Getting Distracted By Distractions

Are you focused on the right battles?

How many times a day do you check your mobile phone?

Apparently, the average smartphone owner engages in 76 sessions (i.e. picks it up, uses it, puts it down) a day. These sessions lead to an average of 2,617 touches (clicks, swipes) a day.

How many of you, when you are working on something, and see an email come in, ignore it and carry on working? Not many, we’d guess. And even if you do succeed in ignoring it initially, it will likely play on your mind. You spend the next few minutes trying to stop yourself from opening it. Until…you open it.

Maya Angelou, the poet and author, had a specific way of dealing with potential distraction – which started well before email and smartphones. In every town in which she lived she rented a hotel room for a few months of the year. She insisted on removing everything from the room apart from the bed, a table and chair, a thesaurus, dictionary and bible.

Every morning she would leave her house at 6am, arrive at the hotel and start working by 6.30am. She would work until around 1pm then return home. She would do the same the next day. Then, every day until she had completed the project.

You can’t be distracted if there is nothing there to distract you.

Why are we talking about this? Well, we think there is a lot of distraction in our industry. Particularly, the distraction of “new”. Many manufacturers are very NPD driven. If you ask them what are the big things they are trying to do next year, many will reel off a set of new products. Many of which will be line extensions rather than genuine innovation. Things that use lots of time, resource and energy but often barely make a ripple when they are launched.

Working on this peripheral NPD can distract from where the real battles are. For instance, many brand leaders are being challenged at the moment – by smaller, disruptive entrants, tertiary brands in discounters or retailer own label. These brands are not challenging around the edges. They are not fighting a battle against line extensions. They are fighting a battle against the core.

To win this battle, brand leaders need to protect and strengthen their core. So, how can you do this?

Build and reinforce long term brand associations. Let’s take the Unilever brand Lifebuoy (mostly present outside the UK) as an example. Lifebuoy has focused on one of the simplest, yet most important ways, to promote hygiene – hand washing. In fact they have driven one of the largest hand washing behaviour change programmes in the world. So far, they estimate they have reached 379 million people across 29 countries. Studies show that hand washing incidence has increased from 53% pre intervention to 75% post.

Lifebuoy are still doing it. They haven’t thought, OK that’s the hand washing campaign done, what next? This is a long-term behaviour change that takes time to succeed and they want their brand at the front of it. You know if you join the Lifebuoy team you are not going to be working on a new fragrance variant. You are going to be working on hand washing programmes.

Deliver the right core innovation. Let’s take Heinz beans in Australia as an example. Heinz is launching 4 new can sizes – ‘The Lil’ One’, ‘The One for One’, ‘The One for Two’ and ‘The One for All’. The Heinz name has been taken off the cans to be replaced by these new names. There is a big supporting campaign, based around the animated inventor of the new cans ‘Geoff’.

The pack size ‘innovation’ was probably based around a very simple insight – different sizes for different usage occasions. It is this type of insight that should be driving innovation effort. Not “what flavour can we produce next”, but “how do we make our product relevant to all usage occasions?” As the Heinz ad agency said, in a way that only Aussies can, “this activity is going to sell a hell of a lot of beans”.

Follow the ‘choose me or lose me’ principle. Take the latest Walkers campaign as an example. They are pitting 3 classic flavours against 3 flavours from around the world. For example, salt & vinegar is taking on lime & black pepper. Shoppers are then asked to vote for their favourite. The winning product stays in the range or replaces the other in the range.

Firstly, this is a great piece of activation around the core Walkers brand. But, secondly, it plays to a wider point. Shoppers give you regular feedback on the products that matter – through what they buy. They don’t buy much of the peripheral stuff. If they did, it wouldn’t be peripheral. So, you should focus your attention – time, energy, resources – on the stuff that sells. Not on the stuff that doesn’t sell.

Winning in the current market is about fighting the right battles, with the right ammunition – your heavy artillery. Don’t let distractions get in the way.

Mind you, the guy who has just walked into the coffee shop wearing bright orange shorts, a grey linen jacket and a yellow cravat is testing me. Sometimes, you’ve just got to look, right?

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

© 2020 by Insight Traction