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Why you need a category growth strategy

27th October, 2022

Screenshot 2022 10 27 at 17 32 02

Natalie Little explains how a category growth strategy can help to demonstrate the value that your brand brings to the people that use it, people that buy it, and the people that stock it.

People often say to us, "As a brand-led business, I'm not sure a category growth strategy is for me." Well, the truth is, it almost universally is for you. In fact, in today's world with consumers scrutinizing the brands that they spend their money on even more and increased brand competition, meaning retailers are more demanding than ever on what they stock, it's arguably becoming even more important to demonstrate the value that your brand brings to the people that use it, people that buy it, and the people that stock it.

So why can a category growth strategy help that? There are two reasons. Firstly, it aligns the whole business behind a joint vision of the future based on an ambitious goal. So whether you're in sales, you're in marketing, you're in operations, you know where the market is heading and what your brands need to do to win. And secondly, it helps you stand out from other brands by demonstrating to your customers and your retailers that you are interested in sustainable growth for their category along with your brand.

So what is a category approach? Well, you can't get people to use a product unless you get people to buy it, and you can't get people to buy a product unless retailers stock it. A category mindset is about building a deep understanding of the consumers, the shoppers, and the customers, and using this to identify opportunities that grow the overall category and your brands within that in a way that's good for people, for the planet, and for profit.

Now, most brands will be able to reel off facts and insights about their brands, consumers, shoppers, and customers. But with a brand first approach, what they might miss is those things that are impacting the category but not their brand. So might be a quietly emerging trend that's shifting consumer behavior away from you, or maybe a channel, a new channel that isn't covered by the regular databases and you're not available there. And yet that's where people are starting to shop.

This is where a category viewpoint is critical. By taking a step back and looking at the landscape more broadly, considering current performance, short to long-term trends, how consumer and shopper behavior is changing, we can start to understand how things might evolve, and then how both the category and our brands can be best placed to meet consumer, shopper, and customer needs in the future. And then we can find the opportunities that have that triple win that we strive for. Right for the consumer, right for the brand, and right for the total category.

So what is Oxford's approach to category growth? Well, first off, we believe category growth needs to be owned by everyone. It's a mindset that needs to exist across an organization. So we always make sure we bring together a cross-functional team with different viewpoints and opinions so that we can build a strategy that people from sales, marketing, insight and beyond can all get behind.

Now, there are three ways to grow a category. We need to get more people to buy more often, and we need to get them to spend more either by buying higher priced products or buying a larger number of products when they buy. What's critical then is that our category growth strategy approach has people at its heart, those consumers, the shoppers, the customers that are buying and using the products on offer. So we work with our clients to build a really good understanding of how people behave and why they behave the way they do both now and also how that's going to change into the future.

Now, this might mean using data if it's available, but it's not about drowning in data. We want to talk to people, we want to watch them, see how they're behaving now, and understand why they're doing what they do. Getting under the skin of people in this way helps us to identify the change in behavior that we need to inspire and excite more people to buy more often and to spend more. And we do this in a way that works for people and the planet to help to inform our growth drivers.

And then we need to define the actions that can drive this behavior change, primarily for the whole category but also for your brand. So this could be about innovation, it might be about activation at the point of purchase, it might be about the way we communicate with people. And yes, we put all this together into a beautifully simple plan on a page, but that page on its own is pretty useless if nobody sees it. So we also make sure that we work with all our clients to turn their strategies into a compelling story that inspires and motivates people internally and externally to help that growth opportunity actually happen for both the category and your brands. So yes, you can be a brand-led business, but you'll have a brand that reaches a lot further if you frame it through a category growth strategy.

Do you have a growth challenge I can help you with? Get in touch, I'd love to talk.

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