Catalyx’s Founder & CEO, Guy White, shares his viewpoint of this month’s CPG landscape.


 

There’s a debate raging about the most successful Christmas advertisement. You can see it everywhere on LinkedIn:

Which is the best Christmas ad of 2023?

But in fact, that isn’t the debate.

The real debate going on is: which is the best testing method for long-form ads in 2023?

Kantar, System1, Zappi and others are slugging it out on social media to prove to us that their way of testing ads is the most robust. Each are posting about the top Christmas ad rankings as shown by their testing methodologies and making their cases as to why their particular method beats the competition.

Of course, the top 10 ads according to each company aren’t all the same. On top of it – you can see representatives from each camp sliding into the comment threads of the others to try and land a perfect knock-out punch.

“You can beat your over-funded competitors hands-down in the race for the festive wallet by aiming true, instead of aiming everywhere.”

If you’re like me, you’ll grab the popcorn. 

It really makes for interesting viewing. I won’t be taking up arms in this fight, but I will be keeping an eye on the action from the sidelines. It’s fascinating to be reminded just how much time, attention and money is spent on this particular niche of marketing; and it truly is a niche. The reality is, this Christmas, 99.99% of products will not be supported by this type of long-form, sky’s-the-limit advertising. Almost all will have very, very minimal above-the-line marketing budgets if at all, and yet, some of these will still win big in-market.

How’s this possible? They will win big not by chance, but purely because these products managed to find and tap into a real consumer frustration, unearth an under-capitalised trend, desire or opportunity.

Most importantly amid the ruckus made by these big-budget brands’ advertisements, these smaller disruptors will have worked out the ways to bring their consumer understanding to life. This means that they’re activating the “why” in tandem with the “how”. They’re finding the crucial moments in which their consumers are most likely to be receptive, such as at the point of purchase with pack and of course, product.

“Get your advertising right but your product wrong and you have a big problem.”

You don’t need the budget of the loudest voices to win in this season of advertising, you can beat your over-funded competitors hands-down in the race for the festive wallet by aiming true, instead of aiming everywhere.

Have you seen the Cozyberry Candle Warmer? Why have a wick and a flame when you can have a beautifully designed light that heats the candle to release the aroma without fire? Candles were invented to create light. Cozyberry have fully inverted what a candle stands for. But… it works. The brand has recognised that candles are now about emotion, aroma and interior design, and of course there’s the removed risk of naked flame during a busy time at home. It’s become an internet sensation this Christmas.

Successful Christmas Ad

Advertising can change perception, create trends, establish awareness, and build consideration. I frequently hear people murmur their worries about microscopic attention spans, but we still all love long-form advertising. Done well, it’s a 30 second studio movie that can win awards. Brilliant ads can bring you to tears. They can make you laugh out loud and completely transform a brand’s trajectory.

The truth is, though, no matter how brilliant your ad and how well it tests, if your product itself isn’t perceived positively at shelf or once tried… you don’t have a business.

David Ogilvy once said “99% of advertising doesn’t sell much of anything”, but 100% of products are used by consumers. Get your advertising right but your product wrong and you have a big problem. The other way around and you still stand a respectable chance. Many ads have won many awards, only for the product they are shouting about to fail – dramatically.

What’s coming in 2024?

I’m sure next Christmas we will have the same testing agency slugfest. Let’s leave them and the 0.01% of products to it. 

My two cents on this billion-dollar battle? Spend 2024 designing truly inspiring products that are actually built to solve the needs consumers are desperate about. And have a very, very successful Christmas by doing so.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Catalyx blog graphic

Catalyx is a Consumer-centric Innovation Consultancy. We help the world’s most forward-thinking consumer product companies unlock progress through more effective innovation. 

Want to innovate with confidence?

Talk to us today. Click here to unlock growth.

An Innovation CEO’s View of The CPG Industry: December Edition

Catalyx’s Founder & CEO, Guy White, shares his viewpoint of this month’s CPG landscape.


 

There’s a debate raging about the most successful Christmas advertisement. You can see it everywhere on LinkedIn:

Which is the best Christmas ad of 2023?

But in fact, that isn’t the debate.

The real debate going on is: which is the best testing method for long-form ads in 2023?

Kantar, System1, Zappi and others are slugging it out on social media to prove to us that their way of testing ads is the most robust. Each are posting about the top Christmas ad rankings as shown by their testing methodologies and making their cases as to why their particular method beats the competition.

Of course, the top 10 ads according to each company aren’t all the same. On top of it – you can see representatives from each camp sliding into the comment threads of the others to try and land a perfect knock-out punch.

“You can beat your over-funded competitors hands-down in the race for the festive wallet by aiming true, instead of aiming everywhere.”

If you’re like me, you’ll grab the popcorn. 

It really makes for interesting viewing. I won’t be taking up arms in this fight, but I will be keeping an eye on the action from the sidelines. It’s fascinating to be reminded just how much time, attention and money is spent on this particular niche of marketing; and it truly is a niche. The reality is, this Christmas, 99.99% of products will not be supported by this type of long-form, sky’s-the-limit advertising. Almost all will have very, very minimal above-the-line marketing budgets if at all, and yet, some of these will still win big in-market.

How’s this possible? They will win big not by chance, but purely because these products managed to find and tap into a real consumer frustration, unearth an under-capitalised trend, desire or opportunity.

Most importantly amid the ruckus made by these big-budget brands’ advertisements, these smaller disruptors will have worked out the ways to bring their consumer understanding to life. This means that they’re activating the “why” in tandem with the “how”. They’re finding the crucial moments in which their consumers are most likely to be receptive, such as at the point of purchase with pack and of course, product.

“Get your advertising right but your product wrong and you have a big problem.”

You don’t need the budget of the loudest voices to win in this season of advertising, you can beat your over-funded competitors hands-down in the race for the festive wallet by aiming true, instead of aiming everywhere.

