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How Category Strategy enables great Brand Building

Jonathan Curnow
Category strategy and brand building

Jonathan Curnow, Director at Real World Marketing, explains how category strategy enables great brand building.

The mention of Category Strategy can send shivers down the spines of some brand marketers; who may worry about loss of control, the potential devaluing of brands and the ‘investment grab’ of consumer facing funds into customer and in store focused activities. Whilst such fears have occasionally been merited in the past, today’s reality of a consolidated retail marketplace, the challenges of achieving instore presence and cut through as well as the difficulties in achieving consumer connection, means that today, category is the language and framework for Brand marketers to achieve their objectives.

In many ways a category strategy is a very pure form of marketing. It is founded on consumer and shopper insight, focused on understanding and meeting needs and occasions and is about unlocking future demand. The challenge is that is requires Brand Marketers to have a much more holistic and broad understanding of consumers, needs and occasions, beyond traditional, often narrow lenses. It forces us to have a deeper understanding of consumers and shoppers which often entails additional research and data, additional complexity and cost and a need for enhanced capability in people and process. It requires suppliers to think beyond their current capability and consider real needs of consumers and shoppers. It leverages every part of your business, valuing and connecting information to discover real insight that points to clear opportunities for growth. It helps you know where category growth could come from and how to access it.

The key though is that when done well, Category Strategy provides clarity and purpose for Brands. It highlights new opportunity spaces for innovation and future campaigns, for pack’s and formats that target incremental occasions or can command a price and margin premium for meeting needs in better ways than current offers. It achieves alignment across Supplier businesses so that the commercial investment can get focused on that elusive ‘through the line’ desire… ensuring that pre and in store activities have clarity of purpose on the behavior change they are targeting and the value of such a change. What’s more, an honest assessment of your organisational and brands competitive positioning can be fundamental in choosing where you compete now and what changes you need to make to compete in the future. This forms a strong basis for an objective critique of portfolio and brand strategy, guiding you to make decisions that create category value today and in the future.

When your brand strategy is truly aligned to a category growth strategy it becomes very appealing to retailers. Growing category value represents common ground that delivers your and your retailers goals. Brand activity that delivers category goals as well as your own is far more likely to gain retailer support, which for long term success is an essential ingredient to performance.

So if the plan is based on consumer and shopper insight and created cross functionally, loss of control is not an issue and internal and retailer alignment is a huge benefit. Brands become an essential vehicle for the delivery of the category strategy, and with support from retailers brand value increases.

The final benefit comes in aligning point of purchase levers to deliver the plan. The best marketing idea in the world will not work if a shopper cannot find the product or is tempted to buy an alternative product in store. This is about ensuring your brand wins through truly delivering the behaviour changes defined in the category growth strategy. It is the alignment of consumer led demand creating implementation with point of purchase strategy. It is about sales, marketing and retailers pulling in the same direction. It’s about growth.

Jonathan Curnow is a Director at Real World Marketing, helping business across Australia create category growth and build stronger relationships internally and with retailers. If you would like to see how he could help your business contact him at jonathan.curnow@realworldmarketing.com.au