Why have a Category Vision?

How can one phrase mean so many different things to different people? What’s the phrase? Well, it is that much-bandied phrase Category Vision.

Recently we were approached by a client and asked to submit a proposal for a category vision project. Our proposal confirmed that the project required a consolidation of trends from a consumer, shopper, channel, customer perspective etc and we recommended that the vision should have a 3-5 year window. We had a long discussion about the need for a forward view, that it is not just a historical review.

Another client asked us to review an existing category vision that wasn’t landing very well with customers. This time, however, there were no supporting insights by which to validate the growth opportunities identified. This lack of supporting evidence had allowed customers to question the robustness of the vision. Understandably in this instance, the customer could question the rigour of the vision and so bring into question the legitimacy of the overall project.

At Big River Solutions, we believe that a category vision is a valid resource in any organisations’ arsenal. It is designed to inform and give direction to the business. The vision should highlight areas where resources should be focussed, where NPD could be developed and should give an indication of the type of activation needed to deliver the vision at the point of purchase/point of consumption.

A detailed Category Vision will impact all functions in an organisation, steer operational plans and KPI’s. Embedding the category vision throughout the organisation is paramount. Above all, all teams must own the vision, not just the category team. Everyone in the organisation must understand their role in delivering the vision and where their responsibilities begin and end.

Also, it is not enough to have a shiny presentation that identifies growth opportunities with targets that are quantified and qualified with snappy phrases and visuals to bring it to life.  There clearly needs to be strategies and tactics that can be implemented, monitored and tracked to deliver the identified opportunities.

A solid category vision needs to be compelling – whilst being stretching, enough to motivate the organisation to chase it, but not so fanciful that it seems unachievable.

Customers need to be engaged and brought on the journey, as they ultimately will make it happen. A customised activation plan needs to be developed with customers, identifying which of the growth drivers are relevant opportunities for that customer.

There needs to be a transparent and clearly identified feedback loop so we can learn as we go along and change or update the plan as needed.

It is our view that all categories and suppliers are able to engage, as the scale of the vision can be large or small. Throughout the process, it is important to recognise that large, medium, small and niche suppliers have an important role.

But to quote Henry Ford – “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. Or even worse less, as customer/shopper/consumer trends, move the category in a different direction.