Knowledge Bank Blog, Category Strategy, Range & Portfolio

Home Advantage

Is the battle being fought on your terms?

In the London Olympics in 2012, UK athletes won 29 Gold medals.  This was easily the UK’s highest Gold haul in the modern era and a full 28 more than 16 years before in Atlanta.

There have been 20 football World Cups held since 1930.  Six of them have been won by the host nation – a much higher proportion than you’d expect.  It even worked for England!

In cricket, just under 50% of test matches are won by the home team.  This doesn’t sound impressive until you realise the away team only wins about 25% of matches.  The rest are draws, which for those of you not into cricket, probably reinforces the reason why it bores you – 5 days of playing and it ends up a draw.

The conclusion?  Home advantage is important.  The explanations for why vary.  The pride you have representing your nation at home, the support of the crowd, familiarity with the conditions.  These are natural benefits you get from playing at home.  Others are more manufactured, as any of you who play team sports and have had to change in an away dressing room the size of a shoebox, will know.

Whatever the reasons, playing at home means the dice are loaded in your favour.

So, why are we talking about this?  Well, competition in the FMCG and Grocery world is intense.  There are more products to buy and more places to buy them.  In many cases the battle is being fought on price, whether that is ‘everyday low price’ or promotions.  Discounters have been challenging mainstream supermarkets.  They have also been challenging brand leaders head to head in advertising.

How do you deal with this?  One way is to compete on the new terms.  If a lower priced competitor is challenging you on price or a rival brand is promoting like crazy, follow them down that path.  However, by doing this, all you are actually doing is giving shoppers the same reason to buy your brand as the competition – price or promotion.  To compete successfully, particularly in the long run, you need to give shoppers a different and better reason to buy your brand.  One that is built around your core strengths and being played on your home turf.

Beat them, don’t join them.

So, how can you do this?

Define the Battleground.  On what basis do you want shoppers to make a choice?  Two things should inform your answer.  Firstly, what is the key driver, or drivers, of choice in this category?  What is most important to shoppers?  It could be taste, freshness, cleaning performance.  Whatever it is, you need to be brilliant at it.  Secondly, what does your brand stand for – it’s current and historic strengths.  Obviously the sweet spot is to have a brand strength that is also a key driver of choice in a category.

Heinz have defined the battleground in Ketchup as product quality and consistently signal theirs by talking about ‘Grown not Made’. Fairy liquid have defined the battleground as long lasting cleaning performance.  By doing this they were also able to reframe the value decision.  From lowest price to number of dishes washed.

Consistently Improve and Reinforce.  Once you have defined the battleground, consistently reinforce your credentials.  We, in the industry, get bored much quicker than shoppers do.  Indeed with the amount of messages shoppers are exposed to, the only way to cut through is with consistency and repetition.  Innovation plays a key role here too.  It can be used to reinforce what you are all about and, importantly, stay one step ahead of the competition.

Gillette is a great example of this.  They don’t offer 20 different colours of razor, they make small, incremental improvements to the razor and blade system.  And charge a nice price premium every time they do so!

Measure Performance.  Are you winning in the battleground you have chosen?  What does product testing, brand tracking or customer satisfaction say?  If the battle is being fought on taste, does your product (still) win on taste versus competitors?  If not, what are competitors doing differently?  Crucially, make sure you are benchmarking against the right competitors.  For many brand leaders, it is not the No 2 brand that you should be worried about.

In a rapidly changing market you have to adapt.  However, as you do, you need to retain your core strength(s).  The thing, or things, you do better than anyone else.

It’s your home advantage.

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