How many of you have heard of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi?
Either way, how many of you can get close to pronouncing his name?
He is a psychologist and is best known for a concept called “flow”. He says that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow – a state of concentration or complete absorption in an activity.
It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. You are in the zone. Fully immersed in what you are doing. Time passes quickly. You are often not aware of it passing. You are probably experiencing it right now, whilst reading this blog…OK, perhaps not.
When you are in ‘flow’ you are focused on the task at hand. You are not distracted by anything else around you.
Why are we talking about this? Well, we are in a new year. There are a lot of challenges in our industry. There are a lot of things we could be doing to respond. Often the more we do, the better we feel. It always feels better to be doing something, right?
But this means we are often reactive. Reacting to the latest small change in the market. Reacting to last month’s sales (or last week’s sales). Reacting to the latest thing a competitor has done.
You do need to be active. But the right sort of active – with some focus and flow. We don’t mean sitting legs crossed in a zen-like state trying to use the power of your mind to shift more product. But we do mean acting with a real focus on the things that matter.
We are living in an age of distraction. 2019 could be one of the most distracting years in a long time. So how can you be in flow in 2019?
Do less, not more. This means doing a small number of things really well. The things that are important for your category or brand. The market continues to change but the things that are important to winning in FMCG and retail don’t change that much.
This is the Jeff Bezos philosophy. Amazon focus on the fundamentals – a focus on convenience, low prices, wide choice. As Bezos says “it’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says “Jeff, I love Amazon, I just wish the prices were a little higher” or “I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly”. Focus on fewer things. The things that don’t change.
Sell the stuff that sells. Most attention in the FMCG industry is on the stuff that doesn’t sell (trying to drive the performance of weak SKUs or protect them in range reviews) or on stuff that hasn’t sold yet (NPD) rather than the stuff that does sell (lead brands, SKUs).
It’s pretty easy to develop and launch a line extension. It is harder to drive sales of the core. But, the core is where it matters. A 1% increase on a big selling SKU is worth a lot more than a 10% increase on a minor SKU. This means driving distribution and visibility of lead SKUs. It means having a quality advantage on lead SKUs. So, if you are in ready meals, what is the most important SKU? Lasagne. Be better where it matters – on the stuff that sells.
Tackle things head on. What are the key barriers to buying and using your category, sub category or brand? You should know them. Most companies do. But we often find that there is a reluctance to tackle them. It could be that tackling them is hard. It could be that tackling them doesn’t fit with the (often lofty) brand positioning. It could be tackling them doesn’t fit with the innovation pipeline. It normally means telling someone senior that something difficult and inconvenient has to be done. There are lots of reasons.
But not tackling the big barriers restricts growth. If you are too expensive, not enough shoppers will buy you. If the barrier to buying and using is taste, what do you need to address? Taste. If the barrier is health, what do you need to address? Health. If the barrier is convenience…you get the picture. Do what you should do, not what you can or want to do.
Control what you can control. This is particularly relevant for manufacturers. Many of the things manufacturers want to do are reliant on retailer support and execution. New layouts, new fixture treatments, secondary displays, POS materials. But the retailer might have a clean store policy. Or they might not want to develop a new visual signage that is costly and hard to execute with scale.
So focus on what you can control – your assets. Your primary packs and your Shelf Ready Packaging. The things that are permanent, that shoppers see day in, day out. Look for simple activation solutions – e.g. Heinz putting a sticker on ketchup bottles that says “try our new mustard”. Do things that you can do. Don’t rely on things that are out of your control.
Focus is important whatever the year. But it will be particularly important this year.
And if at any point 2019 feels hard, it can’t be as hard as trying to pronounce ‘Csikzentimihalyi’.
On a separate note, our latest article for The Grocer magazine: “Learning from Home Bargains” is published tomorrow. You can also view it on our website… https://insight-traction.com/learning-from-home-bargains/