How many of you remember (or are even old enough to remember) the film Uncle Buck?
It came out 30 years ago and starred John Candy as Uncle Buck and McCauley Culkin as Miles – the nephew he needs to look after. There is one sequence in the film where Miles asks Uncle Buck a series of rapid fire questions. It goes like this…
Miles: Where do you live? Buck: In the city. Miles: You have a house? Buck: Apartment. Miles: Own or rent? Buck: Rent. Miles: Where’s your wife? Buck: Don’t have one. Miles: How come? Buck: It’s a long story. Miles: You have kids? Buck: No I don’t. Miles: How come? Buck: It’s an even longer story. Miles: Are you my Dad’s brother? Buck: What’s your record for consecutive questions asked? Miles: 38. Buck: I’m your Dad’s brother alright. Miles: You have much more hair in your nose than my Dad. Buck: How nice of you to notice. Miles: I’m a kid – that’s my job.
Kids are great at asking questions. We’ve probably all been on the receiving end of a “why?” interrogation. One “why” followed by another. The conversation usually ends with “Because I said so.”
Kids like to know reasons for things. It helps them learn. But we all like reasons for things. A reason gives us a… well, reason for our behaviour. “Because” is one of the most powerful words in the English language.
As Robert Cialdini, a persuasion expert says “people simply like reasons for what they do”.
Why are we talking about this? There are a lot of questions our categories and brands need to answer. But the most important one is a very simple one. Why Buy?
Why is this question so important? Most fundamentally, if a shopper doesn’t buy you, you don’t sell anything. Secondly, shoppers face a vast choice across categories (if you want a snack there are hundreds) and within categories (just look at chilled juice). Thirdly, we are all close to our categories and brands. Often the “why buy?” is obvious to us. But it is not obvious to a shopper who thinks about the category a lot less often than we do.
Shoppers are looking for a simple “why”. So how can you give them this?
There are 3 things to think about.
What are you trying to get shoppers to buy? Are you trying to get them to buy into a category or sub category or brand or product type? There are typically two angles you can use. The first is why buy in the first place. This could be at a category level – e.g. why buy (& use) skincare products. It could be at a sub category level – e.g. why buy (& use) post shave gel. It might be at a product type level – e.g. why buy plant based. These are all categories or products that many people don’t buy and use.
The second angle is why buy instead of something else. Here you need to think about your wider competitive set. It might be a category – e.g. why buy household towel instead of the alternatives (cloths, sponges, wipes). It might be why you should use a particular product format – e.g. “perfect for lunchboxes” for a snacking format. It might be why you should buy one brand instead of another – e.g. the recent Pepsi Max communication “too much taste to call ourselves a zero.”
What behaviour change are you trying to drive? The most obvious one here is penetration. Get more shoppers into the category, sub category or brand. If you follow the ‘How Brands Grow’ formula this is the only thing you need to do, right? Believe it or not, there are other behaviour changes that can drive growth. So, if you are trying to drive usage (volume), you may focus on why using more is good. Water & hydration is a good example of this. Fruit juice & 5 a day is another.
You might want to drive trade-up : getting shoppers to pay more for the same category. It could be why coffee pods are worth paying more for. It could be why paying for a better mixer is worth it – as with Fever Tree. For many brands who are facing lower priced competitors it is about why your brand is worth paying (more) for.
How to communicate your why? There are 3 fundamental rules here. The first rule is use few words. If your “why” is longer than 5-7 words you need to re-think it. The second rule is use short words. The best words have fewer letters. The best words have fewer syllables – ideally just one. The third rule is use everyday language. Use words shoppers will be familiar with. That they would use themselves.
A great example of all this is a recent A-board we saw outside Greggs. It said “we make lunch”. 3 words. 3 syllables. 10 letters. It does two things. The explicit meaning = awareness that Greggs does lunch. The implicit meaning = a better lunch experience. They are saying less to say more.
Why buy? It’s a simple question to ask and a hard one to answer.
But you need to answer it. No shopper is going to accept “because I told you so.”
Feel free to forward. Have a great weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.