Big FMCG brands should be learning from start-ups and thinking small within their own company.
Whilst growing, big brands must also fulfil consumer promises and satisfy their desires in an innovative way. And, most importantly, they must implement these strategies across their business, rather than in a separate silo.
Firstly, there are small-scale needs to be considered in their core business strategy. For example, Patagonia donates 1% of their sales to environmental groups. This allows them to stay true to their 'environmental activist' personality whilst expanding their business. Apple always considers which features most benefit the consumer, and thus limits its product range to focus on innovation. This evident attention to detail appeals to consumers and ensures that they stand out in a market of confusing brands.
Another successful tactic is for big brands to conduct in-depth research and analysis. This allows them to understand what start-ups are offering that they aren’t, and adapt their branding accordingly. Recently, big FMCG brands have learnt that start-ups are reacting to consumer requests for authenticity and sustainability. And they’re responding to this by also targeting these consumers. Unilever’s range ‘Love Beauty and Planet’ is fresh and innovative, and has a clear sustainable purpose.
It is true that implementation of these strategies and initiatives may take longer than big brands wish. This is thanks to their comparatively rigid structures and hordes of people to sign off. Many big brands appear to be taking the route incubator schemes. By directly helping start-ups to develop, they are living the saying ‘if you can’t beat them, join them!’
These acquisitions and investments are an understandable solution given current panic caused by start-up disruptors. The biggest criticism of these initiatives is that piecemeal solutions lead to piecemeal outcomes. But the truth is they don’t have to stop there.
The one benefit start-ups have that can't be purchased is momentum; the ability to go from a Minimum Viable Product to mass success in the space of a year is hard to replicate in a big company. That doesn’t mean big brands can’t build this momentum themselves; they just have to start small, and build up. Yes it may take longer than if you are in an office of 10 to get buy in, but over time, there is no reason why a Unilever or P&G can't have the same seismic impact an angel invested company can.
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