The Case of the Missing Food

My kids love granola bars.

And not the good for you ones either. The sugary, chocolaty ones that are probably more like a candy bar than granola bar.  But, it’s quick, it’s easy, and it gets them going in the morning. So for at least the past two years they have started pretty much each day with the store brand “GB” as we call them.  When I opened up the new box this morning, I was amazed at how much smaller they had become.  The box was the same, the packaging was the same, but these things are downright tiny now.

Shrinking products to manage costs is nothing new. We inherently know that when times are tough, things get smaller, even if the packaging remains virtually the same. Fortune even did an article on this not that long ago tracking the relative size of toilet paper rolls against the price of paper. Not surprisingly, rolls got shorter, narrower, or less dense as the price of paper went up. And I can’t remember the last time I saw a full half gallon of ice cream on the shelves. First it went to 1.75 quarts and now it’s an even 1.5.

So why should we care that my kids are getting hosed out of an inch of granola bar or if “half-gallon” now means “1.5 quarts?”

Because it’s starting to feel like an epidemic.  Quick, make a list of things right off the top of your head that you know are smaller today than they were 2 years ago.

I bet you got to 10 without even trying.

As marketers we are setting a pretty dangerous precedent by keeping prices level while reducing content.  (And it’s not just food stuffs either.) How long before the packaging team realizes that they are making the boxes too big and the packaging too long and resize the package to save needless costs?  Then we will just be left with something that both looks and IS smaller for the same price.

In the end, less for the same equals reduced purchasing power, which sounds an awful lot like inflation. It’s the insidious, unreported kind that people can’t plan for and doesn’t get accounted for in any economic model, or health indicator.

Which will lead to trust issues. I actually feel worse that I am getting less for the same without being told. In today’s hyper-competitive market, I will probably start to eschew brands that are trying to put one over on me.  Just tell me that you had to make things smaller, or just increase the price, I would rather know up front.

So my kids granola bars are smaller, but at least I can still buy a pound of coffee at the store right?

Oh, wait…

Its 2011… Do you know where your marketing is?

Wow, it’s already 2011. Felt like just yesterday I was penning my thoughts on 2010 marketing strategy. Remarkably, that was by far my most popular post of the year that didn’t involve Augmented Reality, the Gartner Magic Quadrant, or One Hour Translations. Not sure why it resonated so much, but perhaps it was the simplicity of the message: Focus on the things that matter most and drive results.

So a good marketing strategist would state the obvious: “it worked in 2010, let’s go for it again in 2011” and trot out another fantastic piece about how focus is even more critical now, and come up with an updated list of three action steps to keep the good times rolling (stay focused, remove distractions and showcase results perhaps?).

But no, instead let’s turn convention on its head a bit.  Just because it was a success, doesn’t mean we should do it again this year. And conversely, just because it failed doesn’t mean we should throw it in the drawer.

By all accounts, our team met and exceeded many of its commitments this past year.  We generated new wins, closable business opportunities, grew overall pipeline and began to drive thought leadership in key areas.  It was a solid double, possibly even a triple if you are the home town scorer.

But some things still didn’t work.  Some of our campaigns fell off the table. Some of our events were originally planned as “demand generation activities” but became “thought leadership activities” in practice. We dabbled in social media, but only really dabbled. The list could go on for pages.

So what does that tell us about what do in 2011? Not much really.

At the end of the day it’s of course about long range planning and moving a market position, that doesn’t change.  But it’s also about meeting the objectives of the business in that specific year. And those objectives have changed since last year. In one unit we had a major effort to build pipeline right off the bat in Q1 of 2010 so we undertook a number of shorter term activities to meet that goal.  But the business is in a different place now, which will necessarily mean our activities should change as well.

So of course, take a lesson from what didn’t work, and try to do more of what did work. But it is far more important to make sure that the activities you are focused on are well aligned with the objectives of your business.

That is my focus for 2011, what is yours?

 

Possibly related  reading:

HBR: For more on looking back to look ahead

Chris Brogan on Cleaning up your marketing for 2011

Ted Weismann of Lois Paul & Partners on B2B Marketing & Location Based Services in 2011