Listen to the Music

Tuesday, 25 May 2010 - Chicago, USA

Listening to Music

Presentation Summary

In this keynote presentation at the Sweets and Snacks expo in Chicago, Kevin Roberts shares five ideas to help those in the industry be empathetic to both the realities around them and life through the eyes of the consumer. He covers key ways to get to the future first in the people-powered economy, through delivering Priceless Value, Emotion, Participation, Lovemarks, Shelf Back thinking and Purpose.

Good to see Sweets and Snacks together in one conference.

Working together, collaborating, is the way of the future for brands and retailers. While we have been focused on looking at the power balances between the two industries – manufacturers and retailers – the consumer, empowered by the Internet, by Twitter, Tumblr, Digg and every other social media device you can think of, has driven right through the middle to be in control.

We are now living on planet VUCA. The atmosphere on VUCA is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

There are a bunch of pressures on us:

  • People pressure; people want it all. And they want it now; they are looking for their expectations to be exceeded in this “more for less” economy; they want honesty and transparency; they want genuine nutrition; and they want everything you do, from instore navigation to packaging that utilizes new exotic technologies like augmented reality, to be simple and easy to use. Otherwise they’re gone.
  • Competition and cost pressure: this is the market speaking. Whether it’s the usual battle with commodity prices and the impact of energy costs in everything from manufacturing to distribution to display, through to a competitor out-innovating you or out-communicating you run the risks of being ground down, munched up and blended out.
  • And thirdly, pressure from regulation – in the form of DC decrees for your contents, packaging and marketing, or knowing how much you should self-regulate.

Of course the consumer has already moved on. While we’re dealing with a world that is complex, uncertain, volatile and ambiguous, the consumer has already reframed VUCA as Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy and Astounding.

So what is it to be: see life through the eyes of your company or your industry, or see it through the eyes of the consumer?

You have to do both. It’s an AND/AND world. You have to be continuously empathetic to the realities around you, sifting the sands of retail customers, consumers and regulators – and you have to get on the front foot and help the consumer get to the Future First.

I have five ideas that you may want to think about. I think they matter whether you make it, market it, distribute it, display it, or sell it.

#1 Deliver Priceless Value

The consumer retrenched some time ago but she refused to compromise. She redefined price and value. And is insisting on priceless value.

She is much less interested in functional elements than in how your product is going to benefit her life, improve her moment, involve her in something bigger.

Voltaren did this, moving from pain relief to the Joy of Movement.

It’s “And/And”. Wal-mart says it brilliantly with “Save money, live better.” P&G says it beautifully with “Touching lives, improving life.”

‘Product as hero’ is now a deadzone for communication. It’s an era of ‘consumer as hero’. Companies that say “we put the consumer at the heart of everything we do” have got it wrong. The right construction is that “we put ourselves into the hearts of consumers.”

This is much more difficult to achieve, because priceless value requires you to be joyful, something most corporations are not.

You need to live in an E world…

  1. Execution – Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast.
  2. Enthusiasm – Be an irresistible force of nature.
  3. Exuberance – Cause earthquakes.
  4. Empowerment – None of us is as strong as all of us.
  5. Edginess – The centre is too stable; dance at the frontier.
  6. Engaged – MBWA.
  7. Enraged – Get pissed off with normality, and change it.
  8. Empathy – Care about people, and connect.
  9. Experience – Create theatre!

All underpinned by Emotion.

This is the great reframe. Emotion. Neurologist Donald Calne says “Reason leads to conclusions, emotion leads to action.”

#2 Lean into her World

Remember when everyone proclaimed” “mass marketing is dead”? How we lamented. And for good reason. Overnight marketing got a lot harder. The good news is that mass marketing is back. The Consumer is Boss. And the Consumer is the media. If the idea is big, relevant and cut-through, she’ll spread the word.

As Estée Lauder said:


Inform Inspire
Distraction Interaction
Return on Investment Return on Involvement
Market Movement

Winning is now about participation in her world – online, in the street, on the go, in the store.

Fact: Only 6% of all sales are executed on the web, but 50% of all sales are pre-qualified by web research. Shopper marketing today is all about “search to shelf”.

