Making up for lost space

Last Updated: Sun, Nov 18, 2012 19:21 hrs

Who owns the shopper? The war for the shopper is being fought more than ever. And the two fronts of that war are the mind and the shelf. On the left side of the ring we have the brand, a sort of Muhammed Ali, fighting his opponents with the strength of his mind as well as his speed. On the other side of the ring we have Mike Tyson using brute strength to get his way. Yes, we’re being a little over the top. But this is often the war as it’s imagined and portrayed.

But of course, we’re not boxing each other. We are instead trying to own space. But those spaces are very different, depending on whether we’re a brand or a retailer. According to Corstjens and Corstjens (2000), retailers and manufacturers compete for a consumer’s mind space. Mind space is about making consumers learn and remember. A successful consumer product builds up a web of experiences, associations and buying habits for the end consumer. These are intangible resources that the manufacturers hold outside the company, in the minds of the consumer and retailers.

The old battlefield of the light for mind space which characterized the era of mass communication has increasingly become redundant.

The shopper’s mind and the retailer’s shelf have limited capacity. As the concentration of retailers has grown, the shelf space has become an important marketing influence. Ever more sophisticated retailers actively market their own brands and use the shelf space to promote them. Shelf space has therefore become an important challenge to manufacturers.

However, arguably the battlefield with which retailers replaced it — the light for shelf space — has also had its day. The shelf has become literally so full of overflowing choice that, you can’t see it anymore, let alone the brands that stand on it. These days there’s only one battle that really means something and we call that the fight for mind shelf space.

The brand has gone from a creator of mind space to a creator of mental images disproportionate to its shelf space — a creator of shelf mind space; a creator of brands thai truly harness the power of the big issues we all face.

Once you’ve increased your mind shelf space in-store, increase it everywhere you operate, whether it be on the internet, through your own proprietary distribution, store in stores or even pop-up stores. In fact everywhere you sell. The shelf is no longer limited to the conventional store. It has become an everywhere, anyplace phenomenon – a challenge which potentially marginalizes the brand’s importance.

A very new shelf of the future starts to emerge
Get to the issues that, really matter. Selling is what matters. And brands seem to have lost their selling edge. Traditionally, eye level has been buy level, and therefore selling level. But just go into a Sainsbury’s and look at, say, the biscuit shelves, where the brands are proudly displayed on the lower shelves and the Sainsbury’s products on middle-level shelves upwards. Who’s catching the eye here?

Maybe we can change this by diverting buying into thinking. In the future, think level will be buy level. We talked in our previous books about the need for brands to move to supplying wants for shoppers, rather than meeting their basic needs, When you want a product you seek it out wherever it may be. When you need a product you go to a commodity provider to meet that basic need. ‘That basic but subtle difference is critical in re-establishing brand power.

The retailer supplies needs through Private Label. You supply wants through brands.

Think about it. There is a difference. We will move from a society where people ‘live to eat’ to a society where people ‘eat to live’. After decades as a byword for bad food, the UK need no longer be ashamed of its diet. British foods and drinks regularly win prizes in international competitions and a seventh of the world’s top 50 restaurants are in the UK, according to Restaurant magazine.

This is just as true for electronics and fashion. Brands have no future in supplying basic needs. They have a future in stimulating our emotional appetites. They also need to re-stimulate our rational appetite through genuine product innovations, or even re-looking at boring old categories. Probably the greatest exponent of this is Apple, which is now redefining the phone with its new iPhone launch after redefining the music industry with its iPod. Food is also an area wide open to creating wants.

Danone, the French yogurt maker, has taken the US market by storm with its’ Activia brand, with active beneficial microbes included in the yogurt.

Let’s also mention a Danish brand called Aarstiderne, which delivers boxes of organic vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and bread directly to the doorstep of customers every week or fortnight. In essence they’ve created their own mind shelf directly with the consumer without even being on the store shelf. Thirty thousand Danish households subscribe to the system of receiving a mystery box of organic food products on a regular basis. Customers pick a type and size of box, prepay one month in advance, and the content of the box is composed by Aarstiderne based on what’s in season.

Farmer Thomas Harttung and local chef Soren Ejlersen started Aarstiderne with the idea of partnering with local households to change the general perception on farming, food and sustainability. By sourcing organic products from local farmers and growers, Aarstiderne aims to raise awareness of sustainability and food quality. The boxes come with recipes and stories about growers, farms, the company, the food products and quality. The communication is honest and transparent -Aarstiderne lets the customers know how the farmers and Aarstiderne are doing, whether the news is good or bad.

Combining high-quality organic produce with the sense of surprise that accompanies each box, and creating a sense of community by sharing recipes and stories, Aarstiderne has both created a niche and filled an existing need in the organic food market. Similar concepts exist in the United States (Door to Door Organics), Sweden (Ekoladan), the Netherlands (Odin) and the UK (Riverford), to name just a few. Not an entirely new idea, but one whose time has come to be widely adopted!

AUTHOR: Keith Lincoln, Lars Thomassen
PRICE: Rs 395
ISBN: 9780749453763.

Excerpted with permission from the publisher. Copyright Kogan Page India. All rights reserved.

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