Looking for the Majority

Let’s start with a short quiz.

Question 1: In the last 20 years, has the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty… (a) almost doubled (b) remained more or less the same (c) almost halved?

Question 2: How many of the world’s 1 year old children today have been vaccinated against some disease…(a) 20% (b) 50% (c) 80%?

So, how did you do?

The answer to Question 1 is C.  The proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has halved.  If you got this wrong, you have a lot of company.  On average only 7% of people get it right.

The answer to Question 2 is C.  The majority of children in the world have had some form of vaccination against disease.  You probably got this wrong too.  On average only 13% of people get it right.

These are 2 of the 13 questions in the “factfulness test”.  It is a test developed by a Global Health Professor called Hans Rosling.  The test has been conducted with lots of people and the answers provide us with two main lessons.

The first lesson is that the world is a much better place than it was in the past (and is a much better place than we think).  The second lesson is that most of us don’t know some pretty basic things about the world.  Rosling says that a group of chimps selecting answers at random would score higher (33%) on the test than most (often well educated) humans.

One of the key reasons for this is that we tend to be exposed to bad news rather than good news.  You hear about the people in extreme poverty.  You don’t hear about all the people who have escaped it.  You hear about the minority.

But, to properly understand the world we should be looking for the majority.

Why are we talking about this?  In our industry it is very easy to get distracted by the minority.  It could be focusing on the channel that is 3% of the market instead of the one that is 50%.  It could be trying to protect the weak SKUs in the range rather than driving the strong SKUs.  It could be marketing to a small group of shoppers instead of a big group.

Just like the factfulness test, the minorty can be more top of mind than the majority.  But retailers and brands win by appealing to the majority.  Amazon wants everyone to shop with them.  Coca Cola wants everyone to drink their products.

So, how can you make sure you are looking for the majority?

(Category & Brand) Drivers of Choice.  Focus on the things that matter to most people.  If taste is the most important driver of choice, focus on taste.  If cleaning performance is the most important driver of choice, focus on cleaning performance.  Fabric conditioners is a good example of a category that has looked at the most important driver of choice – fragrance – and focused innovation and communication almost solely on that.

Segmentation.  Focus on the big shopper segments.  It is easy to get lost in segmentation.  To focus on all the differences between shopper groups.  Slicing and dicing the shopper base.  But you end up slicing and dicing so much that, by the time you are done, you are targeting a sub segment of a sub segment of a sub segment.  Instead, focus on the commonalities between shopper groups.  Great marketing appeals to the majority of the people you want to buy your brand.

Product Quality.  Focus your product quality efforts on the products that most shoppers buy.  If you are an ice cream, then your vanilla ice cream should be the best quality product in your portfolio.  Be better where it matters.  M&S is a great example of this.  They are still improving their core SKUs and communicating this to shoppers “our best ever prawn sandwich”, “our best ever trifle”.  There is no point having brilliant product quality on a product that nobody buys.

Merchandising and Display.  Focus on the things that can be implemented in the majority of stores.  We’ve talked before about category or POP vision projects that end with a visual of some funky new fixturisation.  One that can only be implemented in a handful of stores before the money runs out.  Any merchandising or display solution needs to be implemented in hundreds of stores if it is going to have an impact.  Shelf strips to aid shopper navigation are not going to win any design awards, but they can be implemented in a lot of stores and will hit a lot of shoppers.

Brand Assets.  Focus on the assets that shoppers see day in, day out.  This means your primary packaging.  It means shelf ready packaging.  Things that you control as a brand.  Too much time and energy is spent developing temporary POS communication that might be in store for a couple of weeks.  Stuff that most shoppers won’t see.  Smaller, start up brands often have the most impactful packaging.  It’s the only asset they have, so they focus all their attention on it.

We suggest you do your own factfulness test.  Where do you focus your resource?  On the minority?  Or on the majority?

You might be surprised (and a little worried…) by the results.

When we look for the majority, the world is a much better placer than we think.

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