Knowledge Bank Blog, Range & Portfolio, Shopper Communication

The Importance of Saying “No”

Are you saying “no” to enough things?

Making choices is hard. The more options you have, often the harder it is to decide.  Has the proliferation of TV channels made it easier to find something good to watch or harder?

We all make hundreds of choices a day.  Some are big – shall I buy that new car?  Most are small – what am I going to wear today?  If we thought them all through we’d spend most of our life deciding and very little time doing.

So, we all use a number of shortcuts to help us decide.  We use habits.  What shall I have for breakfast today?  I’ll have what I usually have.  We follow what other people are doing.  What do you want to drink?  I’ll have what you’re having.  We take the easiest option.  Shall I make some lunch to take into work tomorrow?  No, I’ll just grab a sandwich.

One of the key things we do is not make a choice at all.  If you don’t make a choice, then you can’t make the wrong choice, right?  But, it also means that you can’t make the right choice.  Don’t make a choice about saving for a pension now and you might regret it later in life.  A lot.

To make a choice, you have to say “yes” to something.   But to make a proper choice you have to say “no” to something else.  Too many “yes’s”, too few “no’s” means you can quickly become overwhelmed with options.  As Steve Jobs said “it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important”.

Why are we talking about this?  Well, when you don’t make proper choices about your store, category, brands or activities, you can make it much harder for shoppers to make choices.  Retailers have experienced this in recent years.  Say “yes” to lots of new products.  You get range complexity.  Say “yes” to too many promotions.  You get promotion blindness.  Say “yes” to lots of POS campaigns.  You get stores full of cardboard.

All this can overload shoppers.  And shoppers who are overloaded normally do one of two things – just buy what they usually buy or buy whichever product is cheapest or on deal.

So, what are some of the things you can say “no” to?

Range.  In a lot of categories there are too many small, non incremental SKUs.  They are often there because they earn listing fees or manufacturers are trying to protect shelf space.  There is often an argument that they offer ‘new news’ to shoppers.  But, often the only new news for shoppers would be that they are actually there.

It is not just an issue that shoppers may not notice these SKU’s.  The bigger issue is that they can get in the way of shoppers seeing, and therefore buying, the products you most want them to buy.  In most range rationalisation exercises we’ve seen, sales will typically go up and shoppers will say that there is more choice.  Why?  Because they can see what is there more clearly.  It is not about more range, it is about relevant range.  It is not about more space, but effective use of space.

Proposition.  There is always a temptation to roll too many things into a store or brand proposition.  We want to appeal to everyone, so we think we need to have all the features and benefits that different shoppers are looking for.  Cover all bases.  But, if you try to cover all bases, you probably won’t cover any of them very well.  Appealing to everyone often means appealing to nobody in particular.

To get proposition clarity, you sometimes have to say “no” to certain types of shoppers.  You sometimes have to say “no” to certain benefits.  You sometimes have to say “no” to being sold in certain places.  This is even more important if you are managing a portfolio.  If brands (or SKU’s within a brand) don’t have distinct positioning they end up sitting on top of each other.  You can end up competing with yourself rather than the real competition out there.

Pack.  In packaging we regularly see the result of too many “yes’s” and not enough “no’s”.  It is usually due to a lack of prioritisation.   You think lots of things are important so they all go on the front of pack.  But all these elements on the front of pack get in the way of the shopper seeing what is most important.  What you most want them to see.

Great shopper-driven pack design is about directing shoppers to what you want them to see, in the order in which you want things to be seen.  This is partly about what you have on front of pack and partly about what you don’t have.  The best shopper driven designs – Innocent, Bighams, Bonne Maman, Cadbury’s blocks – could have included more elements.  But someone at some point said “no”.

In life you usually get recognised for what you do rather than what you don’t do.  But often what you don’t do is more important.  Steve Jobs again “I’m actually as proud of the things that we haven’t done as the things we have done”.

Just don’t use this at your end of year review.  “So, tell me about all the key things you have done in 2017”.  “How about I tell you about all the key things I haven’t done?”.

Good luck with that one.

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