Thinking Differently


A blind boy sat on the steps of a building. He had a hat by his feet and a sign that said “I am blind. Please help.”


There were only a few coins in the hat.


A man walked up. He dropped a few coins in the hat. Then he took the sign, turned it around and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone walking by would see the new words. Then he walked away.


Soon the hat began to fill up with coins. More and more people were giving money to the blind boy.


That afternoon the man who changed the sign came back.


The boy recognised his footsteps and asked, “were you the person who changed my sign this morning?”


The man said, “yes.”


The boy asked, “what did you write?”


The man replied, “I said what you said but in a different way.”


What he had written was ‘today is a beautiful day and I cannot see it.’


Why are we talking about this? Well, when you are in the thick of things it can be hard to take a step back and think differently. You think you will take a step back when you have finished annual planning. But then you are into next year’s planning cycle. You think you will take a step back when this quarter is over. But then you are into next quarter.


You keep on keeping on. Doing the things that you’ve always done. Doing them in the way that you’ve always done them.


They are all important things. You need your category strategy. You need to launch innovation. You need a promotional plan. What you need to do doesn’t change (the blind boy still wants help). But how you go about doing it often does (changing what is written on the sign).


So, over the next few weeks, we’re going to be talking about how to think differently about some of the key things you do…


THINKING DIFFERENTLY about how to grow categories.


These are things we often see…


Category growth and brand growth is often seen as an OR choice. Do we do something that will grow the category or something to help us win share? Instead, it should be seen as an AND choice. What are the things we can do to grow the category AND win share?


Too often an inside out approach is followed. Looking at opportunities through the lens of your portfolio and what you can currently do. Instead, an outside in approach should be followed. Looking at wider opportunities for the category and then what you could do to go after them.


Too much focus is on managing value in a category. Net revenue management activities to deliver short term growth. Instead, there should be more focus on driving shopper behaviour change. Activities that drive sustainable, behaviour led growth.


THINKING DIFFERENTLY about how to sell categories.


These are things we often see…


There is too much importance placed on what to sell. Meaning most innovation is about new products. Instead, more importance should be placed on how to sell. Meaning more innovation is about new selling solutions and ways of selling


Often very different parts of a category are sold in the same way. Look down most aisles and you see little differentiation. Instead, different parts of a category should be sold in different ways. Look down an aisle and you should see differentiated selling.


There is too much focus on shopping missions (why shoppers go to a store). It’s relevant at a store level not a category level. Instead, there should be more focus on shopping modes (how shoppers behave in different parts of a store). It’s relevant at a category level.


THINKING DIFFERENTLY about launching new products.


These are things we often see…


There is too much focus on the consumer. Testing lots of concepts in artificial environments. Instead, more focus should be on the shopper. Doing the things that will influence the person who is making a quick choice about what to buy.


New product launches are too reliant on a very short launch window. Often a 3-4 week burst of activity. Instead, you need to extend the launch window. Giving new products the time to succeed.


There is too much importance placed on trial. Getting shoppers to buy a product for the first time. Instead, more importance needs to be placed on repeat. Getting shoppers to build the habit of buying.


THINKING DIFFERENTLY about shopper communication.


These are things we often see…


Priority is given to saying something new and different. Different messages for different campaigns and touchpoints. Instead, priority should be given to consistency. Consistency of communication over time and across touchpoints.


Many brands deliver complexity. Saying too many things and using too many words. Instead, they should deliver simplicity. Saying fewer things using fewer words.


There is too much focus on measurement. Trying to measure things (e.g. different POS touchpoints) that are difficult to isolate and measure. Instead, there should be more focus on effectiveness. Doing the things that you know are going to impact shoppers.


We’re all trying to do the same things. But how we do them is what makes the difference.


We just need to re-write the sign.


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