Thought Leadership - Sharing insights

Defining the Difference between Category Management and Category Development

The eight steps to mastering category management have been guiding our industry since the early 1980s, when Dr Brian Harris first coined the term

We suggest that the time has come for category management to move with the times and evolve into ‘category development’. Category Development needs to be acknowledged as a new philosophy, where the solution is adapted in light of future trends and anticipated changes in shopper and consumer demands.

For more than 30 years, category management has been used to harness collaboration between manufacturers and retailers for the benefit of the shopper. It is recognised as having contributed a substantial influence in determining a brand’s level of success in the market place.

The eight steps can be summarised as:
1. Define category
2. Category role
3. Category appraisal
4. Category scorecard
5. Category strategies
6. Category tactics
7. Implement plan
8. Review and assess performance

Each step has its place in the discipline and is fed and watered by research and data.
So far, so good. But …

Even a cursory understanding of category management shows it to be a reflection of the past; it uses data generated through the performance of brands within certain environments and given particular circumstances.

And tomorrow tends to be a very different ‘beast’ to yesterday.

The world is constantly changing and the behaviour of shoppers and consumers shifts ceaselessly in response. Global/local trends help predict what will happen socially, technologically, economically, environmentally, politically, legally, educationally and demographically. Clearly, among these, there are trends that will have more impact on the behaviour of our brands, retailers and shoppers than others.

To do a more resilient, ‘future-proofed’ job, we need to introduce an intelligent response to information on trends. To this, we need to add knowledge and intuition, enabling us to provide a prediction of the future – an understanding of what will be important tomorrow.

The result?

A category vision where a category/brand has a forward-looking perspective. This future view enables you to design a specific, tailored and therefore more powerful brand and shopper marketing activation plan by understanding the trends in the market and delivering against consumer, shopper and retailer needs.

In pragmatic terms, this means you don’t have to do everything – the process still works when you select the most relevant actions from the eight steps to make category development work its hardest. The first two steps are a once-only task (unless the category significantly shifts), and all the other pre-implementation and review steps can be run at whatever intensity suits the client, budget and availability of data and insights. It means harnessing insights and experience to suit your situation – a job that we know can be done without a huge investment in research.

Smaller manufacturers should not feel daunted by the scale of the task. While the investment in data by larger manufacturers might make them look unassailable, we believe this is where our style of category development can work its hardest. We know that smaller manufacturers are often better placed to be responsive to trends – they can be more agile, create more and better-tailored solutions and that is where real opportunity exists.

by David Edwards, Director, Big River Solutions.

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