Magic Numbers


Let’s start with a short quiz…


How many commandments are there?


How many disciples?


How many dwarves with Snow White?


How many bears with Goldilocks?


How many of each animal in Noah’s Ark?


Easy, right? As soon as you read each question the answer was immediately in your head. 10 commandments. 12 disciples. 7 dwarves. 3 bears.


You might even have been singing “the animals went in two by two, hurrah, hurrah” in your head for the last one. If you weren’t you might be now. Sorry.


These are all numbers that we know. That we can recall without thinking. That are so hardwired that if you asked someone “how many dwarves…?” they would instantly say “7.”


Why are we talking about this? There are A LOT of numbers in our industry.


Market size numbers. Market share numbers. Sales numbers. Purchase panel numbers. Usage panel numbers. Segmentation numbers. Brand image numbers. Pricing numbers. Promotion numbers. Numbers are everywhere we look.


Yet most of these numbers are a distraction. They mean we scan the full spreadsheet when we only really need to look at a couple of cells. They mean we have to sit through 30 slides when we only really needed to see 1 slide.


They get in the way of the numbers that really matter. The ones that you really need people to know. The ones that you want them to recall without thinking.


The magic numbers.


So, how can you get people focused on the magic numbers?


Identify the most important numbers. This means filtering data and information. Radically filtering. It means not all the brand image scores just the most important ones. The ones that you want to lead on. The ones that are the biggest predictors of brand preference. It means not all the purchase panel metrics just the most important ones. The ones that are key to driving performance.


It means focusing on the right numbers. So, it could mean focusing as much (more…) on brand growth as brand share. A strong brand is one that is growing more than the competitive set not one that is declining less.


It could means focusing as much (more…) on loyalty as penetration. Most people will know their brand penetration figure. How many know their brand loyalty figure? A high penetration figure isn’t much good if most shoppers only buy you once a year. On deal.


It could mean focusing as much (more…) on repeat as trial for new products. Trial is important but repeat is essential. The graveyard of new products is filled with products that were bought once. Then never again.


Prioritise these numbers in communication. This is about drawing people’s attention to the right numbers. If your biggest hook in a selling story is the headroom for category growth - e.g. X is the biggest consumption occasion YET we only have Y share of it – make X & Y the hero. Tell people what they need to hear, don’t ask them to look through a bunch of bar charts to figure it out.


This is also about consistency and repetition. For instance, if you want people to know that volume on deal is too high – highlight it. Then highlight it again next time. Then again next time. Just because people have heard something once doesn’t mean it has registered. You need to keep telling them.


It also means measurement. If people don’t think the shopper loyalty number is important it won’t get measured. If they think new product success is all about trial, then they will measure trial NOT repeat. What gets measured gets done.


Make these numbers memorable. This is about making the numbers stick in people’s heads. So, they can recognise and recall them without thinking. It might mean turning a number into a simple phrase. For instance, if the key to success of new products is getting bought 3 times in the first year (we think it is) you might say … “3 is the magic number.”


It might be about turning the number into a simple growth ambition. For instance, you might say…our ambition is to get shoppers to buy “one more pack.” If might be about dramatising an issue. For instance, if your shopper loyalty rate is 20% you might say…”£4 out of every £5 our shoppers are spending in the category is with competitors.”


So, 3 simple steps to success. First, identify the most important numbers in your business. Second prioritise them in communication. Third, make them memorable. Then see what happens.


Maybe they will become as memorable as Snow White’s mates.


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