Have you seen the Cozyberry Candle Warmer? Why have a wick and a flame when you can have a beautifully designed light that heats the candle to release the aroma without fire? Candles were invented to create light. Cozyberry have fully inverted what a candle stands for. But… it works. The brand has recognised that candles are now about emotion, aroma and interior design, and of course there’s the removed risk of naked flame during a busy time at home. It’s become an internet sensation this Christmas.

Successful Christmas Ad

Advertising can change perception, create trends, establish awareness, and build consideration. I frequently hear people murmur their worries about microscopic attention spans, but we still all love long-form advertising. Done well, it’s a 30 second studio movie that can win awards. Brilliant ads can bring you to tears. They can make you laugh out loud and completely transform a brand’s trajectory.

The truth is, though, no matter how brilliant your ad and how well it tests, if your product itself isn’t perceived positively at shelf or once tried… you don’t have a business.

David Ogilvy once said “99% of advertising doesn’t sell much of anything”, but 100% of products are used by consumers. Get your advertising right but your product wrong and you have a big problem. The other way around and you still stand a respectable chance. Many ads have won many awards, only for the product they are shouting about to fail – dramatically.

What’s coming in 2024?

I’m sure next Christmas we will have the same testing agency slugfest. Let’s leave them and the 0.01% of products to it. 

My two cents on this billion-dollar battle? Spend 2024 designing truly inspiring products that are actually built to solve the needs consumers are desperate about. And have a very, very successful Christmas by doing so.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Catalyx blog graphic

Catalyx is a Consumer-centric Innovation Consultancy. We help the world’s most forward-thinking consumer product companies unlock progress through more effective innovation. 

Want to innovate with confidence?

Talk to us today. Click here to unlock growth.

Sustainable Innovation: Takeaways from Plant Based World Expo 2023

David Gray, Catalyx Business Development Director, returned from Plant Based World Expo 2023 with sustainable innovation insights from the frontline of the sector. In this piece, David shares a breakdown of the challenges and opportunities for plant-based brands meaning to make a difference in the world – and against their competition.


CONTENTS:

1.  The news in sustainable innovation

2. Three main challenges for plant-based food

3. How to solve: Catalyx’s perspective

4. Key success stories

5. What does category’s future look like?

1. The news in sustainable innovation

On the one hand, I’d heard that the Expo had moved to a larger event space, such was the interest and the growth in the category over the last few years. On the other hand, I very much approached the event with a sense that the category was struggling in some way. The truth, as ever, was somewhere in-between…

Plant-based continues to be a category with a lot of attention and some loyal consumers. As shared in PBWE’s press release, Abigail Stevens, Marketing Director of show organiser JD Events, pointed out that “Plant-based options continue to appeal to Millennials, Gen-Z consumers” with 43% claiming to be cutting meat from their diet in 2023.

One speaker shared data that showed proteins, snacks and confectionery are still growing by around 10% in the US. Creamers are the same, and up by 15%; and dairy is broadly winning (again), particularly in families with small babies. A huge opportunity for all dairy alternatives because, as one speaker noted “once a baby starts on plant-based follow-on milk, why not switch on the adult cereal, or coffee?”

“The takeaway? Taste. Is. Everything.”

Prof. Andrew Godley, Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the University of Sussex Business School, made another resonant point. When considering what would be the future drivers for meat-eaters to really embrace meat alternatives, he told attendees, there is simply a lack of data.

Despite the success of meat-free Monday, Veganuary and the like, the obstacles to growth for the industry were, however, agreed upon…

 

2. Three main challenges for plant-based food

TASTE: Only a small amount of the meat-free products on offer really tastes like the thing it is trying to replace. And so, whilst barriers to trial have been readily overcome, the trial itself creates a barrier to adoption, because people try it, aren’t converted, and don’t try it again for a year or more. However, dairy-free has succeeded, which is why you have meat-eaters drinking soy lattes. The takeaway? Taste. Is. Everything.

PRICE: Meat-free options are nearly always more expensive than meat. The reasons are varied and valid, but it ultimately doesn’t wash with consumers. They are paying more for something that is less like what they wanted… so, the question is, what would make this worth it – especially in the current economic climate?

GROWTH: This has plateaued because of the combination of the above, but in addition, the actual number of vegetarians and vegans remains proportionately small. Brands can compete for their love, but can’t grow the sector unless omnivores come on board. Currently, this is not happening fast enough or at the right volume due to the issues of taste and price.

So the industry must solve taste, then solve price, and unlock the right drivers for each brand and each audience in order to flick that switch. 

“By tapping into the real emotional drivers of the meat-eating consumers, brands can position products closer to the gaps in the market…”

Attendees heard that consumers under 35 are more likely to switch and repeat, but are more emotionally-driven and varied. Older consumers may also repeat, but nearly always because of health drivers. The remaining segments seem yet to be convinced, with only 30% of omnivores open to trial.

It was even reported by Nestle representatives that meat-eaters are actually deterred by the word “Vegan”, and won’t buy products that use it in their communications.

3. How to solve: Catalyx’s perspective

Broadly, the industry needs to normalise eating meat alternatives at traditional meat occasions such as BBQs, dining out, and school lunches to drive demand, increase availability and lower price.

In terms of research, there is a huge window for brands to reassess their packaging and communications. Labelling and descriptions (with the whole nomenclature of the industry) are at the heart of many sticking points, and primed for analysis in order to understand what will really drive uptake.

Even if taste, texture, and price were solved tomorrow, there is still so much confusion with omnivores as to what they are eating. In most cases, as soon as the consumer is framing it within their meat experience, you have immediately lost. 

