Commentary

How Agility Can Give Brands The Competitive Edge

The consumer goods industry is at a critical turning point. The established players are being forced to listen to consumers, as owning and selling a big global brand no longer guarantees survival.

The rise of gluten-free, lactose-free, non-GMO, natural and organic products are testament to the power consumers have today, which is influencing the trajectory of consumer goods companies and the products they develop and sell.

What’s more, a host of digitally born disruptors are here to give customers what they want. These smaller players aren’t playing by the conventional rules – and they’re outperforming their traditional counterparts in generating growth.

Relevance and consumer appeal — now critical to stimulate new growth — are coming in many forms as companies go to great lengths to drive competitiveness.

The successful food and beverage brands of the future will be those with a clear focus on doing the small things brilliantly, focusing on meeting consumer needs in the moment and bringing it all together to deliver better and more convenient customer experiences.

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For example, one yogurt company created highly relevant web content and almost single-handedly made baking with yogurt a “thing" by promoting recipes across its distribution channels. This creates a shared sense of brand community, with customers invited to be active participants by sharing feedback and yogurt recipes of their own.

But understanding the challenge that lies ahead is only one part of the puzzle. The data backs this up with just over half (51%) of CPG executives saying their workforce lacks the skills to drive growth and agility.

So, how can consumer brands create a competitive edge that will see them on the path to growth?  There are five routes to consider. Together, these offer a crucial North Star, guiding the path to new growth.

Operating model: Operationalizing change requires a fundamental realignment of the operating model. This entails running two parallel organizations that each have specific governance, talent and success metrics. One is grounded in scale, and keeps the mega-brands running. The other is grounded in flexibility, and launches and scales the new, smaller brands.

Processes: Use data and sophisticated customer analytics to strengthen relationships and meet consumer needs for relevance by delivering something that’s “just right” for each individual consumer in each moment. This means solely using data to keep brands profitable to using it to curate messages, pricing and promotions to engage directly with people.

Technology: Use advancing technology innovations to radically change ways of working. This reduces operating costs and frees people to focus on creative and strategic tasks.

People: All levels of the organization need learning opportunities to develop key skills that support agility and growth. Drawing on the broader ecosystem of partners, suppliers and retailers can help provide hard-to-get or short-term skill requirements.

Culture: The imperative for leaders is to create and sustain a culture that puts consumers front and center of the growth strategy.

Successful companies will be those who put the consumer at the heart of their growth agenda. To do so, they need to create an intelligent enterprise that will become faster, more agile, and deliver relevant products, services and experiences that can be scaled and adapted around consumer and employee needs as they emerge.

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