Crucial insights on building FMCG brands that truly delight customers.
Simply put, we love to delight our consumers. This is integral to who we are as a company. It is also what inspires us to keep innovating – to offer superior value, world class products with sizzle, to millions of consumers across the globe.
One of my favourite examples is that of Ndiema Expert Crème, which has been one of our bigger successes in recent times. Through launching a hair colour crème in a sachet for the first time in India, we disrupted the category and created a new price point that was almost four times lower than existing crème products. Not only that – the product quality, formulation, and the shine and conditioning benefits were better than much more expensive products.
This is one of the several examples of why ‘Create Delight’ is a core value at NCPL.
We define our commitment to “Create Delight” as:
- We place our consumers at the heart of all we do
- We obsess over current and future needs of our consumers. And then deliver.
- We offer consumers amazing quality products at great value
I am very pleased that Chacko has authored this week’s message on Creating Delight and how we can build brands that truly delight our consumers. Chacko, as you know, leads Marketing for our FMCG cluster and is leading our team to enhance awareness of our brands, to connect deeper with our consumers and to make our brands more vibrant and exciting.
Please read on…
To delight is to create a moment of joy in someone’s life. In day to day life, that moment of joy could be a positive surprise, an unexpected compliment, an unforeseen gift or even just an acknowledgement. In the world of business, it is easy to imagine how service businesses like hotels can create delight quite easily, because of the significant human interaction between the hotel and its customers, giving rise to plenty of opportunity for well trained staff to create these moments of joy. However, is consistent consumer delight in mass production and indirect sale based businesses like FMCG possible at all?
In my career, I have had the privilege of working on, or seeing at close hand, a number of FMCG brands that constantly brought delight to their users. I have put together some of the lessons that I have learnt in my consumer delight journey till date.
Don’t ask consumers what they want
Instead, in Steve Job’s words, “know them so well that you know what they need before they do”. Asking consumers what they want only guarantees that you will satisfy her. Delighting her goes beyond this, because the only way you can surprise her with your offering is by giving her something that she did not expect. Sunlight, Africa’s oldest FMCG brand, still remains fresh and highly successful across the continent. Its detergent offering is a classic example of moving beyond wants to really over–delivering on all her needs. While all of its peer set is focussed on delivering acceptable levels of cleaning at affordable prices (definitely relevant consumer ‘wants’), Sunlight is unique in that in addition to acceptable cleaning, it gives them a fabric softener benefit, has fragrances that are category beating and packaging and communication that constantly lift her mood. It’s peer set is focussed on what consumers want but Sunlight gives them what they need, namely a series of delightful experiences that make their day better. Within our portfolio, Good Knight is a great example. Whether it is more efficacious formulations, new formats or great design, we have continued to redefine the category to provide the best mosquito repellents to keep families safe, both at home and outdoors.
People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves
This Samuel Hulick quote is often quoted in the big features versus benefits narrative that is all over the internet. The argument is simple; consumers are not interested in your product features. They are interested in what the product will do for them. This is usually followed up with the famous example that the iPod succeeded because it was marketed as ‘1000 songs in your pocket’, rather than 500 MB of storage space. Some brands have really pushed the envelope by thinking of benefit purely from an emotional lens, dropping almost all reference to the physical benefit that the product does for you. Dove is an obvious example here but my preferred one is Surf Excel in India. In its recent history, its most successful campaigns (in terms of driving sale and equity) have focussed purely on telling deeply emotional stories with no reference at all to features or traditional functional benefits like cleaner clothes. This stemmed from a clear brand philosophy that it existed to help women be great moms, a great example of selling a consumer a better version of herself.
