How to get retail customer support for growing the core?

We know we should grow the core. But our sales force and retail customers demand innovation and new products to give us support!” This challenge was shared during a workshop I recently ran for a leading global food & drink company. And the company in question are not alone. brandgym research featured in our book, Grow the Core, confirms that whilst 78% of marketers believe growing the core is the best form of sustainable, profitable growth, this figure is much lower for both sales teams (47%) and retail customers (43%) (see below).

To respond to the challenge laid down in the workshop, I talked with brandgym partner Jon Goldstone about how he was able to get retailer support for growing the core during his time as Marketing VP for Unilever’s UK food business and before that at Premier Foods.

1. Use ‘packvertising’ to stand out 
When at Unilever, Jon and the Marmite successfully harnessed the power of packaging design to help the brand stand out on shelf, creating what we call ‘packvertising’. Marmite’s special pack designs are always linked to the brand’s long-running slogan, ‘Love It or Hate it’.
A recent example is the limited edition Valentine pack design (below), which has been able to secure secondary display in leading retailers including Tesco. This secondary display is key to increasing brand impact and getting the brand in front of potential new buyers, driving penetration.

2. Seasonal, topical, distinctive activation
Smart brand activation can create PR buzz for your brand and retailer interest, in contrast to simple price promotion which erodes both brand equity and profitability.
For example, the Hovis bread brand ran a Poppy Appeal activation, with special packs of the Seed Sensations variant (with poppy seeds as an ingredient) giving a 10p donation to the appeal. Again, this activation gained retailer support including secondary display.
3. Category profit analysis
Another example on Hovis was the work done on category profitability analysis to gain extra shelf space for the brand’s core products, increasing brand visibility to help drive penetrtion. As part of a major brand re-launch that we posted on here, Jon and his team demonstrated that Hovis delivered superior cash profit per pack versus key competitor Warburton’s and Own Label. By increasing the shelf space of Hovis, buyers could increase category profit margin, a key measure on which they were measured and rewarded.
4. Retailer-specific sizes/formats
Another way to get customer support for the core is to create retailer-specific formats. One example we posted on here is the Innocent smoothie brand’s smaller ‘Meal Deal’ bottles. These smaller packs have a lower price-point, allowing them to be featured as part of Sainsbury’s ‘Meal Deal’ promotion. This creates extra impact for the brand in a secondary location. It also has the potential to drive penetration by positioning the innocent as a good choice for lunch, not just breakfast and early morning.
In conclusion, it’s not easy to get retail customer support for growing the core of your brand, instead of just relying on more and more new products to do this. However, as the examples above show, combining creativity and retail customer insight can help boost your chances of success.
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