Opportunities for growth are present all the way from the entry point. If a brand exists primarily to appeal to vegans and then to switchers, the majority of attributes on display currently aren’t appealing enough. New attributes need to be developed to fill the unmet needs and the complex drivers and barriers to trial.

The expo also proved that product attribution is vital for brands with a dual offering. This was illustrated when Richmond sausages took the stage – pitching meat and meat-free sausages next to each other under the same brand.

By tapping into the real emotional drivers of the meat-eating consumers, brands can position products closer to the gaps in the market, taking into account the nuance of each product’s offer and the needs of each consumer segment.

“It’s really interesting to view these plant-based products in terms of consumer experience; how if you switch out, you don’t actually lose the original feeling.”

4. Key success stories

Greggs. McDonalds. KFC. Quorn.

Why? Because the first three absolutely nailed taste. Just as you can’t buy a chicken breast from Tesco and make it taste like KFC, you can’t take meat-free meat home and make it taste like meat. So why are brands trying to make it sound like you can?

Quorn by contrast invented a food. This gave the brand the benefit of experimenting and doing it in a playful way. The difference is that Quorn never claimed it tasted and looked like meat, instead exploring the experience of looking like meat but being a food of its own. 

It’s really interesting to view these plant-based products in terms of consumer experience; how if you switch out, you don’t actually lose the original feeling. Meat-free can begin to make a place for itself, if it can match the experience. Perhaps restaurants and food-service are the next battle grounds. 

 

5. What does the category’s future look like?

Plant-based finds itself torn between two camps – of making great food that truly doesn’t cost the environment, and in promising to be a replacement option while not exactly replicating the original. 

My perspective is that the biggest challenge is the significant lack of data surrounding consumer reactions to plant-based alternatives. Without those truths at the heart of future developments, the category will struggle to find niches and win loyal converters. This is especially true as new technology looms around the corner, threatening to take top spot – such as cultivated meat or lactose and their potential to close the vital taste gap for consumers.

But all of that is yet to come. At Catalyx, we’re all about keeping granular consumer truths at the heart of everything we do. This can not only crack the core issues and unmet needs of uncertain consumers, but also begin the preparations for future proofing your offering as the wheels keep turning.

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Catalyx is a Consumer-centric Innovation Consultancy. We help the world’s most forward-thinking consumer product companies unlock progress through more effective innovation.

Evolving Through Eras: Why Nostalgic Marketing Has Staying Power

Nostalgia. A word derived from the Greek for homesickness, it’s far more than the simple act of “looking back”, and nostalgic marketing demonstrates it. Nostalgia is tied firmly into our emotions; you’re not just remembering, but remembering fondly. Brands can leverage these associations to infuse campaigns with a rare touch of familiar magic. The very best can even bridge past and present – meeting the evolved needs of consumers without losing the promise of simplicity and trust.

In this blog, CEO Guy White takes a trip down memory lane to explore the draw of yesteryear on the consumers of today, and how, wielded incorrectly, nostalgic marketing can become a double-edged sword…


Nostalgia is sensory in the food and beverage categories

We know that taste transports us. Food holds a unique ability to unlock memories. When those memories are good, a brand can hitch its wagon to them and be in your life for years to come. Swedish Fish – it means something beside salmon in the Nordics, right? Your first Jalapeno Popper. The taste of Kraft Mac & Cheese. Goldfish Crackers, Oreos and more will be attached to many, many memories of happy times, childhood safety, parties and family get-togethers.

These are straightforward products that give a memorable sensory experience and can last as a go-to comfort food for many, decades on.

nostalgic marketing in the holidays

A great brand example of this in action is in beverage. Coca Cola is so embedded in our lives that someone can make the shape of the bottle with their hands and you’ll know it’s Coke. This is truly fascinating because, in every blind taste test, Pepsi is actually preferred. The difference is that Coke has helped you unlock happiness since you were a kid. So, it wins at the shelf.

Despite not being a seasonal product, Coke associated itself with the childlike, nostalgic wonder of the season, and its Christmas marketing works every year.

When nostalgia goes stale

Food brands lean into all of these things in a big way. This nostalgic pull gets you buying these brands today that adds to the emotional bank account you’ve amassed with them over the years.

“Nostalgia is a powerful force for some brands to keep people loyal, but can also lock some in the history books with no hope of returning to our shelves.”

But nostalgia can be a double-edged sword. Tastes move on. I can be nostalgic for something without wanting to buy it now. Take for example Lucky Charms. What a cereal! But the time for most parents to buy their kids frosted, bright green and pink cereal with marshmallows may have passed.

The brand is so synonymous with these now outmoded things, meaning it will be very hard to evolve it to the modern day equity requirements for an acceptable children’s breakfast. Just like an old movie. Maybe you’ll revisit it once in a while. But I certainly wouldn’t consider it a daily staple.

How can nostalgic marketing evolve with the times?

Nostalgia is a powerful force for some brands to keep people loyal, but can also lock some in the history books with no hope of returning to our shelves. Brands have to lean into the powerful force of nostalgia, while also remaining relevant for ever-changing tastes and trends.

“By combining relevant innovations with classic sensibilities you know that the flywheel will continue to spin for generations to come.”

Old Spice is a wonderful case study. In 1990 P&G bought Old Spice for $300m; it was a brand with a graying audience, so younger generations looked fondly on Old Spice as the deodorant from their childhood – it was the one granddad used to wear.

However, if one thing was going to stop you from buying Old Spice, it’s the fact that your granddad used to wear it.

P&G set about changing the brand’s fortune by hiring a famous football player – Isaiah Mustafa – and creating “that ad”. Suddenly Old Spice makes you smell like the man you want to emulate, and the brand is bigger than your granddad and free to be cool once again, while keeping the benefits of a long-standing reputation of reliability. It went on to be the top choice male personal care brand for 14 years.

