The Martial Art Of Shopper Insights

For consumer brands, distribution is king when it comes to growth. But if youre a manufacturer with good distribution, how do you pave the way for continued success, especially with upstream innovation plans?

Several years ago, I was working with a leading restaurant client, talking about how they were driving traffic to their locations. This chain was (and is) a generalist in a marketplace with a lot of specialty competition. Every year their marketing plans included featured cuisine, promotions such as Italian or seafood, to celebrate their menu variety. The problem was their brand did not transcend their advertising message of doesnt Italian food sound great right now? As a result, the appetized marinara-seeking public drove right past the generalist to their favorite Italian eatery. The generalist picked the fight, but the specialists won the occasion because they had the judo advantage of the consumers current cuisine-driven preferences.

The idea of judo, using naturally occurring momentum in growth, is not new; in fact, it has propelled Procter & Gambles marketing efforts for decades, with brand extensions as well as brand marriages such as Swiffer with Febreze that ride the coattails of consumer habit and trust. Where judo is underleveraged is in the aisle and at the shelf. Upstream product innovations that consumer research show to have great potential often fail to get trial and build momentum because the company neglects the consumers existing shopping habits.

For that same reason, go-to-market plans that focus on communicating the same benefits with both out-of-store and in-store messaging risk being out of step with the shopper right at the moment they are ready to buy. Benefits may build awareness, but in the aisle the incumbent solution has the advantage because shoppers employ routine behavior.

Knowing what the shopper’s existing behaviors are, what behaviors we aspire to change, and what the barriers are to change, are all fundamental questions that must be answered in the context of the store experience to make sure initiatives are noticed so the shopper can act.

Whether seeking to increase household penetration and market share or to drive trial, what happens in the store is the single most volatile aspect of the majority of initiatives. Applying key principles of how people navigate and decide in the store, combined with specific category insights that identify the right places and best messages to intercept the shopper at the moment of truth, are critical to success. Judo, or discovering how to use insights about the shoppers existing behavior to orchestrate their desired behavior, and turning those insights into in-store strategies, should be part of every go-to-market plan.