I have worked with a number of consumer packaged goods (CPG) or fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies. In general, I have found that they employ smart people, are great training grounds for marketing skills and demand high levels of performance. Having said that, I have also found that they are dominated by systematic approaches to managing brands and that their marketing professionals are so busy with day-to-day management of the marketing tactics that they rarely have time to step back and consider broader strategic issues. And despite these companies’ significant research budgets and resources, their marketers also have little time to conduct in-depth research to understand their brands’ consumers at deeper levels leading to more emotionally compelling brand positions. Some try to address category and environmental trends through organization structures and processes that are designed to do just that, however this compartmentalizes the analysis and decision-making so that only a small number of people can see the “big picture.”
I encourage every company to discover ways to systemically set aside at least 5% of their marketing professionals’ time to think about the bigger issues, anticipate environmental changes and competitive responses, gain deeper consumer insight and envision more emotionally compelling brand positions. This can be accomplished with environmental scanning, qualitative consumer research, lateral thinking retreats, brainstorming, guided imagery, outside speakers, SWOT analysis, war gaming, strategy workshops, consumer role playing, shopping emersion exercises, customer co-creation workshops and a variety of other techniques.
It is a disservice to bright, hard-working marketers and the companies for which they work to not occasionally give those marketers opportunities to step outside of the day-to-day fire fighting so that they are able not only to make incremental progress but also game changing progress.