Skip to content

Why does Category Marketing have more to say in 2023?

Over the last few years, most activities have focused on ‘the now’, with little strategic planning or priority given to longer-term projects. Over time, resources (human and financial) have moved from category growth initiatives that require time (category marketing) to more short-term tactical activities designed to deliver an immediate return. The concept of ‘grow the pie’ has been left behind in favour of ‘win today’. The drive to change consumer and shopper behaviour has lost out to ‘get volume now’. Some of this behaviour has been fuelled by the growing presence of online and the continued success of Aldi and Lidl (not to mention the small matter of a pandemic). The ‘normal’ order of the market has changed and continues to be challenged. Category Marketing is today’s orphan child.

This short-term focus is, of course, unsustainable in an inflationary market. The costs for the immediate gain of ‘win today’ cannot be maintained, nor is it a sustainable approach for future business growth, and it’s certainly not ‘ownable’ Whatever you do today can be copied by someone else tomorrow.

Talking to a client who works in a global category team recently, we lamented the lack of focus on Category Marketing and Value Chain Marketing. We agreed that “category” is now a role (where any employee would benefit from an enriching commercial experience) rather than an all-encompassing business approach. The ownership of category-driving initiatives is given to a team with ‘category’ in its title. This team is often devalued and sometimes seen as the dumping ground for tasks others don’t want to do. Funds previously available for this team to develop long-term plans are being diverted into “now” initiatives. Category Marketing skills are deteriorating, and retailers are picking up the mantle, doing more for themselves. This change allows the retailer to control the narrative, deteriorating the customer/supplier value-added relationships.

What can be done now?

  • Re-instigate a Category Marketing approach.
  • Create innovative brand & category marketing solutions for consumers, shoppers, and customers that will drive long-term growth.
  • Drive sustainable growth of your categories and brands by identifying and exploiting opportunities in your market value chain.
  • Build capabilities that will give you a source of competitive advantage.