Knowledge Bank Blog, Pricing & Promotions, Shopper Communication, Channel Execution

The Power of Simple Rules

Are you using simple rules to direct your activities?

What constitutes a healthy diet? Is salt bad? Or is too much salt bad? Is Pasta OK when it is whole wheat but bad when it is white? What about bread?

It’s not easy figuring it out. And if we analysed everything that we eat, we’d probably never be able to make a decision. And we all need to eat, right?

So, how do you cut through the noise? Well, University of California professor Michael Pollan distilled his nutritional insights into 3 simple rules (1) eat food (2) not too much (3) mostly plants.

‘Food’ = real food. So, fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, meat, fish. ‘Not too much’ = don’t over eat. ‘Mostly plants’ = make the majority of your food plant based. These 3 rules are directive. They provide clear guidance on what to do. But they are not prescriptive. For instance, he doesn’t specify whether you should eat blueberries or grapes, spinach or broccoli. You are free to choose as long as you keep to the core rules.

This approach can be applied to lots of areas of life. Want to get fit? (1) go to the gym 3 times a week (2) go at the same time of the day (3) cardio first, strength second. Directive, but not prescriptive – you choose which days, what time, which exercises.

Why are we talking about this? Well most companies have more information than they have ever had before. In theory, all this information is a good thing. But in practice, it can often confuse. And when something confuses, one of two things usually happens (1) we don’t do anything or (2) we do the wrong thing.

For information to be useful, it needs to be turned into knowledge. For knowledge to be useful, it needs to be turned into action. And a great way to do this is through simple rules – things that direct the decisions that you make.

So, what types of simple rules could be applied in our industry?

Deciding where to play (e.g. which categories).   How about (1) only go into growing categories (2) where there are no dominant players (3) where you can deliver a differentiated product.

Tick these 3 boxes? Go after the opportunity. Don’t tick these boxes? Don’t.

Identifying how to win in a meal occasion – for instance, breakfast.   How about (1) maximum 2 minutes preparation time (2) no washing up (3) can be eaten standing up.

Tick these boxes? You’ve got more chance of a winning breakfast product.

Making promotions more effective. How about (1) don’t go below x% discount (2) only promote if you get feature space (3) promote larger packs not smaller ones.

Tick these boxes? You are likely to have more impactful and efficient promotions.

Developing clear and compelling messages in store. How about (1) be easy to read (2) use short words (3) communicate the key benefit.

Tick these boxes? You will have consistently powerful messages.

These rules need to be simple not simplistic. They need to direct but not dictate. They need to be objective – so you can measure whether you are delivering against them. And they need to be memorable – so the right people know and can apply them.

If you haven’t got them, you might need them. If you have got them, make sure people are following them.

Simple, right?

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