One fine morning in 1941, a Swiss engineer called Georges de Mestral took his dog for a walk in the woods.
When de Mestral returned home he noticed that both his trousers and his dog’s fur were covered in burs.
They had both brushed against a burdock plant.
Most people would have just brushed the burs off. But not de Mestral. He decided to get his microscope and study them.
What he saw were thousands of tiny hooks. These hooks efficiently bonded themselves to nearly any fabric (or dog fur) that passed by.
He had an idea. He could take the hooks he had seen in the burs and combine them with simple loops of fabric. The tiny hooks would catch in the loops and things would easily come together.
It would be a new way to fasten things.
De Mestral spent the next 14 years developing the product before introducing it to the world in 1955.
He decided to call the product Velcro.
Why are we talking about this? In our industry we value the new. We value the different. We value the creative.
We think this means blue sky thinking. So, we follow the formula. Get everyone together for a day. Go to a funky meeting location. Grab a freshly ground coffee. Look at the inspirational quotes on the walls. Slide onto a beanbag. Then let the magic happen – out come the ideas that nobody has ever thought of before…
Well… You do come up with some ideas. Everyone is excited. But deep down you know. You know that whilst the ideas made it on to the flip chart, they’re not making it any further. A few months later you’re still going to be doing the same things you’ve always done.
What we fail to realise is that most solutions already exist.
Someone has already thought about it. Someone is already doing it. The key is to find it. Then adapt and apply it for your category or brand.
So, how can you do this?
Think… merchandising solutions. Step away from your purchase decision hierarchies and decision trees. Look at what is out there in other categories. Look at Herbs & Spices. Merchandised by alphabet. Something that is simple and intuitive for shoppers. What could the A-Z equivalent in your category be?
Look at the Lindt Lindor Ball pick and mix solution. Easy to replenish for retailers. Easy (& flexible) for shoppers. Could it be applied to tea bags? Yep. To stock pots & cubes? Yep. To beer? Yep. To toilet rolls? Yep. The list could go on.
Look at Wrigley’s “Got Gum?” secondary display units. Easy to implement. Real standout. Great message prompt. For any snacking category looking for secondary visibility (all of them…) how could you adapt and reapply this for your brand?
Think… solution selling. Most category strategies have a Growth Driver around repertoire and regime. Yet most products that are used together are often sold (& bought) separately. They don’t need to be. Look at meal occasions. There is already the classic lunch meal deal. There are more and more dinner solutions. Why not apply it to breakfast? Why not apply it to snacking – drink + snack deals?
What about if you’re trying to drive regime? Look at Colgate’s “replace, brush, rinse” communication. Even better look at Elastoplast’s “cleanse, protect, heal” units. If they can have a 3 step regime around plasters then there must be opportunities for your category, right?
Think… activation & promotions. More specifically think time limited activities. We know these follow a fundamental psychological principle. Scarcity – the fear of missing out. Look at the Middle of Lidl. It drives footfall – what are they going to have in there this week? It drives sales – if I don’t buy it now, it won’t be here next time. That’s why thousands of shoppers buy an inflatable avocado that they will never ever use.
So, this could mean time limited promotions in a category. Weekend only deals. It could mean promotions on a specific day. We all remember Orange Wednesdays. It could mean limited editions available for a month. One basic idea – time limited activities – lots of different variations on a theme. There is only one rule. Make the time limit genuine. Everyone knows the DFS sale is not ending on Monday.
We tend to think new and different means, “never been done before.”
What we need to think is, “been done before, just not in our category.”
Look outside. Then bring it inside.
Feel free to forward. Have a great weekend. Speak to you in fortnight.