Idealists vs. Realists

Fill in the blanks…

“There are only two types of people in the world.  Those that _________ and those that _________.

How did you fill in the blanks?  Maybe you went political “those that voted leave and those that voted remain”.  Maybe you went more everyday “those who put cream on the scone first and those who put jam on first”.

Or maybe you went for something more philosophical?  For instance, Mark Twain said “There are two types of people.  People who accomplish things and people who claim to have accomplished things”.

The “two types of people” set up can be applied to lots of things.  But we want to focus on just one.  Idealists vs Realists.

An idealist is someone who tends to see things in an ideal manner.  They see the world as they would like it to be.  A realist is someone who tends to have a more pragmatic view of things.  They see the world as it actually is. 

A lot of the things that we do in life depend on whether we are looking through an idealist lens or a realist lens.  It could be small things.  The idealist says, “I’ll buy the chocolate, but I won’t eat it until the weekend”.  The realist says, “I will eat the chocolate before the weekend, so I won’t buy it until Friday night”.  It could be big things.  For instance, the Brexit debate makes (well, a little…) more sense when you consider it as a debate between idealists and realists.

Why are we talking about this?  In our industry success is all about making things happen.  To make things happen we need to think about how things are, not how we would like them to be.  We need to live in the real world not the ideal world.

The ideal world is one where there is friendly rivalry between retailers.  It is where discounters have a tiny share of the market.  Where there are perfectly organised shelves.  Where retailers are happy to let manufacturers develop new display solutions.  Where shoppers spend 2-3 minutes engaging with your brand.

The real world is a bit different.  It is where there is fierce competition between retailers.  Where discounters have a significant share of the market and strong growth.  Where shelves are often disorganised.  Where retailers have clean store policies.  Where shoppers spend 2-3 seconds thinking about your brand.

We are all selling categories and brands in the real world.  So, how can you apply a more realist lens to what you do?

Merchandising & Display.  The idealist wants a funky fixture solution.  Something that looks great when visualised on a PowerPoint slide.  The realist wants a pragmatic solution based around smaller, incremental changes.  Something that doesn’t look as good on a PowerPoint slide.  But it can be implemented cost effectively and can nudge shoppers to buy the things that they want shoppers to buy.

Pricing.  The idealist thinks the product is so good that it can command a significant price premium.  They think that because people said they would buy the product at that price in the concept test, then shoppers will buy it at that price in store.  The realist knows that the price is too high.  They know that this gets magnified when the product is surrounded by lower priced products in store.  They know that if the product is to succeed a realistic base price is required.

Range.  The idealist thinks that every product in the range can be accommodated on shelf.  They think the NPD can launch with 6 products in the range.  They think they can get all this away without giving existing range up.  The realist knows that an efficient and effective range doesn’t include all their products.  They know the NPD launch should focus on 3 products.  They know that they may need to give up a couple of existing products to open up space.

Packaging.  The idealist designs a pack for the shopper who has got the time and inclination to pick it up and read it carefully.  They want to inject lots of brand personality.  They tinker with the design until they get what they think is the perfect pack.  The realist designs for instant recognition.  They design for clarity.  They only change design because they need to, not because they can.

Brand Visions.  The idealist wants a deep brand purpose.  They want shoppers to buy the brand for what it stands for.  They want the brand to be more than a _________ (insert your category of choice – detergent, sauce, soft drink).  The realist knows that a purpose is good.  But a great product is better.  They want the brand to be about brilliantly delivering on the thing(s) that are most important in the category.

If you’ve got this far (well done…), you might be thinking…surely, idealists are the ones who have the big ideas.  Without them we’d still be riding horses or using landlines.

We agree.  Idealists have the big dreams.  You need them.

But realists are the ones who make things happen.  Without realists ideas are just…ideas.

Feel free to forward. Have a great weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.