Wednesday, November 12, 2014

But My Category is Different...

Since 1999, we have helped well over 160 brands. They represent at least a third as many product/service categories, if not more. When being considered for a project, we are often asked, “Have you done work in XYZ category?” “Ours is a different category. We are only interested in consultants with experience in our category.” I have had this question asked about B2B, heavy industrial, FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), retail, pharma, federal agencies, professional service firms, trade associations, not-for-profit organizations, medical device companies, financial service firms, senior service organizations, church-related organizations, hospitality companies, luxury products providers, municipalities, colleges and universities, celebrities, nations and I am sure there are some others.

My answer always is, “You are the experts in your category. I am the branding expert and I am also a quick study. It benefits you that I have experience across a myriad of categories.  I will be able to bring ‘out of the box’ insights and ideas to the project.”

Are there differences between categories? Sure. Are they differences that would stymie a brand consultant? No, not unless he or she didn’t have much mental horsepower.

What categories have I found to be different?
  • B2B because of the purchase decision making process and the marketing tactics used
  • Pharma because of the regulatory issues and insular nature of the industry
  • People (especially celebrities and famous people) because there is a self-analysis and personal coaching component to the project
  • Places (municipalities, regions and nations) because of the diversity of the stakeholders, lack of marketing savvy and the complexity of the decision making process
  • (Sometimes, but not nearly as much as one might think), not-for-profit organizations because of the lack of budget and sometimes the lack of a marketing expertise in the organizations
  • FMCG because one has to understand retail, POS data, category management and other issues specific to FMCG

Sometimes potential clients not only want to know that we have worked in their category but also in their region of the country or world (to understand the culture in which their brand is imbedded). I think there is some validity to understanding the regional culture. Luckily we have worked in all regions of the US and most regions of the world.

Outside consultants bring not only deep functional expertise but also broad cross-category experience to bear on any problem they are asked to help solve. Frequently, I have discovered that companies or industries are so inwardly focused that they can't see their most glaring flaws but they also don't recognize their biggest opportunities. 

Having noted some differences between categories, brand consultants are called upon because of their customer insight and brand strategy/positioning expertise, not their expertise within a particular product or service category. Our branding processes, templates and criteria work across all product/service categories. They haven’t failed us yet. But then again, we have not yet done work in the ‘QRS’ category. ;-)

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