How Peewee Soccer Teaches Marketers the BIG Lessons
Posted on January 17, 2018
Written by Hunter Thurman
Ever watch a peewee soccer game? Despite repeated practice, those adorable pint-size athletes pointedly ignore the call to run to space, and instead follow their powerful instincts to crowd the ball.
After all, if you’re not right where the action is, what chance do you have?
Pro athletes know that it’s not about where the ball is; it’s about where you can put it to advance down the field. They resist the temptation to hoard, but they don’t just stand in a static grid and kick the ball around. Instead, they find space and run to it, constantly shifting the game and uncovering new channels by which to advance toward victory.
To win the game—in consumer goods or in soccer – you can’t just crowd around the ball and kick your feet a lot. SMART players move strategically…
To make this strategy work, brands must first uncover the true consumer Felt Need. Everyone can identify basic human needs – food, water, shelter. But a Felt Need is the motivation that all brands must tap in order to alter behavior and convince shoppers to take action.
Of course, we all know that consumers aren’t very skilled at articulating their Felt Needs, so uncovering them requires some digging. Here are 3 short examples of how using white space allowed brands to stand apart:
Who needs ANOTHER granola bar?
Finding white space via the true Felt Need.
Traditional qualitative research, as it so often does (in this case, with moms of small children) revealed that consumers’ #1 factor in these moms’ purchase decision was price. (Perhaps a small nod to nutrition to show they’re good moms, but overwhelmingly, PRICE.)
Quaker was not ready to risk the downward spiral of a price war. So, they went beyond focus groups and followed moms as they moved through their day, using all their senses to understand how, and WHY, moms reached for a granola bar.
They found the Felt Need hiding around 10am and 2pm, when moms tended to be out with their children, trying to get something done while averting an ever-possible meltdown. Again and again, mom reached into her purse for the magic pacifier—the granola bar.
It turns out that what moms need is not a low-price snack food. It’s actually “a portable snack that will keep my kid from acting like Satan in public for all my neighbors to see.” Once the Felt Need was uncovered, it pointed Quaker to its true mission: a quiet kid. And the campaign around “chewy” was born.
Paper towels as far as the eye can see!
Using white space to build traction.
Picture the paper towel aisle at the supermarket—not much white space to speak of (white products, yes, but space, no). Kleenex had a brand new idea for paper hand towels in a modified tissue-box dispenser format. But, they knew that this new product, although it was innovative and addressed consumer Felt Needs, was in severe danger of getting lost in a sea of competitors.
Kleenex decided to build traction by choosing a specific empty space, and one that its female demographic would find appealing. Instead of introducing the product like any new paper towel, they created a launch buzz by positioning the product as a new gadget in the QVC lineup, which prides itself on reaching shoppers with the creative gadgets that make the house a home. Again, white space allowed them to stand apart and get noticed.
A snack bar’s NEW home: Packin’ up and movin’ out.
Leveraging retailer’s needs by finding white space to transform.
For Kellogg’s snack bar offerings, the designated supermarket aisle had become a regular street fight among brands. Instead of duking it out for their share in this inhospitable environment, they decided to pack up and move across the store to the pharmacy.
The pharmacy section was clearly due for a much-needed face-lift, as shelves were stocked predominantly with medicinal shakes and old-line weight loss brands that lacked modern appeal. Since retailers were publicly clamoring for their share of this lucrative, growing section, Kellogg’s held new promise to reinvigorate it. Simply, retailers had skin in the game to make Special K a success in its new home.
Whether the white space is marketing // positioning-related, or literal white space, Quaker, Kimberly-Clark, and Kellogg’s avoided the temptation to crowd around already-crowded spaces and found a strategic place on the field where no other competitor stood.
This article is an adaptation of a chapter from my book, Brand Be Nimble, which provides a roadmap to potent innovation, and teaches even the biggest brands to be start-up nimble. Care to read more?
Or, we’ll send you a hard copy via snail mail if you prefer. Just request your copy, and wait patiently by the mailbox. 🙂