Knowledge Bank Blog, Shopper Communication

Sales vs Awards Mentality

Are you prioritising effectiveness?

Last month the annual Cannes Lions festival took place.

It is marketed as a ‘festival of creativity’.  It is where the great and good of the creative industries get together to give themselves a collective pat on the back.  There are 19 different categories and a lot of awards.  For example, in the ‘Creative Effectiveness’ category there was 1 Grand Prix winner, 5 Gold awards, 7 Silver Awards, 8 Bronze awards and 14 other shortlisted entries.  No wonder the most recent festival lasted 8 days.

We all like winning awards.  Who doesn’t look back fondly on their first swimming badge or first plastic sports trophy?  But, are they all they are cracked up to be?  Do, they reflect the things that really matter?

Well, take football managers as an example.  Each month of the football season the ‘manager of the month’ is awarded to the manager whose team has performed the best or above expectations that month.

Jose Mourinho has won (in England) 3 Premier League titles, 1 FA Cup, 4 League Cups and 1 Europa League.  How many manager of the month awards has he won?  Three.  Contrast that with David Moyes.  He has never won a leading trophy, lasted 9 months at Man United and last season led Sunderland to relegation.  How many manager of the month awards has he won?  Ten.

Would you rather win the awards or the trophies?  Mourino could answer that one pretty quickly.

Why are we talking about this?  Well, we think, the equivalent of the awards vs trophy comparison for our industry is awards vs sales.  And we wonder whether there is too much focus on the former and not enough on the latter.  You can see it in the pack design that could be hung in an art gallery.  Or the tear jerking mood film that no consumer ever sees.  Or the creatively brilliant TV ad that most people don’t link back to the category let alone the brand.

Now, awards and sales shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.  The best activities can deliver both.  However, often they don’t.  Often there can be a tension between what is most creative and what is most effective.  You will not be surprised which of the two we think should take priority.

Creativity every time, right?  Only joking, of course effectiveness is the correct answer.

So, how can you make sure that you have a sales mentality not an awards mentality?

Communicate for Recognition.  This should be the first objective of any communication – pack, POS, digital.  It is key to getting seen in the first place – whether that is on a busy shelf or a busy smartphone screen.  The more you communicate for recognition, the more familiar the visual cues of your brand will be to shoppers.  Meaning the less work the rest of your communication has to do.

To do this you need visual consistency – in communication through the line and over time.  We, in the industry, get bored much quicker than shoppers do.  And creative agencies get bored much quicker than we all do.  Whenever a brand thinks it has problems, the answer seems to be to change things and come up with something new.  But, the right answer is usually to dial up and reinforce what you’ve got.

Be Explicit not just Implicit.  Often the most creative work is based around implicit associations.  They are usually very clever.  However, you often have to be very close to the brand or communication to pick them up.  This is fine for the team working on it that see everything multiple times.  It’s not so good for the shopper who might see the communication once, at a glance, whilst on the move.

We are big fans of ‘telling’ not implying.  It could be telling the shopper what the product is.  Not always obvious.  It could mean telling shoppers where to find a product in store.  Not always obvious.  It definitely means using very simple, everyday language.  Are you going to win an award for doing this?  Unlikely.  Will it drive sales?  Probably.

Develop Scalable Solutions.  We’ve all seen the conference presentation with the great new shelf layout, signage and fixturisation.  They look great.  And they would look great in store if they were implemented in enough of them.  But most aren’t.  The key to any scalable solution is being (a) easy enough to implement (b) cost effective to implement.  When it comes to creativity vs implementation in retail, the latter will always win.

This doesn’t mean you have to develop simple, boring stuff.  It means thinking about different potential solutions.  It means thinking about different levels of solution (e.g. gold, silver, bronze).  It may be that different stores implement different levels of solution.   That is OK.  Often manufacturers rely on one solution – usually gold.  It then becomes a “yes or no” decision on whether to implement.  “No” typically wins.

Ultimately, it shouldn’t be about creativity vs effectiveness.  The two can and should work together.  However, when it comes to choices, never lose the sales mentality.  That is what really matters.

Jose Mourinho is manager of Man United.  David Moyes isn’t.  There is a clue there.

We’re going to take a short break from writing Blogs over the summer, and will be back on 8th September.

For those of you going away, have a great break and speak to you on the 8th.