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Three often overlooked keys to unlocking growth

8th November, 2021

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No matter which phase of my career, I have repeatedly found myself building plans and strategies to ‘step up our game’.

Sometimes the brand was in decline, sometimes just not growing at the pace we believed it could and should grow. Often, despite multiple attempts to launch or relaunch, to fix things up, the growth we delivered was still too timid, not profitable enough or just a short term spike.

That’s when we start talking about ‘turn around’, ‘accelerate’, ‘turbocharge’. That’s when we feel a rising sense of urgency. So what really works when you are faced with this challenge? What is truly hindering your brand’s potential?

Here are three top tips, based on our experience at Oxford working with multiple clients in multiple industries and continents:

1/ Let’s be honest, the next ‘BIG NEW THING’, is often the last thing we need

Ok I’m going to stick my neck out and start with a controversial one. In marketing, we are by nature curious, creative people, naturally attracted by new trends, the latest BIG NEW THING (yes I’ve deliberately capitalised it, because often it feels like that in the way it’s communicated).

That curiosity is what makes us good at marketing. It’s a towering strength. But it comes with a weakness. When we aren’t getting the growth we need we often default into innovation, the next new thing.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes innovation is the right thing to do. But sometimes it’s not or it’s the wrong time to do it. Often what is really needed is to first reignite the love for the core of the brand. Only then will powerful innovation ideas flow.

Grow the core and then add more.

2/ We don’t think nearly enough about profitable penetration

Yes we all know, to grow a business we need to grow penetration. But rarely do we resist the temptation of excessive promotional plans. You know the sort – the plans that will help us meet our short term annual targets, but put our profit and potentially even our long-term growth at risk. This is not an article arguing against promotions…. But I am arguing that we far too often go too far.

What we truly need is profitable penetration.

What we truly need is profitable penetration

One reason clients can get stuck in this situation is the limitation of their own internal category definition, often defined way too narrowly by the universe of their purchased data sets. This means it can be hard to see where else to go for growth.

We look at chocolate biscuits or Greek yoghurts. But when we step back we all know consumers don’t think in those narrow ways, they think snacks or pudding. Broadening our perspective is a critical first step in unlocking new opportunities for long term profitable penetration growth.

3/ It is crazy how much we are still stuck in silos

We know that businesses that are more fluid, collaborative and interconnected are more successful. But far too often we see a lack of integration and collaboration between marketing and commercial teams, leading to a disjointed approach that is doomed to fail.

Business school professors Thomas Steenburgh and Michael Ahearne observed;

“Senior leaders have great confidence in their ability to develop innovations but not in their ability to commercialize them.”

And rightly so.

Marketing and commercial must work hand in hand, we must connect the right customers to the right product, not simply the right consumers. If we don’t, we will fail.

Really challenging ourselves

Ultimately, it’s about bravery and courage to do the right things for the business

If there is one thing that we should all have learnt over the past 2 years, it is the need to do things differently, and the power this can unlock.

And what I mean by differently is not a bit faster, a bit better, a bit more incremental. It’s about being ready to truly challenge our ways of working, our strategy or innovation plans – even if they have been locked internally!

Ultimately, it’s about bravery and courage to do the right things for the business. It is not easy, often uncomfortable, but so very rewarding when it leads to the growth our brands deserve.

At Oxford, we take our pride in getting to really understand your business and challenges and tailor each solution to you. So we listen a lot. And we challenge a lot. That’s what we did with one of our clients recently, a global player in the dairy industry. With their best interest at heart, we offered them not what they first asked us for, but what we believed was needed to turbocharge their business: a Brand Workout.

Finding growth through a Brand Workout

To identify the strongest growth opportunities for your brand, you need to do a Brand Workout that will look at growth from all angles, from the people we target and their needs, to the brand positioning and purpose, to its execution, looking at product, pack, price, place and communication.

And what’s more you need to do the Brand Workout in a way that is agile, never letting yourselves drown in data nor fall into the usual pitfalls. Brand Workout is designed to challenge us to drive profitable penetration, to be brave, with a commercial spirit right from the beginning.

And that dairy client I mentioned? Within a year on the Brand Workout the profitable penetration growth showed up. So if you’re in need of accelerating your business, and feel brave enough to get challenged, please get in touch – we’d love to talk!

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