Disney are simply magnificent at this. Disney know that parents will let their kids watch Disney cartoons more than others because they like to sit down and remember their childhoods when they watch alongside. By continuing to refresh their catalogue by combining relevant innovations with classic sensibilities you know that the flywheel will continue to spin for generations to come.

Combining heritage appeal with refreshed offerings keeps blending the best of old and new generations – but it continues to be a balancing act. With consumers’ most accurate, up-to-date values at the heart of your innovation, however, anything is possible.

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Catalyx is a Consumer-centric Innovation Consultancy. We help the world’s most forward-thinking consumer product companies unlock progress through more effective innovation.

Preparing for the Holiday Haul: Why Timing is Crucial for Seasonal Consumer Insights

The time to gather seasonal consumer insights is approaching. In between considering the lingering impacts of economic challenges and understanding shoppers’ needs, it’s the perfect time to capture the learnings that will enhance next year’s plans.

How have you prepared for this year’s holiday shopping chaos? Is your strategy nailed down? Are you certain your proposition is just right? Most importantly, are you prepared to learn what your consumer wants in real-time, so you can do away with unexpected pitfalls and meet needs head-on in 2024?

The window to do this is approaching, and a recent study shows that it’s smaller than ever.

Deloitte’s 2023 Holiday Retail Survey reports that the shopping period in the US has shrunk to 5.8 weeks on average, versus the 7.4 weeks of only four years ago. On top of that, the study reports that almost one third of consumers’ shopping budget will be spent in just the last two weeks of November alone.

Why seasonal consumer insights need to be recorded in real-time

It’s a truly unique time of year. Usual consumer habits fly out of the window, and people’s buying patterns change in every single category. For some brands this season could not be more vital. For those in Perfume, or Confectionary, for example, the holiday rush could make or break an entire year’s revenue plan. With the stakes so high and only one annual chance to knock it out of the park – how do you make sure you’re building better every year?

Core to Catalyx’s philosophy and reinforced time and again is the truth that research needs to capture actual behaviour, not claimed. Talking speculatively to your target consumers in the height of Summer about their December habits will steer you wrong; last Christmas is a distant memory and the approaching one is too far off. With the best intention in the world, no one could accurately predict what they will think, feel, do, or want during the holiday rush when they’re busy enjoying their actual holidays in the sun.

So, outside of in-the-moment research which may feel risky with only one shot to get it right, brands can delve deep into their EPOS data, which will only reflect the “what” and not the “why”. Resultingly, brands without the planning in place to capture consumer behaviour during their most vital and fast-moving period will be empty-handed the following year when it comes to insights, instead of having the full picture and an evolved game plan.

What’s the solution?

The good news is it’s not too late to secure your seasonal consumer insights. The only way to learn about how consumers engage with your brand or category during the festive season is to capture behaviour, and the only way to make sure this is representative of your diverse and evolving audience is to do this at scale.

If you would like to truly get to the core of how your consumers’ shop this festive season, Catalyx can help. We capture hundreds of images, videos and verbatim of shopping behaviours, and our robust mixed-methodology approach can audit how consumers shop your current festive offering in real-time, including emotion and perceptions of your brand versus that of your competition. We’ll look at product, pack, price, promotion, placement and consumer psychology so you have the recipe for success.

Far better than a Christmas present – we are able to gather all of this and then package it up in a set of key principles and actionable next steps so you know what you need to do next year to have an even better festive season. Don’t miss out on the chance to future-proof your strategy for next year by optimising your consumer research this year!

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Catalyx is a Consumer-centric Innovation Consultancy. We help the world’s most forward-thinking consumer product companies unlock progress through more effective innovation.

An Innovation CEO’s View of the CPG Industry: November Edition

Catalyx’s Founder & CEO, Guy White, shares his viewpoint of this month’s CPG landscape.



Consistently, more effective innovation is higher and higher up on the docket. Take, for example, the new Unilever CEO, Hein Schumacher, publishing in his new agenda a 10-point plan. Why? His volume sales have tumbled, particularly in developed markets – and he is not alone. Nestlé, Reckitt, The Kraft Heinz Company and P&G (to a lesser extent) have all had declining volume shares.

Along with many others, these companies have tried to paint a more positive picture in recent earning reports. Most show net sales growth thanks only to the full year effects flowing through the once-in-a-generation pricing boom taken by the whole sector at the height of the cost inflation surge at the end of 2022.

However, all of our discussions with leaders in these companies are now about category penetration and stealing share. They realise that the vast majority of net sales growth can only come from volume in the foreseeable future. Based on their current results and the volume trends we are already seeing – this is going to be hard. Just as I predicted in my previous blog, only the very best will win.

Innovation CEO view of CPG industry

In that blog I talked previously about how we expected the mix of dramatic price increases by CPG companies, coupled with broad based inflation, interest rate rises and much more static wage growth to create a difficult situation for consumers the world over.

In the time since, it’s become clear that that is already coming to pass as consumers are continuing to become much more choiceful. This will only exacerbate in the coming quarters.

For a great instance to illustrate this, meat consumption is at an all-time low in the UK. But – plant-based brands are also suffering. It doesn’t make immediate sense on the surface, as this is not a switch to veganism or an increase in more health-conscious consumers. Those eating meat are switching to cheaper cuts, and people are mainly looking at their bank account and realising they can’t afford it as much as before.

“Value is not about low price. It’s about the right combination of perceived product benefits to functional and emotional needs,  for a cost I’m willing to pay.”

At the same time, shoplifting has skyrocketed across Europe and North America. This isn’t a decline of the moral standards; quite simply, many people are truly struggling to make ends meet. Recent reports in the UK media are showing that maintenance loans for students no longer cover their rent. It’s madness.

In this environment, why would a consumer buy the expensive potato chip and premium skincare? Are they more likely to stick with the known brand, or does private label suddenly come into view? And once they trade down once, do they think the money in their pocket outweighs the difference in quality? Is there even a difference?

