicated etc.  It’s OK if it’s part of a refocusing of the brand proposition.  However, it’s rarely OK if it’s just a pack change.

Pack redesigns need to be purposeful.  They need to focus on the things that really need to be changed.  They need to be part of a wider brand activity not stand-alone.  If you move for the sake of moving, you might find you have to quickly move back.

We all feel pressure to be doing things.  But, these things need to be the right things.

Think before you dive to the left or right.  Sometimes you are best off staying in the middle.

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