A win in a lab is not a win with consumers
This follows on from the previous point. A laboratory is an excellent place to measure all that is functional about a product. However, labs can be blind-sided on three aspects: 1) emotional aspects of the product usage namely how it feels, how it smells, tastes etc. 2) it assumes that all consumption is made up of discrete rational evaluations rather than one holistic experience 3) consumers do not read our SOP’s on how to use the product; each one probably has her unique spin on how to use it. Even if the product has the world’s leading functional molecule, there are a number of small but significant ‘sensorial’ aspects that need to be gotten right before consumers can experience the might of that molecule. An interesting example was when some colleagues were working on launching a liquid detergent for non-washing machine users. They noticed that consumers gave the product very poor feedback, while the lab results were excellent. This completely foxed the team because the consumer feedback on a majority of the obvious sensorial elements like fragrance, colour, pack design etc. were positive as well. The breakthrough occurred when one consumer said that since it was a liquid, she expected it to dissolve easily and thus did not spend any time dissolving the detergent in the water. The team significantly improved product viscosity to cue the need to actively dissolve the product and suddenly consumer feedback turned excellent, resulting in a successful launch.
You eat with your eyes – aka, first impressions matter
In my days working in food service, my boss used to keep drilling his catch phrase into my head: ‘People eat with their eyes’. In the restaurant business, it has been shown often that the first impression that the food makes on you has the largest correlation to how you will rate it. A messy looking or poor smelling dish puts you off even before you get to the core aspects of the meal, namely the taste and the nutrition. In my later experience with soaps and hair, this was borne out in many different but telling ways. One of our leading hair brands was technically superior to its benchmark competitor in many ways. On shelf however it looked smaller, less modern and less attractive than its competitor, resulting in sharp share loss. It didn’t matter to consumers that the core product was a potential delighter. Her first impression was poor and that sealed the debate in her mind. On our Darling brand, once the team understood this and made the necessary corrections, the transition to delight was almost instant.
De-average – aka, there is no best tomato sauce (Malcolm Gladwell)
Consumers habits and tastes can be so diverse that designing one offering that appeals to all will only result in being average to everybody. That is the opposite of delight. The converse is also true. A brand that I once worked on in my previous job started getting consumer complaints about how it damaged their skin on use. The team mounted test upon test to understand what was wrong but in every large sample test, the scores were good. The team decided that no significant action was needed to the product. This cycle repeated itself a few times, till at one point the brand started declining sharply. What the team then realised that there was approximately 5% of its consumer base that was at high risk of reacting adversely to the product. By ignoring their complaints, the poor word of mouth spread to such an extent that even consumers who were not at risk started believing that the product was harmful, (the word of mouth resulted in a poor first impression, from my previous point) and stopped considering the brand. For me this is a great example of how if we look at consumers in terms of averages, we will at best be average to them all and at worst terrible to many.
In summary, to build brands that truly delight consumers:
- Think of what service you want do for your users with your product. Then exceed it with product design and communicate it in a manner that they see themselves in a better light.
- Make consumer intimacy a company-wide rallying cry, equally relevant to all business functions. The break through insight on how to delight a user can come from anywhere or anyone. Alternately, delight could be compromised because some members in the team did not understand the consumer impact of their actions.
- All consumer touch points are important, but none more so than the first impression that she gets of you. This could be your pack on shelf or even the advertising or word of mouth that she hears.
- Understand the distinct sub-groups in your brand audience and design to delight each and every one. The alternative makes the brand average at best.
A big thank you to Chacko for sharing some great perspectives. Like he points out, to Create Delight is absolutely critical for us.
In fact, I would emphasise that delight isn’t something that we need to be thinking about only from a marketing perspective. It’s something that each of us needs to be deeply committing to, across functions.
We all need to be obsessed with and focused on delighting our consumers. Providing a seamless consumer experience requires that we put our consumers at the centre of everything that we do and that all parts of the organisation work together in lockstep to serve them.
So, do ensure that you are spending enough time with consumers and in the market to listen to and understand their needs. Cross-function collaboration is important. So, work together with peers in other functions. Share your ideas. Keep on innovating to delight them.
We look forward to your thoughts.