These are the things we are increasingly being asked for help with. There is always a way, but only if a brand can get the value equation consistently right.

Value is not about low price. It’s about the right combination of perceived product benefits to functional and emotional needs, for a cost I’m willing to pay; with brands creating the equity wrapper to support and maintain it all.

Getting this right consistently can only happen if the consumer is baked fully into the innovation development process. Not just at the concept, media or product proposition testing stage, but way before. It’s also not just with U&A studies, focus groups and quick quantitatives that can be misleading. It’s with methods and partners that can get to the true core of the jobs to be done, the unmet needs, the where to plays and hows that a brand can execute on most effectively to win. Surveys don’t bring that home.

“You can’t steal share and have two winners.”

It’s good to see Unilever move away from its blanket approach to purpose. Finally recognising that it is ok, or in fact critical, for the job of a brand to be solving the needs of consumers in the category in a value-adding way… and not always to try to save the planet. (God forbid a mayonnaise talks about tasting amazing with zero fat without telling me about how it’s better for humanity.)

It will be a zero-sum game. Except for the rare category companies can influence penetration and frequency (reduced-risk tobacco products spring to mind right now), you can’t steal share and have two winners. The long-term winners will continue to be those that innovate most effectively – both their product and commercialisation. Those are the ones that truly understand, at a deep level, what their different audiences are going through, and then create products that are perceived to offer the best value. They’ll take the prize.

Let the games begin…

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Catalyx is a Consumer-centric Innovation Consultancy. We help the world’s most forward-thinking consumer product companies unlock progress through more effective innovation.

Something’s Broken in Innovation: Exploring CPG Innovation Challenges with COO Phil Norminton

It’s a fact that many billions of dollars are spent globally every year on market research. By any measure, it’s also a fact that, due to new CPG innovation challenges, the vast majority of innovations fail by the time they reach the market.

How can this be? 

We spoke to Phil Norminton, Catalyx’s new COO, to uncover why things aren’t working as they should at all points in the product development journey. Phil has spent a career driving business impact in CPG from data and insight, operating both agency side and client side in a variety of insight, customer strategy, commercial and leadership roles. Bringing his innovation and scaling expertise to Catalyx, Phil joins the team with a fantastic perspective on the biggest challenges for clients to solve. 

Read on as we explore the importance of consumer-centric research.

Catalyx blog graphic

From client-side to agency-side, what stands out today about CPG innovation?

I’ve spent years around CPG innovation and it’s pretty evident that there’s a lot of waste here. That can come from a lack of strategic clarity; why are we innovating? What’s the business job to be done? What’s the job consumers want us to do such that they’ll adopt a new solution?  Furthermore, apart from the approximately 5% of innovations that are truly groundbreaking, several factors contribute to systemic low ROI. These factors include the rapid pace of business, the pressure to maintain a sales calendar, the swift transition to new projects, and a lack of cohesion in strategy and insight throughout the process.   

Innovation also feels like the poor cousin of media – how many companies develop their own creative to test versus write their own product concepts? How much investment and vendor innovation goes into planning, measuring and optimising media effectiveness, versus innovation? With that in mind, we collectively have a significant opportunity to make businesses more efficient, reduce friction, and enhance consumer satisfaction.

“I believe it can be more streamlined, connected and considered, more led by consumer tensions, needs, expectations and experiences.”

Finally, as laid out in this blog from our CEO, Guy White, we’ve seen major CPG companies struggle to grow volume share as they’ve pulled revenue and cost optimisation levers in recent years. This has driven profit margins, but there’s little runway left so there will be an increasing requirement to consider both the role and ROI of innovation.  

 

Where are some of the common pain points in the front-end of the innovation discovery and development process?

I’ve seen a lot of clients commission foundational segmentation work to surface demand space opportunities, and then struggle to leap to innovation platforms from that. Key consumer tensions, unmet needs (whether they’re functional or emotional) and associations, are not always well-understood and made central to the discovery process. As a result, you often see too-rapid a move into creative ideation workshops and concept testing, meaning strategy definition and execution are developed and tested almost simultaneously. So, often good strategies can get binned as a result of poor articulation – or the creative process lacks an objective thread. That can lead to the challenge of repetition – either repeated testing within a project, or lack of application or knowledge of previous learnings.

Post-launch, we don’t ask often enough why it did – or didn’t – resonate with consumers, how incremental it was, and what can be learned. In fact, sometimes the new product innovation lever might not be the lowest hanging fruit for brand growth. Holistically understanding barriers to greater physical and mental availability of previous innovations can highlight the need for adjustments for example in packaging, communications, flavour/scent profile or ‘findability’ in-store, that can offer bigger returns.

“The industry has focused on taking cost out of the process, not innovating it, so waste remains.”

When you look at it, there’s a lot of pain points throughout the whole process, and that’s without touching on forecasting and communications! I believe it can be more streamlined, connected and considered, more led by consumer tensions, needs, expectations and experiences of product solutions and brands, and more right-sized for the business job to be done.

 

It seems that innovations in researching this space have responded to the need for ‘faster and cheaper’ – is that missing the point?

There’s absolutely a place for making existing processes more efficient, and right-sizing the investment to the likely return. I think we’re still on a journey in regards to the adoption of DIY platforms, but when the stakes are lower and the foundational work is in place, it’s sensible to minimise discovery and concept development costs. Whether that means a DIY solution in those instances, or innovation in the business process that means a serviced approach is more attractive, is where I think some future opportunities and developments lie.

Team facing CPG innovation challenges

Can you explain more about that opportunity?

My hunch is that from an innovation perspective, the pain points are less in concept testing methodologies and tools, but more in the discovery, definition and concept construction steps that can be missed in the run up to that. I’d be concerned with what is getting created and tested in DIY mode. In other words, the industry has focused on taking cost out of the process, not innovating it, so waste remains.

