Whether it is self-generated or imposed by external market forces, change demands attention, consideration, detailed analysis and the formulation, documentation and implementation of an integrity strategy.
Incremental change, and its consequences, dictate the need for respect. The scale of change differs little in importance from the frequency of that change.
In many, if not most instances, all change is significant to consumers. Accordingly, marketing, communications, promotions, merchandising, selling and service initiatives need more than “tweaking”.
Success in the introduction of change is not difficult. It is a consequence of detailed planning and respect for the impact on, and perception of existing, prospective and past clients.
Sadly, there is a long history of negative and sub-optimal outcomes as a result of change – big and small.
Clearly, a majority of unsuccessful change initiatives are derive from the management, and more disturbingly, marketing offices of companies, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
Greater knowledge, better education, unbounded creativity and originality, and a marketing degree, do not guarantee success and market acceptance.
Imposing and enforcing change on consumer perceptions, preferences and buying patterns is fraught with danger and difficulty. In such circumstances considerable time, money and resources need to be invested in the education and re-education of those in the primary, secondary and tertiary target markets.
Instant success is a rarity, if not a myth.
LESSONS TO LEARN
It is refreshing to learn, and reassuring to the owners, managers and marketers of small businesses that major global corporations, brands and product managers are prone to falling short in successfully implementing change.
The frequency of mistakes, shortcomings and outright failures is high. The scale of the consequences appears to be a differentiating factor.
CHEERS ...... TO TEARS
For some 15 years the largest selling beer brand in Australia was Victoria Bitter, “VB”.
The brilliance of the advertising which featured the voice of the late John Meillon resonated with Australian drinkers and teetotallers alike.
A national market share of between 12 and 14% was enjoyed for an extended period of time, until someone decided to introduce a low-alcohol option. That weakened the presence and profile of the brand.
VB has slipped the ladder of success to approximately 3-4% market share.
The biggest selling beer brand in Australia is now full-strength XXXX, once a regional Queensland-based offering.
For global consumers the labelling may imply that it targeted to illiterate consumers. Not so. Although it could be a strikingly adroit strategy to impact among the 60%+ of the world’s population who sign documents with an X!
KING OF THE ROAD
For decades the Holden 6-cylinder Kingswood was Australia’s own family motor car. Annual sales regularly exceeded 150,000.
Given the vagaries of oil supplies, and attendant price hikes, in the 1980s and beyond it was noted that a trend was emerging with the increasing popularity and sale of smaller, 4-cylinder European cars.
The decision was made – by whom I do not know – that the Holden Kingswood would be superseded by the Commodore, with the brand name Holden being removed or de-emphasised.
Sales plummeted to around 80,000 per annum. It was a costly lesson. Most changes come with consequences, some larger than others.
Holden never recovered and will cease production of motor vehicles in Australia by 2017.
Glad Wrap is a constant in many Australian kitchens.
A recent change in the packaging and introduction of a new cutting device hurt sales, - and a number of customers. Revenue bled, so too consumers, who could not effectively use the innovative cutting device.
Appropriately, the new packaging was promptly withdrawn, to the delight (and well-being) of many consumers.
The change to McDonald’s product range with the introduction of All-Day-Breakfast was hardly a resounding success. It seems consumers were happy to move on from breakfast mid-morning. McDonald’s franchisees found the extended hours of a breakfast offering was inefficient and impacting on profitability and productivity.
In recent times, McDonald’s, and the broader fast-food sector, have been experiencing falling demand, sales and squeezed profits.
The best change seems to be good, rather than fast ... consumer driven, rather than management rushed. The margins for effort, like profits can be, and are increasingly thin.
CHANGE ACTION PLAN FUNDAMENTALS
Identify, isolate and analyse the demand factors for change
Ensure customer drive, and acceptance
Differentiate wants from demands – the former can create fads
Formulate, document and implement an integrated change strategy
Recognise and respect that to consumers, all change is BIG
Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is a respected consumer behaviour analyst, business strategist and high impact conference keynote speaker.