Increasing trend towards ethical category visions helping to win hearts & minds as well as deliver growth
Food and drinks suppliers are being advised to take note of an emerging trend towards bringing a socially responsible element to category visions that shapes the category and brand in greater depth and changes how shoppers perceive both moving forward.
Category management specialist Bridgethorne says that this approach positions the vision as more than just a commercial asset to drive growth for the retailer and the brand, winning hearts and minds, with retailers and shoppers alike embracing an inspirational vision that has an emotive call to action.
“Although most FMCG suppliers focus on selling brands and products, they aim to engage retailers whose aim is to sell and grow categories. In so doing, they risk engaging the retailer on only one comparatively small element of what is commercially important to them,” explains Caryn Gillan, Director of Category & Insights at Bridgethorne.
“The bottom line is, if suppliers want to have traction with retailers, they need talk the language they understand: about growing categories. Being able to discuss how you can help retailers achieve category growth is a very different – and more constructive - conversation than one purely about selling a particular product.”
Gillan says that suppliers should ask themselves what other perspectives – perhaps ethical or socially responsible - they could offer that would also deliver category growth. There could be any number of themes, issues or causes that a category vision might address, from healthy eating to general wellbeing and happiness. The angle needs to be authentic in its intent and compatible with the brand’s genuine commitment to contribute to society to ensure no conflict between the vision’s commercial and ethical aspects.
“This approach has informed some of the more profound and ethical recent category activity including, for example, Danone committing itself to the cause of infant nutrition and Pampers partnering with UNICEF to deliver tetanus inoculations for newborn babies in the Third World. Both are compatible with the brand’s innate socially responsible DNA as well as their respective categories but will also resonate with shoppers. Such category visions expand the role that a category and brand plays in the broader fulfillment of a shopper’s journey to be something more emotive.”
Creating an ethical vision with which shoppers can identify through effective activation, continues Gillan, offsets the fact that they wouldn’t necessarily care about any commercial benefits to a retailer.
“Giving shoppers an incentive to act in line with your vision – and being able to demonstrate that to retail partners – should be a key objective. This will have the dual effect of making an authentic contribution to society whilst still informing business and brand strategy.”
She adds that, for suppliers, this will neither circumvent – nor eliminate - annual planning processes even though much of the thinking will already have been done and the framework for growth established.
“It is accepted now that any supplier that thinks a category vision is not relevant for their business is less likely to grow, less likely to remain relevant and less likely to be seen by retail partners as genuine champions of category, consumer and shopper. The question is whether you can demonstrate the imagination to embrace this or risk being left behind,” she concludes