To Defend or Attack?



For the first time in 30 years Liverpool are about to start a defence of the Premier League title.


Except they are not defending it.


Well, not according to their manager Jurgen Klopp. When asked about the prospect of defending their title Klopp said, “we will attack the Premier League title not defend it”.


This mindset is classic Klopp. It fits with the high energy, high intensity style he has brought to the Liverpool team. A style that led to them winning the league by 18 points last season.


His quote also shines a light on the phrase “defend the title”. It is a common description used in sport. The team who currently hold the title are called “the defending champions”. The boxer wins the title. Then in every subsequent fight they are “defending the title “.


If you are ‘defending’ something it implies that you have something to lose. You are trying to keep it. You play more cautiously. Whereas if you are ‘attacking’ something it implies that you have something to gain. You are trying to win. You play more aggressively.


Exactly the same situation. Seen in two different ways. Leads to very different mindsets.


Why are we talking about this? Well, the summer break (if you managed to get one…) is over. Unfortunately, the Covid 19 pandemic isn’t yet. But now we’ve all had the time to understand how the pandemic is changing or accelerating things in our industry.


There are channel shifts. For instance, eCommerce is becoming a key battleground. There are value shifts. For instance, Tesco see price as a key battleground. There are spend shifts. For instance, some out of home spend moved in home. Then some of it moved back out of home. Thanks Rishi.


These are just some of the changes. So, what do you do? Try to protect what you currently have? Or go after new opportunities?


Do you make defensive moves or attacking moves? Here are some examples of what we mean…


Range. Defensive Move = Trying to protect weaker SKUs in range reviews. Attacking Move = Sacrificing weak SKUs in order to back winning SKUs.

The outcome of defensive range reviews is often too many SKUs. Too much duplication between SKUs. Too much complexity at shelf for shoppers. The SKUs that most shoppers don’t buy get in the way of the ones that most shoppers do buy. An attacking range review is more ruthless about which SKUs stay and which go. It removes duplication. It keeps things as simple as possible at shelf for shoppers. It prioritises the SKUs that most shoppers buy.


Innovation. Defensive Move = Launching lots of line extensions. Slightly different versions of products you already have. Attacking Move = Launching into new segments. Developing different products to the ones you currently have.


It is easier to be defensive with new products. Launch a new flavour or variant. Try to protect your current shelf space. Follow your standard launch model. It can work for a while but these are often the products that come under threat 12-18 months down the line. An attacking approach is based on ‘innovation’ not ‘new products’. Things that are genuinely different. Things that you are worried about. Will they work or won’t they? If you are not worried about your next launch, it’s probably not the right one.


Channel. Defensive Move = Dabbling. Doing lots of little things across lots of channels. Attacking Move = Prioritising. Identifying the channels with the most growth potential and focusing resource there.


There are plenty of channel opportunities to go after. That is not the problem. The problem is not being able to choose which ones to prioritise. You spend your time experimenting. Dipping your toe in the Amazon water. Thinking about a trial with Deliveroo. Testing a small Direct to Consumer offering. Resource can be spread too thinly. An attacking approach to channels does experiment. But then it quickly makes decisions about which channels and sub channels to back. The channels that have the best fit with your category and brand. The channels where you have the best chance of winning.


Value. Defensive Move = brands competing on price (base price or promotions). Attacking Move = brands competing & winning on value. Leading on the value your brand delivers.


A choice focused on price means the lowest priced brand or product wins. It means that if you want to win you have to go lower. You are not confident you can win on value so you defend on price. You train shoppers to make decisions based on price. Leading on value means having confidence in your product. Confidence in your proposition. Confidence in your price point. A £3 product that really delivers on what is important (e.g. taste, quality, performance) is better than the £2 product that doesn’t. Most shoppers know that. You need to demonstrate that to shoppers.


We are all very influenced by how choices are framed. Looking at things in one way can lead to one outcome. Looking at things another way can lead to a very different outcome.


To defend or attack?


Do you want to be Mourinho or Klopp?


Feel free to forward. Speak to you in a fortnight.

© 2020 by Insight Traction