Proposition – A ‘P’ added by Unilever’s framework

A proposition emphasises the USP of any product. Crafting a simple, focused and clear winning proposition can be complex and time taking.

A framework to derive your brand’s USP

Consequently, marketers and sales teams strive to extract learnings from the past, and drive bigger and better innovations for the future. A successfully crafted proposition creates an imprint in the target consumers’ minds to the point that they think of the brand synonymously with the product. Example: The brand, Vaseline and the product, petrolatum, Sharpies and permanent markers, Band-Aid and adhesive bandages…

Chapstick and lip balm

The USP may be product purity, awards associated with the product, value for money, a cause that it stands for etc.

For some brands, it involves creating a narrative around the product. Its aim could be to educate the shopper, to awaken an emotional response or a call to support a mission driven cause. Eg: Tony’s Chocolonely, whose mission is a 100% slave free chocolate.

Most companies focus such propositions on their star brands and SKUs. This way, the benefits of customer loyalty and sales could even extend to different, newer versions of the same product resulting in a sales boost of the overall product category.

How do you communicate your value proposition?

These days, the proposition is most commonly communicated on e-commerce sites, whether that is the retailer’s site or one that is direct to consumer.

In store, proposition is often communication through shelf barkers/talkers. Gondola end displays are used as well. 

Stocking hero SKUs near or at check-out counters is another way to augment brand visibility and communicate proposition.

Crafting succesful propositions

So what are the elements of great value propositions? We have 5 for you to consider.

  1. The rule of 3: Propositions that sell more than three benefits often fail as consumers and shoppers fail to see the key benefit. Also, consumers/shoppers start questioning the assertions of the proposition and consequently trust the brand less.
  2. Emotional or mission driven appeal vs functional benefits: Focussing on a brand’s functional benefits commoditises the product and makes it easier for consumers to switch brands. To maintain share and to encourage more consumers to buy your brand, focus on the emotional or mission driven aspects of the proposition. Mission driven brands have been shown to retain market share even in the most challenging of circumstances.
  3. Include consumer and shopper benefits: Often times, the shopper is different from the consumer. For example, when parents go shopping for breakfast cereal for their children or when a woman buys shaving products for her male partner or when a man buys feminine care products for his female partner. It is key for the proposition to appeal as much to the shopper as the consumer.
  4. Sustainable differentiation: Ensure that your proposition remains relevant for the long term as well as the short. If your point of differentiation focusses on the problems of today and is not expected to be relevant beyond a certain period, your brand is likely to lose appeal beyond that period.
  5. The value proposition for your customers (for those brands that are not just D2C): The above 4 elements are often well thought through as a part of the organisation’s marketing and innovation process. However the value proposition for the customer is less thought through and often purely financial in nature. An effective customer value proposition combines both financial and emotional considerations and is often laid out when the customer is evaluating a brand or a SKU for listing at stores.

If you’d like to learn more about crafting successful value propositions for your brands, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Promotions and retail sales

This is probably the most complex of the 4 (or 6) Ps.

Promotion includes all those activities that involve communicating the benefits and features of your brand/product.

Through it, you let potential customers and consumers know what you are selling. In order to convince them to buy your brand, you need to explain how it solves their problem/what it is, how to use it, and why they should buy your brand.

An effective promotional effort contains a clear message that is targeted to a certain audience and is done through appropriate channels.

The audience of your promotional activities include, but are not restricted to:

  • Consumers
  • Customers where consumers can buy your brand
  • Influencers
  • Collaborators

The key objectives of promotional activities are:

  • Building awareness
  • Creating interest
  • Providing information
  • Stimulating demand
  • Differentiating the brand/product
  • Reinforcing your brand

You may choose multiple channels to reach your target audience and achieve these objectives. There are 5 elements to the promotional mix and are as below:

Advertising

This mode of promotion is usually paid, with little or no personal message. Mass media such as television, radio or newspapers and magazines is most often the carrier of these messages. Apart from these, billboards, posters, web pages, brochures and direct mail also fall in the same category. While this method has traditionally been one sided, advertising on new channels such as the internet may allow for quick feedback from your target audience.

In order to pick the optimal advertising channel:

  1. Define objectives – What are you seeking to achieve and your end goals of the campaign?
  2. Decide on the budget – How much are you willing to spend on the campaign?
  3. Adoption of the message – What message are you trying to convey?
  4. Review past campaigns for effectiveness – If your company has done other campaigns in the past, go through post campaign evaluation notes for how effective they were.

PR and Sponsorship

Public relations (PR) is usually focused on building a favourable image of your business. PR or publicity tries to increase positive mention of the product or brand in influential media outlets.

