Former Unilever ANZ vice-president of marketing and previously Kellogg ANZ marketing director John Broome — now chief executive officer of the Australian Association of National Advertisers — has seen more marketing plans than most of us have had hot breakfasts. And the marketing planning process in the under-pressure fast-moving consumer goods sector is arguably more disciplined and rigorous than in any other.
Here Broome shares some tips for what makes a good marketing plan, and how to get your planning process right.
From the outset, marketers must ensure they understand their product’s reason for being.
“You’re asking the question, ‘What problem are we solving for? Is there an unmet need?’,” says Broome. “The answer might change over time.
“It might lead to new product launches, new variants or a new positioning, or simply a new way to connect with consumers.”
Gone are the days when a single brand planner would set the marketing plan with little input from other parts of a business, Broome says. “A strong plan is brought together by a multidisciplinary team. It includes category marketers and salespeople but also input from finance and operations.
“You might have an idea but you need to understand if you can get it to market in the coming year, or if you should factor it into longer-term plans.”
Even before the planning process begins, marketers should be collecting insights about the target audience, their use of the product, and so on, in order to understand how marketing might motivate them to purchase it.
“Without insight, any planning process is not worth its salt,” says Broome.
These may come from multiple sources: consumer research the marketing team has commissioned, work the creative agency has undertaken, feedback on social channels and so on.
“That’s the beauty of FMCG — good planning starts with strong consumer understanding based on human truths and insights leading to strong ideas,” Broome says.
There’s been a shift when it comes to understanding the consumer in FMCG to take into account shopper behaviour, Broome adds.
“The mindset of a consumer when they’re a shopper is different,” Broome says. “It’s a more pivotal point in the consumer journey – which in FMCG would be called the ‘path to purchase’.
“You have to understand your shoppers. And there’s a retail customer-centricity about it too. You have to understand your retail customers’ shoppers. For example, the Aldi shopper is quite distinctive — the ‘smart shopper’.”
The formal planning process starts with a marketplace assessment, says Broome.
“What do we know that we’re happy with? What don’t we know that we need to know, and what’s new?”
This is where consumer and marketplace data inputs should be included, and the impact of technology that is impacting how people engage with consumers and shoppers must be assessed.
“You’d include the transformational impact that smart phone technology has had in the way we engage with consumers and shoppers,” Broome says. “Voice search will be a big disruption — the electronic shopping list.
“When you say ‘bread’ to Alexa, it’s anyone’s guess as to which brand they’re going to send you. Suddenly you’re eating Abbott’s instead of Helga’s and you might find you like it, so you shift brands. I think that has the potential to be a fundamental change, though it’s going to depend on penetration in the market and utility.”
Broome says the marketing planning process can lack agility, and setting up a clear approvals matrix — pre-determining who is responsible for making which decisions at which time — is key to improving responsiveness.
“The critical thing is agility of decision-making,” Broome says. “Sometimes there’s a fear of making decisions, or a lack of courage that can come from ambiguity of decision rights.
“There are set decision points. If you haven’t got a clear approvals matrix, it makes it even worse.”
Put your ideas through a rigorous assessment process, Broome says. New product launches, for example, should kick-start a specific idea-generation process.
“At Kelloggs we used the Idea 1-2-3 as a discipline:
1. What is the idea?
2. How does it work?
3. Why is it right?”
Depending on what the plan recommends, marketers must work back from the desired outcomes, taking into account the relevant lead times, Broome says.
“If you’re looking at something different and new, you have to brief in the go-to-market piece earlier. You may have long lead times from production to factor into your timeline.
“Typically retailers will only change their shelf allocations once a year. They’ll only take new products once a year.
“For example, the latest I’d be briefing in a February back-to-school execution is July-August the previous year.”
Then it’s budget time. Marketers are typically allocated between 5% and 15% of net revenue, although the FMCG industry – and budgets – are under continuing pressure.
“You can only budget once you know the size of the prize,” says Broome. “You have to be accountable for an ROI.”
Most FMCGs — particularly multinational companies with a global head office overseas — will have a top-down aspiration for a brand, Broome says.
“There’s the bottom-up and the top-down approach to numbers,” he says. “There needs to be a negotiation and that should be a pliable conversation.
“If there’s a massive gap between the two then you need to have that conversation early on.
For the past four or so years, many FMCGs have favoured a zero-based approach to budgeting, informed by detailed information about how much marketing activities have affected sales in past years and what it actually costs to deliver the outcome, rather than a standard increase on the previous year’s budget.
Broome says a feasibility review is a critical step to determine which activities it best-serves a business to pursue, as well as allocation of funds between different business units.
“You’ve got your marketing plan for your business and you would then go to the leadership team for integration into the annual business plan,” he says.
“You’ll be informed through research,” says Broome. “You will cross-tabulate that from the consumer perspective to a retail environment: ‘If it’s a $10m turnover product, and I have to sell 1 million units, how many units per store per week do I have to sell? Where would it fit in the retailer’s rankings? Does this meet their needs?’
“Is growth going to meet head office standards? There are huge costs associated with developing and launching a new product – could that money get a better return by just supporting your core product instead?”
“Remember marketers have to consider all four of the 4Ps. It’s too easy for the marketing industry that supports marketers to be over-focused on Promotion ,” Broome says. “Seventy-five per cent of the time, marketers are focusing on something else. Promotion or advertising only really comes into play in the execution phases of the planning process.”
Then the plan is executed – “the easiest part,” says Broome. But, he says marketers must be careful not to drink their own brand kool-aid, so marketers must encourage their agencies to be the voice of the consumer and keep marketers in the consumer’s ‘real world’.
“The agency should be involved from the beginning. It should be no surprise when the brief arrives,” he says.
“The agency — particularly the agency planner — should be the consumer advocate. They keep marketers honest, and stop us from believing our own rhetoric.”
Once a campaign is ready to be launched, a brand dashboard of key metrics should be created, and results may begin to be known as soon as the night after a TV commercial goes to air.
“The evolution of econometric modelling and next-day retail data means that return on investment is easier to predict and to measure,” Broome says. “It’s pretty robust for media channels and doesn’t move much from one year to the next — and we are held accountable.”
Post-implementation reviews are increasingly conducted during campaigns, although Broome says there are dangers in trying to respond within days.
“Saliency – the degree to which a brand is thought about when the consumer is in a purchasing situation — is the best predictor of future sales than anything else,” Broome says. “Even more than claimed purchase intent: building saliency over time is absolutely key.
“Marketers need to ask:
1. Is the saliency train heading in the right direction?
2. How is my trial rate responding?
3. What is my repeat purchase rate doing?
“If you’re tracking what you’re doing, you’ll have a fairly good indicator of shopper acceptance pretty quickly.”
“At various points in time – such as quarterly – there are opportunities to revise the plan,” Broome says. “The media mix can usually be adjusted sooner.”
Some situations – such as product recalls — trigger pre-set contingency plans: “The alarms go off,” Broome says. “Safety is absolutely paramount. Nothing comes above safety.”
FMCG marketing planning is a very disciplined process, but Broome says it can take too long. Locally an FMCG will start its planning process nine months from the start of the new year, if not earlier.
Broome’s advice to young marketing planners is to make the process work for you.
“Process for process’s sake is one frustration,” Broome says. “There should be nothing to stop you breaking a plan to take advantage of an opportunity, as long as it’s accretive to the plan. For example, sometimes a product may become available earlier than expected and you can start generating sales earlier in the year.
“Don’t become a slave to your planning system; make the planning system a slave to you so you can deliver to the needs of the market.”