Mind the Gap vs What GAAAAaaaaaaa!?

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Some manufacturers are treating the major trends that are disrupting their industry as the elephant in the room. How to spot the cracks and avoid the gaps.


No-one likes to hear about major corporate failures.

But the one thing they provide is valuable lessons for the rest of the business world to try to learn from.

While many factors were at play, one of the most striking parts of the collapse of Blockbuster was the inability of senior management to identify, recognise and respond to the growing disruption that was occurring in their industry.

It is a consistent theme that appears in many corporate failures: the gap, that only started as a crack, which grew and grew between a target consumer and the Board/Senior managers who are determining the direction their company needs to take.

Spotting the Cracks

We work with most of the leading global FMCG/CPG businesses. Many of who are facing major disruptions in their industry.

The contrasting approaches between some of them is quite interesting.

Last year the Head of Global Insights and CMO at one of our global clients commissioned some very interesting work. They asked us to recruit consumers in 8 Countries who had walked away from their biggest brand.

These folk were asked to self-record videos that captured their in-store and in-home experience of using the brands and products they had switched to, and share why they switched and how they felt.

The videos and qualitative reports highlighted some cracks and growing gaps between the consumer and their business. Importantly, this was demonstrated through the eyes of consumers and shoppers. In the stores. In their homes. In their real lives. It quickly built internal momentum and support for the need to change.

These outputs have now been shared with the board, their major retail partners and most people in their organisation.

By looking for the cracks, the growing gaps, and confronting their major challenges head on, they have managed to start conversations globally about what strategies they can develop that will succeed in the ever-changing reality in which they operate.

Mind the Gap vs What GAAAAaaaaaaa!?

This approach is in stark contrast to some other manufacturers who are treating the major trends that are disrupting their industry as the elephant in the room.

They are often focused on cost cutting as plan A, B and C… and the budget to better understand consumers is often first to be culled, even though that is often at the heart of the problems they face.

The problem with these “spreadsheet” re-structures, is that while they make sense on paper, and can protect short-term revenue targets, they don’t take into account the long-term need to understand the target audience better.

In the past, the Global FMCG/CPG industry has been defined by rewarding those who follow process. The winners of tomorrow are more likely to be determined by those who can disrupt.

Start having the right conversations

The need for quantitative data is understood, but how can you really connect the business with the real people behind the data and the opportunities and threats their changing lives represent?

How can you focus on what consumers do and how they feel, not their claimed behaviour and intent? (Think Brexit and Trump.)

How can you use this understanding to drive the business strategy?

Being brave enough to have these conversations and committing to try to solve these problems is likely to reduce, rather than increase the risk of a “Blockbusters” moment.

Based on our observations it is also going to inspire your teams globally by demonstrating that the leadership team are really determined to tackle the challenges head-on and to evolve some consumer-led hypotheses on how to solve them.