You can do this by doing something good for the neighborhood and the community like holding an open house or being involved in community activities.You can engage the local media and hold press conferences as part of your promotional strategy.

Through these press conferences, you can engage with newspapers, magazines, talk shows and new media such as social networks and blogs. This could also mean allowing super users, or influencers to test the product and speak positively about it to their peers.

This may or may not be paid. For example, sponsoring a major event and increasing brand visibility is a paid action. Sending free samples to a blogger then depends on their discretion and opinion and is not usually swayed by payment.

Previously this has been the least used channel by brands, especially the large ones; but is becoming increasingly important in the current world we live in.

Events & Experiences

Through events, you can make your product known to both your customer and your consumer. These include industry events targeting trade (supermarkets, wholesalers, distributors, restaurants etc) or consumer facing ones. This even includes tasting experiences you may decide to hold and is commonly seen in the beer, wine and spirits industry.

Personal selling

Direct selling connects company representatives with the consumer. These interactions can be in person, over the phone and over email or chat. This personal contact aims to create a personal relationship between the client and the brand or product. Some personal sales strategies are incentive programs, sales representations, samples, sales meetings, and trade shows.

These days this is common in sales of high value consumer goods like consumer electronics (think Apple store), art galleries, high end wines and whisky etc.

Direct marketing

Direct marketing allows you to promote the product or service to an individual consumer.

This strategy allows greater adaptability of the product and the messaging to the needs or interests of the consumer.

The main direct marketing channels are:

  • e-mail
  • internet
  • telemarketing
  • mail
  • e-commerce

Sales promotions

These are usually short term strategic activities which aim to encourage a surge in sales. These could be ‘buy one get one free’ options, seasonal discounts, contests, free samples or even special coupons with expiration dates.

Promotions can vary by target demographic and need to be carefully evaluated for each store, consumers in the location and time of the year.

Key considerations when designing the promotional mix for your brand

Whenever a brand/company sets out to design its promotional mix, the brand team needs to consider the following points:

  1. Stage in the brand/product Lifecycle – Eg. At the launch stage there may be a need for more aggressive and informational advertising.
  2. Nature of the brand/product – If a brand/product is not new in its usage or function, there may be less need for information and more focus on brand equity creation.
  3. Budget – This is fairly self explanatory. For those with large marketing budgets, TV ads and large billboard campaigns may form part of the mix and those on a shoestring budget may rely on other elements of the mix to create awareness.
  4. Cultural Sensitivity – If a product is to be launched in a new international market or even a new region in a country, it is critical to take into consideration local sensitivities. These include both cultural and religious considerations.
  5. Target Market Composition – The people who make up the target market need to be considered before committing to a promotional mix. What media do they consume the most? How and where do they shop?
  6. Competitor Actions – The methods your closest competitor uses influences your mix as well.

If you’d like to learn more about how to derive the right mix for your brand, the different channels for promotion or how markets or regions can influence mix, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Place/Placement – where do consumers find your brand?

As you can tell, this is a KPI most applicable to brick & mortar stores. Where the brand/SKU can be located in a store has an outsized impact on sales.

There are 3 components to this:

  • The aisle (where on the shop floor) where your brand can be found
  • The arrangement on shelf
  • Share of shelf

The aisle

When consumers walk into the store, they usually have a list of brands/SKUs they’d like to buy. Based on previous in-store experience or based on aisle labels, consumers can then locate the shelves on which these brands/SKUs are stacked. It is key that brands and SKUs are placed in the most intuitive aisle/shelves as it maybe hard for consumers to find it otherwise. If this happens, it is likely that the store/brand may lose the sale.

It is equally important to also place your brands/SKUs on shelves adjacent to complementary products, to encourage impulse sales. For example, the consumer who walks in to buy baking powder to bake a cake, may end up buying cocoa or icing sugar which is placed adjacent to the baking powder. Another example is the instance when a customer buys a dip that’s placed in the crisps(chips)/snacks aisle.

The arrangement on shelf

Important shelf arrangement KPIs are:

  • eye-level product placement,
  • sequence of products,
  • point of sale materials,
  • adjacencies (which we touched on in the previous section),
  • planogram compliance and
  • category separation

In a store, shelf space allotted to a brand is limited. Eye level shelf space is prime real estate in this context as this encourages trial and impulse buys.

Eye level is ‘buy’ level

Also, given the space constraints, sequence of placement becomes important as this can have a major influence on sales. Many brand owners prefer to place associated products near their ‘hero SKUs’. Eg: placing conditioner right next to their hero SKU, a shampoo. This encourages impulse buying and may encourage a consumer to switch brands eventually.

