Shortcuts to Success

Are you giving shoppers the right mental shortcuts?

How many of you speak more than one language?

For those of you who speak more than one – a hat tip.  For those of you who speak multiple languages – an even bigger hat tip.

However, when you think about it, we all speak a number of languages.  It’s just that we don’t think of them as languages.

For instance, we can all communicate through sign language.  We all know a raised middle finger means “please go elsewhere” or words to that effect. We all know a roll of the eyes means “here we go again”.  We all know a big gulp means “oh s**t, what have I done”.

We are now all (well most of us…) speaking the universal language of emojis.  How did we ever live without the crying with laughter, monkey with its hands over its eyes, or smiling poop emojis?

These ‘languages” are mental shortcuts that we use.  They help us deal with complexity and make our lives easier.  Imagine trying to drive without the mental shortcuts we get from traffic lights, brake lights or indicators.  There would be chaos on the roads.

So, why are we talking about this?  Well, mental shortcuts also exist in the retail world.  A grocery store is one of the most complex visual environments that you can put anyone in.  There are thousands of products, shelf edge labels, promotional and POS communication.  The only way for a shopper to deal with this complexity is to use mental shortcuts.  Shortcuts make the task much easier.

This is important because, for retailers and brands, being easier is a competitive advantage.  Two of the biggest disruptors in the UK retail market recently have been the Discounters and Amazon.  One of the most successful brand stories over the last 10 years has been Innocent.  These companies have done many things right.  But one of the biggest is making things easier for shoppers.  They use the right mental shortcuts.

So, how can you use mental shortcuts to make things easier for shoppers and sell more?

Visual Shortcuts.  This is all about recognition.  What is the one key visual shortcut by which you want shoppers to recognize you?  This sounds like a really obvious question.  But it is surprising how often brand teams struggle to answer it.  Back in our Unilever days, we were in a meeting with the leadership team for a global brand.  We asked the group that question.  The first 4 people who spoke all gave a different answer.  Four different answers.  A billion-dollar brand.

If you don’t know what the key visual shortcut is, how can you make it crystal clear on pack?  How can you make it crystal clear in all communication through the line?  To use Innocent as an example – the halo icon is the visual shortcut.  You could probably all draw a version of it now.  It is a visual that works for the shopper – it is very recognisable.  But, it also works for the consumer – the visual reinforces what the brand is about.  It gives standout and meaning.

Body Language Shortcuts.  Experts say that the majority of human communication is transmitted through body language not words.  The same applies to a store.  For instance, fine wines tend to have different fixtures to regular wines.  To implicitly reinforce quality.  The body language of promotional communication can implicitly signal something is a great deal.  Even if its not.  Packaging is loaded with body language – sometimes explicit, often implicit.  Take a look at Danone Light & Free yoghurt for a great example of the right body language.  In contrast look at the latest fragrance from Moschino.  It has the body language of a household cleaning spray.  Let’s hope it doesn’t smell like one.

To return to Innocent Juice, the body language of each pack reinforces the core proposition.  It is a transparent pack rather than a Tetrapak.  The front of pack design is ultra simple. For the shopper this makes the pack easy to find and understand.  For the consumer the transparency and simplicity reinforce the “Innocent” proposition.

Reason to Buy Shortcuts.  These are 5-7 words (less if you can) on pack that tell a shopper why they should buy your brand.  They are the words that a shopper uses to give them confidence that they are making a good choice.  Why 5-7 words or less?  Firstly, shoppers read very little on a shopping trip.  Secondly, it wouldn’t be a ‘shortcut’ if you had to read a paragraph.  Back to Innocent…their orange juice says “pure squeezed fruit, nothing else”.  The first three words tell the shopper what the product is.  The last two words tell them why it’s good.  It’s easy for the shopper to digest.  It reinforces things for the consumer every time they pick up the pack.

Let’s leave you with a final question…

How good are the mental shortcuts you are using?   Are they…


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

© 2020 by Insight Traction