Category Management at the Crossroads
By Eric Togneri, principal, CPG CatNet
Category management has been in use for over 15 years, and, according to a presentation made at the recent Category Management, Development and Marketing Conference in Scottsdale, AZ, titled “Balancing Art & Science,” it is now in near universal use at CPG companies with any size and scope. But, said presenter Alison Chaltas of Interscope, the future of category management now depends a great deal on the outlook and business approach of the category managers themselves.
Category managers have been and continue to be data analyzers. Many, it has frequently been said, can be characterized by the statement that they never met a spreadsheet, pivot table or data model they didn’t like. And the quality of category management can vary from company to company, or even within the same company. Inasmuch as category managers are now key executives, what they think and do and how they operate is of overwhelming importance. In addition, this makes the business different from what it used be when sales and marketing provided a more balanced approach to getting things done, with “art” or communication, creativity and flexibility, and “science” of pure analytics, both being brought into play.
Clearly lines are not as stringently drawn as the traditional view would indicate. In fact, with cross-pollination and the cross-discipline immersion of sales and marketing professionals, the approach to category management is increasingly one that requires a balance of creativity, communication and analytics. Category managers have to perform a myriad of functions. It is not enough to analyze alone. Data analysis that leads to conclusions but fall short of creative solutions is unacceptable to retailers/wholesalers and suppliers alike. Creative solutions not grounded in insight will never be resourced. The ability to “sell” solutions requires extremely strong analytic and communication skills. Whether garnering resources inside a category manager’s organization or convincing outside parties to adopt recommendations, category managers must be capable of balancing multiple skill sets.
Discussion Questions: Do today’s category managers
need to inject more “art” into the way they work, or will that take away from
the accuracy and the power of category management? How would you weight the
importance of analytic abilities versus communication and creativity in the
approach to category management? How can the more scientific side be effectively
blended with the more artistic side of solution development across the dimensions
of shopper marketing?