Knowledge Bank Blog, Range & Portfolio, Shopper Communication

The Perfect Combination

Last Sunday the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 to win the Superbowl.

The win was masterminded by one of the most successful sporting combinations of all time – Bill Belichick (Head Coach) and Tom Brady (Quarterback).

The pair have been together for 18 years.  During this time the Patriots have appeared in 9 Superbowls and won 6 of them.  They have appeared in 8 straight AFC championships (the winners of the AFC & NFC championships contest the Superbowl).  They are the only team to have gone through a 16 game regular season undefeated.

In a sport where things like the Draft help to level the playing field, this is extraordinary.

Would Belichick have had this success without Brady?  Would Brady have had this success without Belichick?  Very unlikely.  The combination has been the key to success.

Why are we talking about this?  Combinations are important in the FMCG industry.  Would Fever Tree have been so successful without the rise of Gin?  Would Gin have been as successful without the rise of Fever Tree?  It is the combination that accelerated the growth in Gin and in Mixers.

This makes sense.  It is rare that products are used in isolation.  It would be an odd conversation that went…”What’s for dinner?”, “Chicken”, “Chicken with what?”, “Nothing, just chicken”.  Shoppers are looking for solutions, not just products.

The right combinations are key to selling more.  They often get shoppers to buy something that they wouldn’t necessarily have bought.  For instance, “would you like fries with that?” is said to be the most profitable line in the English language.  It can often be easier to sell the next thing, once someone has bought the first thing.

So, how can you use combination selling to sell more?

Identify the combination.  What are the occasions or products that you want to attach yourself to?  It might be a meal occasion – e.g. breakfast or lunch.  It might be a type of meal occasion – e.g. healthy breakfast.  To find the right occasion you need to think about size and relevance.  Size = is it big enough to go after?  Relevance = how strong a fit is our product to that occasion?  What type of product (pack size, format, price point) will make us most relevant?

Or it might be a product – something that is, or could be used, with your product – we call these “best friends”.  Best friends may change over time.  For instance, tea and biscuits have traditionally been best friends.  A standard brew with something like a digestive.  But consumption habits are changing.  More people are drinking coffee.  More people are drinking green and herbal teas.  Healthier biscuits and snacks are growing.  Your best friends in the future may not be the ones you had in the past.  Sad…but we all have to move on.

Spell out the combination.  Tell shoppers what the combination is – don’t assume they will make the connection.  This is key to driving behaviour change.  If you are trying to drive the pre shave/shave/post shave regime, you need to tell people what to do, in what order.  If you are a drinks company trying to drive a ‘perfect serve’, tell shoppers what they need and how to do it.

Two things are important when spelling things out.  Firstly, don’t over-explain.  Often retailers and brands try so hard to make things clear, they end up over-explaining, which makes things even less clear.  Communicate as simply as possible.  Secondly, make the communication visible.  Don’t rely on a shopper reading the “try with X” communication on the back of pack.  Most shoppers won’t get that far.  If something is worth saying, prioritise it on front of pack or on shelf-ready packaging.

Think where & when.  Your chances of influencing shoppers will vary depending on where and when you do things.  Where could be the type of stores which have the best fit with the behaviour you are trying to drive.  For instance, if you are trying to sell a beer and snack combination, you will have a much better chance in convenience store – where shoppers are buying for immediate consumption – than in a big supermarket where shoppers are buying big packs for future consumption.

When could be about time of year.  The big G&T push is not a great fit right now.  The Tissue & Cold remedy is.  When can also mean at which point on the shopper journey.  When are shoppers most open to influence?  It might be a snack or trial size beauty product whilst waiting in the queue at Boots.  It’s probably not going to be a big slab of chocolate at the WHSmith checkout.

Sales are challenging at the moment.  So, have a think about who can help you.

The Brady to your Belichick.

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

On a separate note, our latest article for The Grocer magazine: “The Secret of Aldi’s Success” is published tomorrow.  You can also view it on our website…