“What’s brilliant, and dare I say unique, about Catalyx, is that we have a micro-obsession with making sure that research data is a means to an end…”

 

So, what is Catalyx doing differently?

Catalyx has set out to revolutionise the solution. For me it’s been very much a meeting of minds in terms of the challenges and opportunities the CPG innovation space presents, and what it will take for a consulting company to play a meaningful role in addressing them.

For example, Catalyx takes a consulting outcome-focused approach, but one which is grounded in crowd-sourced consumer data – the sparky mixed-method research that gets at addressing the pain points; be that discovering unmet needs to form innovation platforms with, determining the ‘building blocks’ or recipe card to write concepts or communications briefs from, or more behavioural ways of understanding concept resonance and likely incrementality.

What’s brilliant, and dare I say unique, about Catalyx, is that we have a micro-obsession with making sure that research data is a means to an end; the end being that the client is discovering something new, and we’re making feasible recommendations that have an impact on the bottom line. The team have developed impressive ways of working and personal standards to ensure we deliver on this promise.

Added to that, we’ve got a super client base for whom, at last count, we’ve unlocked a Billion Dollars of growth for. We’ve got a team who are incredibly passionate about solving their problems. It’s this blend of talent, crowd, services and technology that actually starts to tackle this industry-wide problem, and gets me really excited for what’s ahead. 

Connect with Phil and stay up to date with expert news and views via his LinkedIn.


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Behind the Scenes: Ben Palmer Gears Up for MRMW EU Berlin

Excitement brews at Catalyx for our upcoming journey to MRMW EU Berlin! Ben Palmer, Business Development Director, along with David Gray and Jenny Kieras, will be attending to unveil groundbreaking insights in Jenny’s talk, Revolutionizing research: Unlock the secret to fast decision-making in a rapidly changing consumer market on Tuesday, October 10th.

We spoke to Ben as take-off approaches to discuss how Catalyx is approaching the industry’s speed vs quality challenge, and to find out why Catalyx is equipped to spark innovation in Berlin.

Touching down at MRMW EU Berlin next week! What are you most looking forward to?

For me, any opportunity to have conversations with the people we actually want to help is invaluable. I’m really excited to dig into real problems and challenges, straight from the source.

From your work with clients, have you seen a common thread in those challenges?

Absolutely. Following a year of prices rising, we’ve seen massive turn into more vertical and horizontal innovation – more volume growth as opposed to just price growth – but it’s a challenge we’ve loved dealing with here at Catalyx. It’s what we do; making the most out of stretched budgets to ensure that winning concepts, strategies and opportunities are always taken to the finish line in terms of innovation.

I can speak for the team when I say we’re really looking forward to connecting with our peers in Berlin. Catalyx’s way of solving for the issues in the industry is perfectly intertwined for people looking for ways to be more agile or to dip their toes into AI to launch successful innovations. Especially for teams being pressurised from a labour standpoint.

MRMW EU Berlin

It’s always a very tight line between quality versus quantity – from how I see the industry it’s now become even more important to get this balance right from client to client. You’ve got to walk this line while thinking quickly to make sure that the insights you’re using are up to date, can be relied on and are based on the people who will be using your products. We’re excited to bring this to MRMW EU Berlin – discussing how Catalyx’s methods have been baked into the client’s innovation process so they can move as quickly as they want, to stay ahead of the market while dodging potential roadblocks of speed negating precision.

Ultimately, we’re upping the speed at which you can move through the process while keeping it aligned with your original innovation goal. Bring on Berlin!

Catalyx blog graphic

You can keep up with Ben on LinkedIn, and follow us there to see updates in our research revolution.

Want to connect before the big event? Reach out to our team today – we hope to see you there!

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Eyes on the Horizon of the CPG Industry: Insights from Catalyx’s CEO, Guy White

In this blog, we hear from Guy White, Catalyx’s Founder and CEO, as he shares insights on the CPG industry and its future amidst evolving brand and consumer needs. Read on to explore the challenges and strategies for success as our landscape shifts; from competition and category penetration to the growing demand for consumer-centric innovation, and why looking back at where we’ve been is vital to forecast exactly where we’re going.

How did we get here?

2022 was the year of the price increase. The entire industry used commodity price inflation and broader pricing pressures to drive through a once-in-a-generation hike across the board. Sometimes as much as 20%. What began as a nervous experiment soon became an industry trend, as it became increasingly apparent that short-term price elasticity was almost zero. As commodity prices settled back down, this ensured strong profit growth; as a result, all but two major listed CPG companies met or exceeded investor expectations.

However, we’ve seen this become a double-edged sword that may well come to bite all but the very best, going forward. Leading CPG executives have come out with a fairly consistent message that no more price inflation will be taken. So, this price and profit bump is now firmly baked into base numbers and will need to deliver top and bottom-line expectations through volume-led sales growth instead.

There are only two ways to do this; steal share from your competition, or drive category penetration. The first has winners and losers by definition. The second is notoriously difficult to do. Both require successful innovation – be it creative, commercial or product-based.

Problem is; in all but very rare cases – successful innovation takes time to build.

The challenge

What we are seeing is that the “Covid gap” (including the rise in remote working reducing innovation creation efficiency and unsettled consumer needs) has now meant a whole lot of innovation funnels are a whole lot emptier than they need to be. Firms that have powerful consumer-centric innovation processes, strong retailer ties to push optimised sales fundamentals, or excellent abilities to create resonant creative approaches will win. Of course, a few will simply get lucky with right place, right time bets. Unfortunately, however, the rest will fall short, and from what I’ve been noticing in the industry, I don’t think that many are expecting it.

