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It’s really simple what all brands must do in 2019 – solve problems | Christopher O.H. Williams
Winning

It’s really simple what all brands must do in 2019 – solve problems


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The Christmas holidays are now past and 2019 is up and running. We are all back at work or returned to normal life and companies everywhere are tallying up the season’s performance and reflecting on what happened or what might have been. Did the new products sell through? Did the marketing messages resonate? Was the pricing right? Was the in-store execution effective? Were the promotions sufficient? Were enough doors targeted?

For as much as I have worked with global brands, I do understand the need and purpose of these questions and how much they will occupy business leaders this month,

but the one question that overrides all, and the one that managers should obsess every season and every day, and not just during the big commercial months, is – Are our products truly solving consumers’ problems?

In the affirmative, post-action reviews would be easier and more celebratory high-fiving than disappointed hand-wringing. In the negative, no amount of pricing, promotions, placement or execution would have driven record sales in December, will prevent product returns in January, or will turn the tide in the ensuing months.

Famed adman David Ogilvy once said, “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster”. I am convinced he was right. Ogilvy was a passionate student of consumer insights and when I led the consumer insights team for Wrangler I came to appreciate more than ever that great product, and not just great marketing, made great brands.

And great product, no matter if from well-known or lesser known brands, solves problems – addresses specific unmet needs that consumers know they have or are made to discover they have. And moreover, while consumers do expect to pay for having these needs met, they are even more delighted when the cost of it – be it how much they pay for the product at the cash register or any anticipated compromise they must make to enjoy it – is low.

Think of a fuel efficient or hybrid car that can still deliver speed, performance and distance like a traditional fuel car, or really comfortable jeans that are still flattering and stylish, or technical sport product that looks good enough to wear to a social outing, or an airline that rebooks a cancelled flight quickly or returns a lost bag in record time, and any or all of these benefits also offered at a compelling price (ticket). Relevant consumer problems solved and products delivered with a compelling price-to-value proposition or low trade-off. Double Check!

I worked with long time jeanswear executive Angelo Lagrega in the ultra competitive and fragmented denim industry and he was legendary for his insistence that consumers’ needs be understood and met in every product, and consequently was a big force behind Wrangler becoming, and remaining, the jeans brand of choice of the American heartland and beyond. Premium priced Nike was scolded by Steve Jobs, who said “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” Jobs did not counsel the brand to advertise more, price better or out-execute others (not saying that these are not important) but he clearly felt that great products that consumers lust after were more primary. We can take away that sales, marketing or pricing gimmicks are certainly NOT what make great products or great brands, and often times too late to beautify the pig.

Today, in those executive suites and corner offices across the world, in every industry, pencils are being sharpened and fresh planning continues for coming seasons in 2019 and beyond, hopefully informed by lessons learned from the last. One lesson which I would encourage to not be missed or ignored, if all others are, is why consumers buy products and come back for more – when their key needs are met and when their problems are well and truly addressed. It’s that simple.

RealWinTips

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