Point of sale (POS) materials are perhaps the most under-utilised levers. POS materials are usually present on or near shelves in the form of posters or shelf talkers. They may also be free standing display units like the ones seen at at the end of an aisle, close to the entrance of the store or near the tills, where people are likely to make an impulse purchase while waiting to pay. They often introduce a new launch, a promotion, or the value proposition of the hero SKU. Challenger brands usually are great at this.

A great example of point of sale material

A Planogram is a detailed schematic about how products will be placed on shelf. There are 3KPIs that relate to this:

  1. Availability
  2. Placement in the right area and with the right sides facing the consumer
  3. Sequence of placement (i.e. sequence in which the brands’ various SKUs will be placed on the shelf)
There are several apps available to monitor and ensure planogram compliance

Category separation becomes important when there is a key differentiating factor between other brands on the same shelf and yours and even between your own brands. Eg: you may want to place your biodegradable toothbrushes separate from your regular toothbrush SKU.

Colgate has placed its charcoal infused biodegradable toothbrush SKU in a shelf ready unit

Share of shelf

This refers to the space allotted to your brand/SKU on the shelf, by the store. While this is part of the planogram, it is important to address this separately. Enough shelf space needs to be bought or negotiated for your brand, so that your product is displayed practically and advantageously. 

Here, Warburtons Toastie has 10 facings across Medium, Toastie & Super Toastie

You may have heard others referring to facings as a key metric here. This is a key part of shelf space and refers to how many products in your SKU face the customer.

As with the ‘P’ from last week’s blog, Product, today’s ‘P’, Placement also assumes availability of the brand/SKUs in store. Here, we are not just referring to presence but also having enough stock in store to meet consumer demand.

If you’d like to get more information on any of these KPIs, discuss this in more detail or understand how availability can be solved for, especially within the context of today’s fast changing world, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Retail execution in FMCG

Excellence retail execution has been a focus for FMCG companies for several years now as they all concur that retail excellence results in increased sales and market share. Each company has coined its own term for this.

‘Perfect Store’ by Unilever, ‘Golden Store’ by P & G, ‘Right execution daily’ (RED) by Coca Cola and ‘Flawless Execution’ by PepsiCo.

The concept was popularised in the early 2000s by Bain & Unilever to maximise ‘sell out’ in store (i.e. maximising sales to us, consumers!) Unilever adds an additional ‘P’ to the 4P framework by Jerome McCarthy. Their 5 Ps for ‘Perfect Store’ are:

Product – The ‘type’ of product or brand sold by the store is important. For example, a 24pk of a snack brand will not sell as well as a single serve or sharing size does in smaller convenience stores. On shelf availability is an important KPI to consider when it comes to products. The consumer should be able to find the product on shelf when they come in to buy it. The ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ principle applies here. They discourage customer loyalty and can spur the switch to a competitor. When brands have their finger on the pulse of retail execution, they can avert out-of-stocks before they happen.

Tricana – An example of flawless on-shelf availability and placement

Place – The placement of the SKU/brand on shelf determines volume of sales. Again, the out of sight, out of mind principle plays a key role here as placement on the highest or lowest shelf is not as desirable as eye level placement. ‘Place’ covers the number of ‘facings’, the shelf space allotted to the brand and placement of the brand alongside complementary brands/products (Eg: placing icing sugar, flour and baking powder together or ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise together ).

Price – A brand may implement all the best practices of a perfect store and still not succeed if pricing is not right. The price should not just yield companies a healthy margin, but also be competitive vs other brands/SKUs in the same category. Also, it is key that the price is indicative of other qualitative factors that differentiate the brand from competition, but more on Proposition later. To complete the circle on Price, for pricing to effectively drive sales, it is important to ensure that the price tag that communicates the pricing is on shelf close to the product.

Communicating price and promotion

Promotion – Promotions are an effective driver of sales. Promotions are mostly made for star products and new product launches. However, these days, it is common for brands to run promotions for certain times of the year that are conducive to sales of the brand. Eg: Wine sales in the run up to Christmas; Chocolate sales in the run up to Easter etc.

An excellent example of ‘Proposition’ – Communicating the differentiating factor

Proposition (the 5th P added by Unilever) – In addition to the 4Ps from the 4P framework, Unilever has a 5th one – Proposition. We touched upon this in ‘Price’. It is important that the brand has distinguished itself from competition and gives consumers a reason to choose your brand vs completion. Proposition is usually communicated through shelf ‘talkers’ aka shelf ‘barkers’

Retail execution is critical for consumer goods brands to win in today’s competitive market. Consumers have limitless options in virtually any category they’re shopping for, so making products available and appealing to consumers is essential to winning share. We’ll delve deeper into each of the 5 Ps in the next few weeks.

To learn more about how a data driven approach can ensure the 5Ps are executed and to learn more about retail execution, email me on veena@salesbeat.co