This is a good and timely discussion and I’m delighted to be part of it. What has amazed me is that the Category Management idea is over 25 years old since I first made reference to the idea in 1989 at a CIES conference in France. Very few ideas and methods have lasted that long in our fast paced business. Its longevity, in my opinion, has been the result of its simple philosophy and principles. If we understand and think like the consumer (now the shopper and consumer) and share the best possible insights about these ultimate targets of all our work we will make better decisions about how to best meet these needs.
What has changed over the years of course are two things. First the availability and quality of information and insights into consumers and shoppers and how consumer and shopper behavior are connected in an integrated journey. We can now have a clearer understanding of how consumer needs (always the starting point) ultimately end up in category and product purchase decisions made when the consumer becomes a shopper. Second is the rapid emergence of online digital channels as an alternative way for consumers and shoppers to meet these needs.
To me what is most exciting about this is that now we have more tactical tools to reach and influence the decisions of shoppers. In the original Category Management approach, the only tools we had were the traditional merchandising tactics (assortment, shelf presentation, pricing and promotion) all executed in an in-store environment. We simply now have more information and a broader array of tools to understand and deploy as we strive, as has always been the goal of Category Management, to create greater satisfaction and loyalty for our categories and brands.
As my friend Dr. George says, getting back to basics is the best way to start evolving Category Management to take advantage of the new opportunities. Let’s not make this too complicated. If we keep it simple, there is no reason why Category Management, like Brand Management, will not still be a method we are using in another 25 years from now.