And your entire business can be derailed by a quality or service lapse that goes straight into the “Tweet-is-phere”, because Gen “Right Now”, the millennials, are transforming shopping around immediacy, usability, mobility and authenticity.

The question to ask is: “Why not”?

  • Your store isn’t open 24 hours? Why not?
  • Your product can’t be shared? Why not?
  • Your service isn’t fun? Why not?
  • Your supermarket has no café? Why not?
  • Your coupons aren’t on iPad? Why the hell not?

We are all screenagers now. The future is screens in shopper hands and screens are the next packaging as long as the instructions are instantly intuitive.

The key to success in any connecting channel is an idea that will course through people’s veins and through their networks. We live in the Age of the Idea; Ideas are the currency of the Future.

There are a multitude of delivery systems from in person through to digital, from live events through to social shopping. But it all starts with a great idea.

Winners use sisomo – sight, sound and motion – to connect ideas and emotions into what matters most to people.

Only 3 questions matter:

  1. Will they want to see it again?
  2. Will they want to share it?
  3. Will they want to improve it?

#3 Get on the Pathway to Love

Brands are commodified. Fried. Welcome to the future … Welcome to Lovemarks

  • Brands are owned by management, marketers and stockholders. Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them.
  • Brands are built on Respect. Lovemarks are created out of Respect and Love.
  • Brands build Loyalty for a Reason. Lovemarks inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason. Beyond Price. Attribute, Benefit. Loyalty Beyond Recession.
  • Brands invest in Performance, Reputation and Trust. Lovemarks involve through Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy.
  • Brands are about selling by yelling. Lovemarks are about solving by involving. Involvement is the right ROI.
  • Great Brands were Irreplaceable. Lovemarks are Irresistible. For your business ask: are you Irreplaceable? Or are you Irresistible? For example: PC versus MAC, MP3 versus iPod.

#4 Come Together  

I saw a TV ad the other night that surprised me by being completely obvious. It ended by say “find me in the baking aisle”. Our own advertising industry has generally been terrible at bridging home and store. Brand advertising has been in an ivory tower and retail advertising has been stuck in a pocket calculator.

With “shelf back” thinking we can achieve collaboration for mutual competitive advantage. Retailers, manufacturers and agencies working together with shared goals. You’ve heard it before, you hear it now, you’ll hear it again: we must all work together. The consumer is boss. We are her servants. Let’s build harmony and flow together.

#5 Fulfill Sweet Destiny

The role of business is:

  • To create shareholder value
  • To create and grow a customer
  • To make the world a better place for everyone

To build a product brand, a store brand, any brand you must stop talking and start listening. “The consumer is not a moron, she’s your wife.”

Empathy is everything. Stop. Listen. Feel. Here’s what she might be saying in this Screen Age:

  • I’m getting fat, and you don’t care.
  • I have the tools to find out what you’re not telling me, and if you’re just screwing me.
  • Love me, or I’m leaving you for another.

This industry is about impulse and indulgence – so it carries serial responsibility. We must be honest about its impacts. We are bigger than every individual. Few individuals can withstand our collective clout, so we must lead people responsibly.

Fact – the world now has more obese than starving people. Consequence stands at our doorstep.

How to turn our negatives into positives in this people-powered Participation Economy? Three points to finish:

  • We must be purpose-inspired, benefit-driven. People are happiest when they are part of something bigger than themselves. I’m not referring to waistlines but making the world a better place. Empathy is the greatest Lovemark element you should take away from today. Listen to the winds of change and be pro-active. Take a chance on life.
  • We must put truth on the front of the package. Children are being educated in schools about what is healthy … and what is crap. They know how to read labels. Sugar and salt, fruit and vege: let’s get the balance right. McDonalds has shown how we can turn our distribution muscle into destinations for people who want to be healthy.
  • Finally, what matters is language. You’re not actually in the sweets and snacks business, you definitely don’t want to be in the “4th meal” business. You’re in the “moment of time” business. Saatchi & Saatchi has just done a big study of the luxury business, and one thing you can extract from this is that the “moment of time” is a bubble, a cocoon, a minor wonderland of mystery, sensuality and intimacy.

Think about this as you work together. Change the language, you can change the conversation.

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