Channel Execution, Knowledge Bank Blog, Shopper Communication

Mastering First Principles

Are you putting first things first?

Think about the times you have had to learn something new.  For instance, how to drive a car or learn a new language.  How were you taught?

Most likely you were given some very simple foundations on which to build.  Whether that was mirror : signal : manoeuvre when learning to drive, or the basics of grammar when learning a new language.

Once you have the foundations, then everything else becomes a lot easier and the learning process accelerates.  If you don’t have the foundations, it doesn’t matter how many French words you know, you will never be able to construct a sentence in French.

These foundations are often called ‘first principles’.  They are as important in our industry as anywhere else.  But in our desire to do new and different things, we can lose sight of them.

It is easy to do.  Once you have learned the basics of driving a car, these become hardwired into your brain and reinforced each time you drive.  You don’t really need to think about them again.  However, when you design a pack or piece of POS or a new shelf layout, the first principles are often not hardwired in the same way.  Or the people who did have them hardwired, have moved on.

So, we often start again from scratch.  Sometimes that will work, but a lot of the time it won’t.  Or it won’t work as well as it could do.

So, what are some of the first principles that apply to the kind of activities we do?

Signage & Sub Category Navigation.  We often have lots of great ideas about how to get shoppers to buy from different parts of a category, buy more than one product, or buy a higher priced product.  Yet a lot of categories have little, or no, sub category signage.  There is nothing to direct the shopper.  The natural thing for the shopper to do is to go where they normally go and buy what they normally buy.  First Principle = if you want shoppers to shop different parts of the category, clearly signpost them.

Shelf Layouts & Merchandising.  A lot of time, money and effort is spent on analysing shopper decision hierarchies.  What decisions are, supposedly, made in what order? However, these typically lead to ever more complex ways of laying out categories.  It all makes perfect sense when we explain it in the PowerPoint presentation, but baffles the shopper in store.  They end up spending 30 seconds trying to figure it out, when they could be spending those 30 seconds engaging and buying.  First Principle = make the layout as simple and intuitive as possible.  Is it immediately obvious?

Packaging.   There are lots of beautiful, artistic pack designs being created.  They look fantastic over the meeting table, but are often invisible when they are next to 200 other products on a shelf.  First Principle = stand out and be instantly recognisable at shelf.

We create messages on pack to bring to life the brand proposition and have probably spent a lot of money testing those messages.  Then the message often appears in size 8 font at the bottom of the pack, hidden by the SRP.  First Principle = when you have something important to say, make it visible.

We are not saying don’t be creative.  What we are saying, is that for the creative stuff to work, you have to get the simple stuff right first.  If the shopper doesn’t know where to find your great new product, how are they going to buy it?  If they don’t see your pack on shelf, how are they going to know that you have done something brilliant with the product?

Mastering first principles is key to success in any field.  Do you know what the first principles are for your activities? And have you mastered them?

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