Knowledge Bank Blog, New Product Launches, Pricing & Promotions, Shopper Communication

Breaking the Script

Are you doing things differently enough?

Think about the last time you experienced really great service. What made it memorable?

It was unlikely that the person was just polite or efficient. They probably were, but that doesn’t make it memorable. Polite and efficient service happens quite a lot.

It was probably because something different or unexpected happened. Something that surprised and delighted you. Great service is about doing what you always do, well. But, it is really about doing unexpected (positive!) things.

Here is an example for you.

A young boy had been on holiday with his family in Florida. He arrived back home and realised he had accidentally left behind Joshie, his beloved stuffed giraffe. There was no sleeping without Joshie. So, his dad, Chris, assessed his options and decided he’d better start lying to his son. He said “Joshie is fine. He’s just taking an extra long holiday at the resort”. His son seemed to buy it and drifted off to sleep.

Later that night a Ritz Carlton employee phoned Chris to say that Joshie had been found. So, Chris asked them to do him a favour. He told them what he’d told his son and asked if someone could take a picture of Joshie on a sun lounger by the pool to show he’d been holidaying.

A few days later Joshie arrived home – along with a binder of pictures. One showed Joshie lounging by the pool. Another showed him driving a golfcart. Another showed him getting a massage in the spa with cucumber over his eyes. And so on. Chris and his son were delighted.

What would typically happen? Joshie would probably have been returned in a parcel through the post (if at all). Instead someone at the Ritz Carlton spent time setting up – “get some cucumber slices for his eyes” – and taking pictures, so they could please guests who had checked out and gone home.

Why are we talking about this? Well, one of the advantages of the FMCG and grocery retail industry is that shoppers visit our stores and buy our categories regularly. Many FMCG products are pretty essential purchases. You don’t want to be too long without toothpaste, bread, or maybe for some of you, chocolate and wine. This is a good thing.

However, this familiarity can often lead to habitual or autopilot behaviour. Shoppers walk down the aisle expecting to see the same things set up in the same way. So, they often buy what they always buy or whichever product is on deal.

Many of the things the industry does, reinforce this behaviour. There are a lot of promotions, most of a similar type. There is a lot of NPD, most launched in a similar way. There is a lot of range in many categories, all sold in a similar way. If the same things are being done in the same way, why should shoppers break out of the autopilot?

To change shopper behaviour you need to do things in a different way. You need to break the script.

So, how can you do this?

Break the promotional script. Think beyond standard price cuts. Anyone can do them. Shoppers will buy you, of course, but you will be one of 10-20 other products being bought on deal in that trip. Incentivise shoppers, but do it in a different, less traditional, way. Waitrose ‘Pick Your Own Offers’ or Walkers ‘Choose Me or Lose Me’ are examples of breaking the promotional script.

Break the communication script. Don’t just be another voice saying similar things in a similar way. Say different things in different ways to your competitors. Things that are true to your brand positioning. A good example is in Tonics and Mixers. See Fever Tree communication as a challenger brand. And how Schweppes are responding as the established brand.

Break the usage script. Think about different ways for consumers to use your products. Move beyond traditional usage occasions. If you are a drink, it could be new and different serves. Think spirits. If you are a food it could be new recipe ideas. Think Sainsbury’s ‘Little Twists’. It could be new occasions. Think breakfast biscuits.

Break the launch script. Too much NPD follows a standard approach built around a short launch window. What if you did things differently? A pre launch to shoppers – Toni & Guy marked out their shelf space in Tesco before launch. What if you had more frequent and shorter bursts of communication – weeks 1 & 2, weeks 5 & 6, weeks 9 & 10? Don’t limit creativity to the new product, build it into the launch plan.

Break the design script. Think about POS design. Walk around the main UK supermarkets and you will see pretty standard signage. Go to Wholefoods and you will see chalkboards and aisle signage with a finger pointing you down the aisle. Think about pack design. Crisps always came in bags, until Pringles put them in tubes. Sauces were designed for pouring until they were designed for squeezing.

The script in many categories is implicit. You might not even realise you are following it. But, by implicitly following it, you often reinforce the shopper behaviour you are trying to change.

So, step back. Identify what the script in your category is. Then think about the ways in which you can break it.

Do what is unexpected. Like pictures of Joshie, lounging by the pool.

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