Knowledge Bank Blog, Category Strategy, Pricing & Promotions, Channel Execution

Keeping it Real

How many of you have seen the Roy Keane death stare?

People who played football with, or for, him probably have. People who have appeared as a pundit with him on ITV probably have.  Peter Crouch, when he pulled up at a set of traffic lights in Manchester, definitely has.

This is the story Crouch tells…

He was 24.  He’s just signed for Liverpool, the reigning European Champions.  He’s driving around Hale Burns in a brand new Aston Martin. He has the windows down, music blasting, sunglasses on, arm angled out of the window, steering with two fingers.

He pulls up to the traffic lights, looks across and there is Roy Keane in the car next to him.  Crouch gives Roy a nod and a wink.  He points his finger at Roy as if to say “You and me, eh, Roy?  This is what it’s all about”.

Keane looks back at him.  Then gives him the death stare – a look of total disgust on his face.  He shakes his head and looks back at the road ahead.  The lights change and Keane is off without a backward glance.

The next day Crouch sold the Aston Martin.  He took a £25,000 hit on it.  But, he says that moment at the traffic lights was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

He’d stopped keeping it real and Roy Keane had let him know.

Why are we talking about this?  Well, one of the challenges we all face in our industry is keeping it real.  Keeping it real means remembering what you are selling.  It means remembering where you are selling.  It means remembering who you are selling to.

This is obvious, right?  Well, sometimes not.  For instance, we sometimes see category or brand vision statements that bear no relation to the category or brand they are supposed to be about.  We sometimes see brands focusing on the small group of shoppers they would like to buy the brand, not the big group of shoppers who are most likely to buy it.

It is easy to do this.  You’ve been sitting on a bean bag in a funky meeting room, getting super creative.  You can get lost in the idea.  Just like Peter Crouch driving round in his Aston…until Roy Keane gave him the stare.

So how can you make sure you keep it real?  Here are a few examples.

Mission & Vision Statements.  We have seen three types of problem with mission or vision statements.  Firstly, there can be little or no link to the category you are working on.  We saw one recently.   If you showed it to one hundred people on the street nobody would have guessed the category.  Secondly, they can lose sight of the key reason(s) people buy the category or brand. Sometimes (most of the time…) shoppers just want to buy a really good product.  They don’t need, or want, that product to solve all the problems in the world. Thirdly, they can be loaded with jargon – stuff that you understand internally, but no shopper ever would.

Someone said to us recently “it doesn’t matter, no shopper is ever going to see it”.  They were right to say no shopper will ever see it.  But they were wrong to say it doesn’t matter.  It does.  A mission or vision statement sets the tone for the rest of your communication. Vague internal communication filters through to vague external communication.

Keep it real.  Is it obvious what the category is?  Is it focused on the things that matter to shoppers?  Is it in simple, memorable language?

Merchandising & Fixture Treatments.  We have seen two main problems here.  Firstly, an over reliance on decision trees.  We’ve all seen the complicated flow diagrams that try to explain how shoppers make decisions.  But this is not how shoppers actually make decisions – no shopper goes through a decision tree in their head at shelf.  Worse, you usually can’t translate the flow diagram with all the boxes into something that works at shelf.

Secondly, creativity is prioritised over practicality.  We see all singing, all dancing fixture solutions that look great as a visual on a slide.  But on a slide is where they stay.  They have no chance of being implemented in every store, all over the country.

Keep it real.  Focus on merchandising clarity.  Make it simple and intuitive for shoppers to shop.  Make it easy for retailers to implement and store staff to maintain.

Pricing.  It is easy to recommend a price for a product that you hope it can command.  You might have research where many people said that they would pay X for product Y.

Then the product is launched.  It is surrounded on shelf by lower priced alternatives.  It might be a really good product.  But most shoppers won’t try it at that price.

So, you start promoting it.  Then promote it some more.  Until shoppers who do buy it, only buy it at the promoted price.  Many products are brought to market with the intention of trading shoppers up.  But then most of that incremental value is given back to shoppers through promotions. It’s a lot of effort for minimal return.

Keep it real.  Charge a realistic price – one that shoppers are prepared to regularly buy your product at.

So, remember what you are selling, where you are selling it, who you are selling it to.  It’s easy to say.  It’s even easier to lose sight of.

andd, if you every think you might be losing sight of it, just ask yourself one question…

Would Roy give it the stare?

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