Monday, September 16, 2013
A SPACE OF YOUR OWN
Marketers in the world of snacks—whether chips, cookies & crackers, or candy—learn early-on the critical role space plays in their brand’s success. Indeed, years ago while starting work with Frito-Lay, the then president, Bill Korn, wasted no time in laying out this very principle: “Inventory space in this business is the key—getting it, growing it, and keeping it.” He wasn’t just talking about retail space either; he was including the incredible value space played in the Frito-Lay distribution centers, on the store-door route trucks, and (especially) in the consumer’s pantry at home. Of course, whether for Frito-Lay, Nabisco, or Hershey’s, increasing retail space is nearly always the first order of business. And no wonder, the placement of a permanent secondary display (PSD) in a supermarket often delivers incremental volume that many new products and line extensions cannot approach.
The beauty of carving out space for your brand or brands, at retail or in-home, is that it leverages—often geometrically--the well-known business insights regarding food and beverage consumables: “ If it’s available, it gets bought and consumed”; and “The more that’s available, the more that’s bought and consumed.” But even better, the space that your brand owns is space that someone else’s brand does not. And in a world where there is never enough space for everyone, that’s a competitive plus!
It turns out that, although we’re speaking here about a brand’s literal product space, the same outcomes can occur when a brand takes over its own communication space. Just as, in the retail environment there may be space that any snack brand could occupy, but only one snack brand “eyeballs” it first and captures it with customer-appealing, branded merchandising equipment…so, too, there are “space opportunities” in the communication environment that enterprising, clever marketers and their agencies can capture—with consumer-appealing, well-brand-linked campaign ideas. But here’s the best part: even if your brand cannot claim a real, meaningful differentiation versus others, finding and occupying your own communication space can really work to your advantage—especially in the wide, wide world of snacks.
Think about it. What makes snacking so appealing to so many is its sheer variability: sometimes you feel like something salty, sometimes something sweet; sometimes you feel like something crunchy, sometimes something soft and gooey. But, whether salty, sweet, crunchy or gooey, can you really say that there are many mainstream snack brands with meaningful differentiation (most share many of the same ingredients)? The truth is that nearly all snackers are variety-seekers. That’s why it makes so much sense for a growth-driven snack brand to think more about some communication space it can occupy and own rather than to think about other snacks it can “beat” with some kind of contrived product advantage.
The obvious and frequently cited example of beautifully leveraged “communication space” from the world of snacks is Snickers’ space: away-from-meal hunger satisfaction. It’s always telling to us, when we share an inferred Snickers brand positioning strategy or a current Snickers ad in one of our workshops, some marketer will state the obvious: “Snickers isn’t the only candy that can satisfy between-meal hunger”; or, “There are other brands that could have occupied the hunger-satisfaction space.” True, but other brands didn’t…other brands haven’t (at least not very successfully). And after “populating” their communication space for years with campaigns such as “Snickers Really Satisfies,” “Hungry? Grab a Snickers,” “Snickers: Don’t Let Hunger Happen to You,” and the now global “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry,” well, it’s pretty clear that the Snickers Brand has found some communication space to own.
But Snickers isn’t the only candy brand out there looking to occupy its own space. In the U.S. the Almond Joy/Mounds Brands have carved out some potentially ownable space in what you might broadly call the “escape” landscape--with their relatively recent ad campaign “Unwrap Paradise.” Efficiently using only fifteen-second TV spots, these joint brands have found a simple, engaging way to link Almond Joy/Mounds’ creamy dark/milk chocolate and coconut combinations to just the right kind of momentary “get-away”: that relaxing beach in everyone’s mind. And, just as Snickers features those particular occasions when hunger is most likely to prevent you being you (like at work or during sports), Almond Joy/Mounds also features those occasions when an escape to that “mental beach” is most likely to help…namely, those time-to-kill occasions like waiting for clothes to dry at a Laundromat or waiting for a plane to start boarding.
You might think that, once a certain space has been occupied, there is little room left. But, in the world of snacks as well as in other categories, some of the spaces have many sectors. Take the “fun” space, for example. How many different dimensions of fun might there be? For sure, there is the interactive fun of “playing” with those snacks that kids can really get involved with (Cheetos and its many shape varieties comes to mind). And there is the fun of sharing with friends, such as with M&M’s. For any brand seeking space within Fun, the key is to figure out that specific kind of fun space that it—with its product characteristics—can better occupy than some other brand.
Escape space is similar to fun space. There are different kinds of escape: from boredom (Almond Joy/Mounds); from stress; from long periods of concentration; from the “crowd,” and so on. So it’s no surprise that yet another candy brand might also aim to occupy some escape space. In fact, the Rolo Brand, returning to advertising last year for the first time in twenty-five years, is doing that with its “Get Your Smooth On” TV campaign. Similar to the Almond Joy/Mounds approach, Rolo has linked its “mellow” soft caramel and chocolate combination to that moment in everyone’s day when you just have to sloooow things down. And, according to the September 2 edition of Advertising Age (which presents the 2013 Marketers of the Year), this occupied space has been a big boon to the Rolo Brand—IRI reports Rolo sales for the year ending July 14 up 48%.
So, Bill Korn’s key to success in the snack business still makes sense: you gotta have literal space for your product. But it’s even better when you have some communication space…of your own, and to own.
Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney
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