For instance, we can already see in some recent earnings reports a fairly gung-ho messaging backed up by shaky numbers. Just one example is the recent earnings report from Bayer that shows volume sales decline being masked entirely by pricing. In my experience, that’s the start of a slippery slope. And they are not the only one.

“I think we will see an exodus to quality and to equity.”

Compound this with interest rate rises and suddenly you have a whole sector of mortgage-owning, premium brand-buying families that are having to make fairly dramatic changes to their spending patterns… with a huge wave of CPG products now as much as 20% more expensive than they were 12 months ago.

You only have to look as far as the weaker than expected US retailer results and the significant uptick in shoplifting being reporting in multiple markets to recognise the situation out there right now.

CPG industry consumers

Adapting on the move

Based on these changes in the atmosphere, we expect things to bite in 2024/25, especially for those not taking action now. I think we will see an exodus to quality and to equity.

“Our clients are looking to find weak links in the competition’s armour that are frustrating their consumers.”

Price promotions will be used to plug gaps for struggling products in the near term, weakening the value offered within their categories. But strong innovators will ultimately steal the share and find ways of getting new users into their categories – and retailers will, of course, favour brands that maintain or grow value.

At Catalyx, we are starting to see many more briefs coming our way asking for support specifically in how to drive category penetration. Our clients want to know; what are the levers to get more people to use products on more occasions? Where are the new consumer groups that could be persuaded to enter into a category? Coupled with this, we’re seeing a significant uptick in work on demand spaces and unmet needs. Our clients are looking to find weak links in the competition’s armour that are frustrating their consumers.

It’s fascinating to see this trend in clients wanting far more consumer-centricity. It’s showing up from the start of the innovation process all the way to creative briefs. The very best are migrating away from the more traditional (and dangerously limited) approaches such as focus groups, to more modern ways of crafting innovation and creative briefs. We’re seeing it grow, brands’ search for approaches that will help guide their creative partners to manifest results that truly speak to consumers.

We are working hand in glove with our own partnerships to embed the consumer voice into the creative optimisation process. We’re continuing to help forward-thinking brands make sure that whatever they create triggers that volume growth. Our entire purpose is to ensure clients are on the side of the winners in the fast-approaching battle for share.

Interesting times ahead.

 

Catalyx blog graphic

 

You can stay up to date with Guy on his LinkedIn.


Need fast, cost-effective insights, instead of just data? Talk with our team today to find out what Catalyx can do for you, we’re always ready.

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From Data to Magic: Mel Nicholls Explores AI-Driven Insights and the Role of Strategy Innovation at Catalyx

In an era marked by the constant quest for innovation, the evolution of the Market Research industry and exploration of AI-driven insights has been nothing short of remarkable. The demand for timely insights to drive market-leading innovations for CPG brands has produced a seismic shift in research methodologies and a world of new possibilities. As brands strive to meet the evolving needs of today’s consumers, many are turning to data-dense DIY research solutions or relying solely on routes with a narrow view such as focus groups, and experts everywhere are raising the question of how AI can revolutionise research’s efficiency. Stepping into this discourse is Catalyx’s newly-promoted Strategy Innovation Director, Mel Nicholls.

Mel has been immersed in the research industry for 16 years. Starting her career in the mixed method world, she discovered a natural aptitude for Qualitative research that she attributes to her knack for connecting with others. Putting her curiosity to use to dive into consumer habits and behaviours, Mel has always been person-focused. She’s worked across all sectors, specialising in commercial research (consumer finance, retail, tech and media, and FMCG), alongside public sector research. She joined Catalyx 2 years ago where she’s back to being focused fully on consumers.

We spoke to Mel to get stuck in.

The industry continues to ramp up. AI-driven insights, more ambitious client expectations, a movement towards quicker and quicker turnaround. How, as you see it, does Catalyx make its mark amid this?

We genuinely do things differently here. In the traditional agencies I’ve worked in, focus groups and surveys were the popular fixes. These routes have their place, but it can be limited. What makes Catalyx impactful is our methods.

I love face to face, but in this there is always a human influence that emerges in a group. People react to each other, fall into roles depending on the dynamic, and a lot of times it’s the luck of the draw.  Traditional research is also about claimed behaviours, but getting to the real behaviour is a little more difficult to do. During Covid, there was a massive shift in the industry to online research. This is great for us and we’re embracing it at Catalyx; with our Crowd methodology, people are faceless and therefore more comfortable to share, and they’re not influenced by others. This has resulted in a much more meritocratic system.

“Consumers are more enabled and more inquisitive every day, they’re creating these fascinating and useful responses that only listening to claimed behaviour would completely misdirect you on.”

Still, there’s the matter of data vs insight. What we want, and what the client wants, is to get people not to tell us, but to SHOW us what they do, say, think, feel and want. If you’re innovating to create new products for people, you need to really understand the unmet needs, compensatory behaviours, and what consumers are actually doing with your product or its competitors, including the shortcuts they’re creating… which sometimes they themselves aren’t aware of.

Consumers are more enabled and more inquisitive every day, they’re creating these fascinating and useful responses that only listening to claimed behaviour would completely misdirect you on. For example, a recent study of ours has discovered that for consumers keeping chocolate in their fridges, the client’s presupposition is that it’s a temperature preference. When you actually plunge into the reality of behaviours, however, it’s got nothing to do with that – turns out the rougher texture is what they want more of.

“We’re sometimes unpredictable and that’s what I love.”

That’s what you miss with DIY. I know why clients go for it; yes, we’re online, yes, we’re moving faster than ever, and yes, it’s very cost-effective, but it’s just bare bones. It’s hard to get that strategic view on the results you get and you still need an objective interpreter, data handlers to make sense of it properly, or you’re missing the insight.

Our methodology at Catalyx isn’t just reporting your findings, what we do is actually give you a compelling story that gets you to think differently about your data. I find that truth is always more than the data set, it’s the cultural context, the hidden motives, the insights we’ve learned from hundreds of similar inroads.

