Knowledge Bank Blog, Range & Portfolio, Shopper Communication

Making Small Products Big

Which small products can you explode?

There are many things in life that could, or should, be big but remain small or niche.  The small restaurant tucked away down a side street that does much better food than the chain restaurant around the corner.  Or the specialist coffee shop that does far superior coffee but only a tenth of the trade of a Starbucks.

Breaking Bad, the US TV drama, has been named as the highest (critically) rated TV show in history.  Yet Seasons 1-4 were only watched by 1 million viewers in the US.  And Season 5 peaked at 4 million.  More people in the UK will watch X Factor this Saturday than have ever watched an episode of Breaking Bad.

Why are we talking about this?  Well, we think there are some great products available in supermarkets.  Whether that is new and innovative formats of vegetables – for instance, Butternut Spaghetti and Cauliflower Cous Cous.  Or the variety of fresh, convenient products you could only dream about getting a few years ago.  Or Homecare products that perform much better for a fraction of the time and effort that you used to have to put in.

And it is not just new products.  Many products that have been around for years are still great products.  Some of these are brand leaders like Heinz Ketchup.  But many aren’t.  Many are smaller brands.  Products that don’t have the marketing muscle of the brand leaders, but are just as good and, in many cases, better.

The problem is that many of these products are simply not seen in store or online.  They are lost in the wall of product on shelf or on a web page.  We call these products ‘unexploded bombs’.  Products that could be big – or certainly bigger – but aren’t.

So, what can you do to take these unexploded bombs and light the fuse?

Firstly, and most obviously, tell shoppers about them.  There are lots of products, particularly from smaller brands, or in fresh categories, that slip onto the shelf unnoticed.  We think there is a big opportunity to better communicate what is new in store.  Walk around any store and you will see lots of generic ‘new’ labels at shelf.  They become wallpaper – they are not signposting the ‘new product’ or telling the shopper anything useful about it.

Also, why wait until the shelf?  Why not communicate what is new in store in a different way?  For instance, leaflets that the shopper can pick up at front of store telling them what is new this month or this week.  It doesn’t just have to be new products, it could be what is most relevant right now.  For example, what is in season in fresh foods.  Or top winter recipes as the season changes.  If you prime the shopper before they get to the shelf it increases the chances of them seeing and engaging with a product when they get there.

Spotlighting key products.  To properly see what is available in an aisle, a shopper has to spend minutes looking.  But most of them only have seconds.  To be seen you have to look different in some way.  You have to draw attention to you.  For example, merchandising solutions that break the natural flow of the shelf.  Sainsbury’s do this with their spice of the month.  Beauty retailers do this with visible testers.  Morrison’s have done this in fresh categories by highlighting the full range of products available.  You are now aware of the 10 varieties of tomato rather than just being hit by a sea of red.

Recommendations.  Shoppers are increasingly used to companies making suggestions to them.  Whether it is Apple in music, Netflix in TV or Amazon in just about everything!  The key to doing this successfully is relevance – things that the person is likely to be interested in.  These can be alternative ways of using existing products.  Sainsbury’s ‘little twists’ campaign is a great recent example of this.  Or suggestions on products – old or new – that the shopper may like.  Why not do more of this at checkout instead of getting a voucher for an extra 30 loyalty points on something you always buy?

We spend a lot of time in stores and think there are great products sitting there.  But that is the problem – many are just sitting there.  The companies who launched them have moved on to the next thing they are going to launch.  What if they turned some of their attention back to what is already on shelf and gave it a fresh burst of energy and relevance?  Lit, or re-lit, the fuse?

Do you know where the unexploded bombs are in your store, category or brand?

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