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Why do you need 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, a client approached us and asked us 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 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. However, this time, there were no supporting insights to validate the growth opportunities identified. This lack of supporting evidence made customers question the vision’s robustness. 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, a category vision is a valid resource in any organisation’s arsenal. It is designed to inform and give direction to the business. The vision should highlight areas where resources should be focussed and where NPD could be developed and should indicate the type of activation needed to deliver the vision at the point of purchase/point of consumption.

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

Also, it is not enough to have a shiny presentation that identifies growth opportunities with quantified and qualified targets with snappy phrases and visuals to bring it to life.  There 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 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 growth drivers are relevant opportunities for that customer.

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

We believe all categories and suppliers can 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, as customer/shopper/consumer trends move the category differently.