At ages 4, 6, and 8, my kids are picky. They like what they like, and they like things to stay the same. When it comes to brands, they are fiercely brand-loyal (offspring of an ad guy, right?) and most certainly are not “switchers”—especially with their PB&J.
The bread? Rudi’s Organic Honey Sweet Whole Wheat.
The jelly? Polaner All-Fruit Seedless Red Raspberry Spread.
The peanut butter? Smucker’s Organic Natural Peanut Butter (with just a pinch of salt).
These very specific tastes can make lunchtime in the Carroll household a bit of challenge under the best of circumstances. But in the face of a global pandemic, preferences don’t mean diddly-squat. (Full disclosure: My brother is a frontline medical worker and I am acutely aware of how privileged we are to be safely “socially distancing” while I am still able to do my job.)
Inventory management is the newest challenge brands face these days—and it trumps brand preference. As a result of COVID-19 disrupting supply chains and manufacturing systems, marketers need to adapt their strategy right away.
For my kids, it means discovering all kinds of new breads and peanut butter. For us professionals, it means that what consumers prefer has been replaced by what consumers can get, and our marketing content needs to take that into consideration.
Inventory Matters. It used to be when marketers talked about inventory management, they were concerned with the number of advertisements bought and sold. It was measured in terms of site traffic or eyeballs. These days, inventory management carries a whole new meaning—and in doing so, it carries so much weight toward the products and brands we represent.
Brand scarcity is driving replacements for everyone—not just my kids. If a customer is loyal to a particular brand and, because of COVID-19, a manufacturing plant has been closed, traditional store inventories are reduced. The lack of inventory will, oftentimes, push customers to buy another brand that they may not want. Marketers that learn about inventory turnover can better forecast shifts in demand, particularly as consumers shop for a secondary preference to their preferred brand.
What should your creative and marketing teams do to become smarter about supply chains and inventory management?
Learn about your brands’ manufacturing processes. Having an appreciation for the raw materials, production and technology needed to produce one product will help your entire team appreciate the intricacies and attributes that personify the brand on it.
Ensure content communicates “We’re in stock!” as opposed to “Buy before it’s gone.” Create more content that invites customers to become more intimately connected with the brand.
Ask your marketing teams about 3-, 6- and 12-month forecasts. Brand managers and CMOs should be more than willing to share what their products’ sales predictions look like. That data will be helpful in not only shaping seasonal marketing outputs, but to also think about the different touchpoints the brand has with the consumer when the consumer needs your products.
I don’t know if our shopping experiences will ever return to the way we once knew. But I do know that it’s our job to manage all of their resources, and it’s my job to make another PB&J for my three tastemakers.