Knowledge Bank Blog, New Product Launches, Pricing & Promotions, Shopper Communication

Punching Above Your Weight

Do your activities have enough impact?

What is the strongest animal on the planet?

Blue Whale?  Elephant?  Gorilla?

Yes, these are all very strong animals.  For instance, a gorilla can lift 2000kg – equivalent to lifting about 30 humans.

However, we’re not talking about brute strength, we are talking about strength relative to body weight.  And animals like the gorilla or elephant don’t come close to the strongest animal on the planet – the humble dung beetle.

The dung beetle can pull 1,141 times their body weight.  This is equivalent to the average human pulling 6 double decker buses full of people.  In a single night a dung beetle can bury dung 250 times heavier than itself.

There you go – a free fact for you to use next time the subject of dung beetles comes up at the dinner party table.

So, why are we talking about dung beetles?  Well, we’re not really.  We are talking about strength – strength relative to size.  Bigger is not always better.  More is not always more effective.  In fact bigger and more can often be less effective.

We think that one of the big lessons in retail over recent years is that the harder you try to sell, often the less you actually sell.

We’ve seen this with range – the sales from additional SKU listings have not been enough to offset the sales lost by creating over ranged shelves and a more complicated shopping experience.  We’ve seen it with promotions – lots of deals, lots of different mechanics that confuse shoppers and lead to lower sales uplifts with every additional promotion.  So, it is no surprise that as the big grocery retailers have scaled back on some of this, their results have started to improve.

Cutting through with shoppers is not about volume of activities.  It is about impact of activities.  Doing things that punch above their weight.

So, what types of things do we mean?

Designing for maximum impact.  This means designing for strong brand blocks at shelf.  It means crystal clear variant identification within these.  It means putting less on front of pack.  Less facings of a brand with strong design impact is better than more facings of a brand with weak design impact.

We think it is interesting, perhaps telling, that some of the best shopper driven pack designs come from retailer own label ranges – who design for simplicity and consistency.  Or they come from new, emerging brands – who don’t have the history, shelf space or advertising budgets, so they live or die by their ability to stand out on shelf.

Launching NPD with maximum impact.  Outside of the big brand launches, too much NPD slips onto shelf unnoticed.  A tiny ‘new’ on pack or a standard ‘new’ shelf barker is not enough.

A supermarket lists many more new products each year than a drugstore like Boots or Superdrug.  But if you walked around the stores you might think the opposite.  In a Boots or Superdrug NPD is really brought to life.  It is prompting the shopper to engage with it and trial.  Yes, Health & Beauty lends itself to this, but why can’t something similar be done with food?

If new products are worth listing, then they are worth drawing shopper attention to.

Promoting for maximum impact.  Generally, we are seeing a move towards clearer promotional mechanics and communication in stores.  However, one area that isn’t becoming clearer is gondola ends.  We have seen a big move from solus ends (1 brand on the display) to shared ends (multiple brands and product types).  Some chilled ends can have up to 8 or 9 different products on promotion.

Many of these shared ends have products with different promoted prices.  Many of them have unclear labelling.  It might seem good commercial sense for retailers, but it is reducing the impact on shoppers and is likely to be confusing many of them.

Messaging for maximum impact.  We still see way too much generic messaging in stores.  For example, hundreds of pieces of POS that say ‘low prices’.  Or things that say ‘try me’ or ‘improved’ or ‘best ever’.  Anyone can say this.

To cut through with shoppers you need to have something different to say – something that your competitors can’t say.  Not saying it in 5 different places in store (if you are a brand) or 50 different places in store (if you are a retailer).  But saying it in the most relevant place(s).  Where the message is most likely to impact, and resonate with, the shopper.

In most things in life it is not about how much you do, but how effectively you do it.  Bigger isn’t always better.

Just ask the dung beetle.

On a separate note, our monthly article in The Grocer goes out in tomorrow’s edition .  There is a link to it on our website…