Knowledge Bank Blog, Category Strategy

Category Strategy: 4 Things To Think About – No. 4

Category Strategies are not heard by stakeholders.

This is the last in a series of four articles (and accompanying videos), highlighting key issues and opportunities for Category Strategy.

Here’s an exercise for those of you in FMCG companies.  Ask your Chief Exec or Sales Director if they’d mind talking you through what they see as the key points of your Category Strategy.

If they can do it, take this week off.  If not, read on.

Clients often tell us that cut-through is their biggest challenge with Category Strategy.  They have good thinking on how to grow the Category, but struggle to get it heard by stakeholders.

It isn’t surprising when you think with some empathy about these stakeholders. They are typically people inundated with information and ideas, 24/7.  Strategies, suggestions, instructions, requests, PowerPoints.  How do you cut through all that other competing noise, so that your strategy is heard, and makes a difference?

There are four things to think about.

First, think like a tabloid.  Tabloids make the complex simple.  You need to make the Strategy simple.  To be able to express it in simple headlines, on demand, without missing a beat.  If you can’t, it isn’t simple enough.  “Arouse, Educate, Satisfy” – the bold headline of an Exotic Fruit Strategy we worked on recently.

Second, make it compelling via carefully selected words, visuals and numbers.  Words.  Don’t say “we have lots of products with consumer appeal but low awareness”.  Say “we have lots of unexploded bombs”Visuals.  Not loads of clip art and icons. But a few well-chosen images, used to increase understanding of what you mean.  Photos of products or stores, demonstrating something done well or badly.  Numbers. One or two knockout numbers, not a sea of them.  We saw a Strategy focussed on driving Sensitive Toothpaste.  Predicated on two numbers.  The % of those suffering Sensitive Teeth who were aware that they suffered from it.  And the % of that group, prepared to pay a premium for a toothpaste that helped.  Two numbers were enough.

Thirdly, give it commercial edge.  We don’t mean sales opportunity numbers against every element of the plan.  These are often based on very broad assumptions, and can lessen credibility.  We mean Strategy that a commercially minded person will quickly see real advantage and incentive in.

Finally, be repetitive.  Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has a mantra – “start with the customer and work backwards”.  Those who spend a lot of time near him can hardly bear to hear him say it AGAIN.  But he keeps doing it.  To you and your team, talking about your Category Strategy may feel repetitive.  To your stakeholders, many of whom are a lot less close to the category, it will feel consistent, credible and helpful.  If you are continually rooting what you say in the same simple Category Strategy, the same few key ideas, it will help you are get somewhere.

So think like a tabloid, use compelling words, visuals and numbers, give it commercial edge and be repetitive.  That way you can get cut through, and get the right people on board.

In the last four weeks, we’ve talked about four issues that can occur with Category Strategy.  Too presumptuous – not enough focus on Role.  Too complicated – not simple and directive enough.  Too generic – not enough sub category differentiation.  Too forgettable – not enough cut through.

If you recognise any of these issues, perhaps we can help you overcome them?  Do get in touch.