Category Strategy, Knowledge Bank Blog

The Need for Dynamic Strategy

How many of you have watched Breaking Bad?

It is the second highest rated TV show ever on IMdb at 9.4 (behind Chernobyl at 9.6). It is rated higher than the highest ever rated film – The Shawshank Redemption (9.2).

It tells the story of Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston). Walter is a high school chemistry teacher.

The series begins on Walter’s 50th birthday when he is diagnosed with Stage IIIA lung cancer. After this discovery Walter reapplies his chemistry skills to manufacturing methamphetamine to ensure his family’s financial security after his death.

As the story progresses, Walter gets pulled deeper into the illicit drug trade. He becomes more and more ruthless. He later adopts the alias “Heisenberg” which becomes recognisable as the kingpin figure of the local drug trade.

Vince Gilligan, the creator and writer of Breaking Bad, said that they set up Walter’s character so that “He’s going from protagonist to antagonist. We want to make people question who they are pulling for and why”.

Walter White is an example of a ‘dynamic character’. This is a character who undergoes significant change through the course of a story. It contrasts with a ‘static character’. Someone who remains largely the same through a story.

A series about a static character – the law-abiding chemistry teacher – wouldn’t have become one of the best TV shows ever made.

It is the story of dynamic characters that we are drawn to.

Why are we talking about this? We are living in a dynamic time. A lot has changed in the world. A lot has changed in the FMCG and retail world.

Just take eCommerce as an example. Online now accounts for a 13% share of the total grocery market – up from 7% last year. Tesco is expected to have £5.5bn in online sales this year compared to £3.3bn last year. In the US, online grocery penetration increased by the same amount in 10 weeks as it did in the previous 10 years.

A lot in our world has changed. A lot is still changing. A lot will change. As the environment changes, strategies will need to change. They will need to adapt and become more dynamic.

So, what are some of the things that strategies will need to adapt to?

Changing Routines. A lot of the things we do in life are driven by routine. Getting ready for work in the morning. Getting a coffee on the way to work. Grabbing a sandwich at lunch. However, a lot of these routines have changed. Some (many?) of these changes in routine will be more permanent.

This means that if you are in Personal Care, there will be current usage occasions (make up, hair care, deodorant…) you will need to protect. On the flipside there will be new usage occasions to go after (washing & showering, hand & skin care). If you are in food, there will be usage occasions to protect (e.g. on the go). There will be usage occasions to go after (at home breakfast, lunch and snacking). If you are in alcohol there will be usage occasions to protect (on trade). There will be usage occasions to go after (zoom cocktails).

Changing Behaviours. There are changing primary behaviours and changing secondary behaviours. More handwashing is an example of a changing primary behaviour. If you wash your hands more, they will get drier. Using hand cream is an example of a changing secondary behaviour. Sometimes it’s the primary behaviour that is the opportunity for a category or brand. Sometimes it’s the secondary behaviour. Sometimes it’s both.

You can also think of changes in shopping behaviour through the primary and secondary lens. If eCommerce share has almost doubled, that is a primary behaviour to adapt to. This is also likely to lead to more ‘in between’ shopping trips. Smaller, top up trips in more convenience driven or local stores. A secondary behaviour to adapt to.

Changing Attitudes. One of the most obvious changes in the last 3-4 months has been a heightened awareness of hygiene. Sales of hygiene related products have rocketed. There hasn’t been the same change in the sales of healthier (food & drink) products. But this may come. It might come from changing consumer attitudes. It might come through government interventions. Either way, you need to be ready.

The pandemic is also accelerating attitudes that had been changing pre Covid. Sustainability is an example. Surveys show that many people think that the environment is as big a threat to the world as the virus. There are lots of good things companies are doing in this area. But reducing the amount of plastic in packaging is just the start. Retailers will become more demanding. Shoppers will become more demanding. Sustainability will become more of a reason to buy a product. It will also become a reason not to buy a product.

So, ask yourself…are your (category, channel, portfolio, brand) strategies static or dynamic?

Dynamic times call for dynamic strategies.

As Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher said, “the only thing that is constant is change”.

Feel free to forward. Have a good weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.