The New Normal

Last week Hurricane Dorian ripped through the northern Bahamas.  Winds of up to 200mph and huge storm surges devastated lives and properties.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Dorian created another storm.  One that continues to rage in the USA.  Well, Dorian didn’t create the storm.  Donald Trump did.  This is what happened…

On Sunday September 1st Trump warned Alabama that they would “most likely be hit” by Dorian.

About an hour later the NOAA (weather centre) tweeted “Alabama will NOT see any impact from #Dorian” saying the storm would remain too far east to affect the state.  This was correct.

All Trump needed to do was acknowledge that he misspoke or was relying on outdated weather forecasts.  Offer any excuse, really.  But he didn’t.

A few days later (in the Oval Office) Trump displayed a map to reporters on which someone had drawn an additional circle on the map with a black sharpie (seriously…see picture above) indicating Alabama would be hit.  Alabama was still not hit.

During all this time the NOAA told employees not to contradict Trump.  So, in effect they instructed their weather forecasters to incorrectly report the weather forecast.  Even though their job is to…forecast the weather.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Matt Chorley, a journalist for The Times, has coined a phrase to describe all the crazy things that have been going on in the world “This. Is. Not. Normal.”  However, the more these things happen, the more we become used to it.  “This. Is. Not. Normal” becomes “This. Is. Normal”.

We are living a world of New Normals.

Why are we talking about this?  Like many industries, the FMCG and retail industry is experiencing a lot of change.

We see changes in eating habits – we’re all vegans now, right?  We see changes in drinking habits – we all drink gin & tonic and funky craft beers now, right?  We see changes in shopping habits – most of you will have shopped in a Discounter recently, right?  We see changes in attitudes – you might have stopped buying single use plastic bottles or at least feel guilty when you do use them, right?

These changes are things that you will all be experiencing on a day to day basis.  But it is only when you take a step back that you properly realise how much things have changed.  Things that weren’t normal are now normal.

We’re calling these things “The New Normals”.  We are going to write about some of them in the coming weeks, but we thought we’d give you some headlines now.

So, what are some of these “New Normals”?

Sustainability.  The Old Normal = sustainability was something that a small group of eco warriors cared about.  The New Normal = sustainability is something that most (not all) people care about.  Each generation cares most than the last.  Sustainability has gone from being a nice to do to a must do.

InnovationThe Old Normal = no matter what the question, ‘product’ was the answer.  Companies were set up (still are) to deliver new products.  The New Normal = ‘product’ isn’t always the answer.  There is a broader definition of innovation that goes beyond products.  Innovation in how you communicate.  Innovation in how you sell.

PromotionsThe Old Normal = promotions were a reward for shoppers.  They were something brands did occasionally to drive demand and attract new buyers.  The New Normal = promotions are expected.  By shoppers.  By retailers.  By brands who worry they can’t sell at base price.  Everyone knows they need to get off the promotional drug.  But they are hooked.

Brand LandscapeThe Old Normal = you knew who your main competitor was.  If you were Coke, then Pepsi were the enemy.  Win that battle and you win the war.  The New Normal = you are facing competition from all angles.  Within a category and across categories.  There are many battles to win before you win the war.

Category LandscapeThe Old Normal = categories were pretty simple.  Tea was about hot black tea.  You could focus on making black tea designed to be drunk hot.  The New Normal = there are different parts to categories.  The old and the new.  If you are in tea you are thinking beyond black tea.  Beyond hot.  You need to have one foot in the old.  One foot in the new.

Channel LandscapeThe Old Normal = the core channel was the growth channel.   Win in supermarkets and you won in the market.  The New Normal = the non-core channels are the growth channels.  Winning in Discounters, eCommerce, specialists, food to go channels is how you will win in the market.

Speed & AgilityThe Old Normal = you could move slowly.  Consider something in next year’s planning process.  Spend 2 years developing a new product.  The New Normal = you have to move at pace.  You have to adapt plans as you go.  You have to make things succeed quickly.  The competition won’t wait.  Retailers won’t wait.  The market won’t wait.

We’ve served up a lot of challenges.  Don’t get too depressed.  There are answers.  We will share some of these in upcoming blogs.

In the meantime, we’re off to see what crazy s**t has been happening in the world whilst we’ve been writing this…

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

We are an FMCG strategy consultancy. We help companies win with shoppers & retailers in 4 main ways – Category Strategy, Channel Strategy, Shopper Marketing Strategy and Retailer Engagement.