Of course, a huge boom in the industry is AI and what it can do for us. It’s easy to get carried away in the excitement but here, in research, it’s all about balance. We love adding it to our analysis to identify key themes, but we’re very firm at Catalyx that AI’s viewpoint is always going to benefit from the human spark to make magic for our clients.

AI is a brilliant tool to cut through data and at Catalyx our moderators are working hand in hand with it to speed us up and keep us sharp. Alone, though, you don’t get the context, you don’t get the human eye that fully interrogates what’s going on. We’re sometimes unpredictable and that’s what I love. That’s where META, our newest offering, shines. It’s the partnership of an extensive AI that pools and presents findings from multiple Bitesize studies, paired with our strategic skill that turns information into success for our clients.

I read something once that made me laugh and has always stuck with me; if you put a pattern of numbers into a computer and ask it to finish the sequence “2, 4, 6, 8…” it will answer “10, 12, 14, 16”. But, if you give those numbers to a human… we’re finishing that sentence with “who do we appreciate?”

A human eye sees the stuff that isn’t said. That’s often the most important part.

Mel Nicholls with Alex Spence and the team

Mel Nicholls with Alex Spence and the Catalyx team

What’s the unique spark you bring to Catalyx?

I’m doing what I love – qualitative crowdbased research – but my strength is really about women and telling their stories. Menopause, perimenopause, and women with kids or looking to get pregnant – there are so many things that impact women that are barely spoken about. I find it really interesting, research that has a social edge to it.

I’m thrilled to take on the new title of Strategy Innovation Director (affectionately known as a SID) along with my colleague, Alex Spence. I’m working closely with the team, heading up key accounts, and working more closely with clients to make sure we’re giving them what they need. The more you do, the more you get to understand the nuance of client’s business needs and get to know their motivations as people, which I enjoy. I’ve also done a lot of mentoring in the past, and that’s something I’m loving bringing to the team here. It’s exciting to plug in my expertise for our qualitative training, from our storytelling to communications.

Alex and I are ultimately here to elevate. We’re really looking forward to working with the team to bring up the next generation of SIDs and to keep them learning and growing. There’s also plenty of opportunity to do lots more with our key accounts, the future is very bright. Saying it simply, I’m here to upskill our people and keep bringing them through the ranks, to welcome new partnerships into the fold, and to combine these halves to make magic happen.

 

Catalyx blog graphic

 

You can stay up to date with Mel Nicholls on her LinkedIn.


Need fast, cost-effective insights, instead of just data? Talk with our team today to find out what Catalyx can do for you, we’re always ready.

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7 Emotional buying motives of household care consumers

Our latest blog is here to unveil the fascinating emotional buying motives that drive product preferences in the household care category.

A home is a sacred space, and while it demands a high level of functional care, emotion is a constant factor in the decision-making process for consumers when they shop. As a result, understanding the complex emotional motives that influence consumer behaviour is crucial for brands in the household care category to hold and grow their market share. As we uncover these contextual and sometimes-unseen motivations that drive purchase, products can be connected meaningfully with their target consumers and gain a competitive edge.

Using new consumer verbatim from our latest report, “Beyond the Surface: Unlocking complex consumers in the household care market”, and real-life brand examples, this blog will unveil 7 of these key consumer motivations.

emotional buying motives factoring in to household care consumer decisions

The emotional buying motives for safety and hygiene is strong in the home

“Particularly in the kitchen, you want something that gets rid of the germs as well as the odour”
“Ensuring my home smells fresh indicates cleanliness to me” 25-34

In “Beyond the Surface”, our latest Catalyx-own study conducted on the household care category, we revealed the emotional driver for hygiene was intricately linked to the practical driver for efficiency in the case of disinfectants. Across the two main consumer segments that emerged within our research, “Explorers” and “Utilitarians”, one common need for products that guaranteed cleanliness as well as freshness emerged. Despite both groups of consumers having divergent priorities and preferences, this uniting factor shone through, and may be attributed to our sharp rise in germ-awareness following the Covid-19 pandemic.

You can read more and find out where this driver sits in the hierarchy of consumer needs we synthesised by downloading our free report today.

 

Seventh Generation offers consumers cleaning for a good cause

Another emotion that drives purchase is the desire to create altruistic benefits by investing in sustainable products. Seventh Generation excels in involving consumers with positive global impacts through the communications promoting their eco-friendly and renewably sourced household products. The brand’s messaging promises to “consider our impact on the next seven generations” in every aspect of their products, to be “a force for good”.

With advertising imagery that includes children at every turn, the brand appeals to consumer conscience and creates a compelling metaphor for the circularity of their recycled packaging and biodegradable ingredients.

 

From consumer frustration to a one-stop-shop

“It is difficult to find products that “Eliminate Odours” and have a pleasant, long-lasting scent. I would love to have a product that could do both and ease-up my responsibilities in that sense”
“It would save me money from not having to buy multiple products” 35-54

Many consumers within our “Beyond the Surface” study indicated frustration at current market solutions in the home scent category. They perceived a gap in the market and reacted negatively to complicated multi-product solutions that were costing them time or money.

We discovered that it takes time, effort, several scent items and hard work for many to achieve the levels of cleanliness and comfort they wanted. Products that don’t force consumers to choose between benefits are hard to find, but greatly sought after. You can find a granular look at consumers’ frustrations and a roadmap to solution within our free report.

 

How Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day’s storytelling invites nostalgic investment

Household care is far from a functionality-only category. Consumers are willing to invest in not just the products, but the story of a brand, too. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day demonstrates this perfectly with a powerful brand narrative about the foundation of the company; inspired by Mrs. Meyer, an Iowan mother of nine known for excellent housekeeping and throwback sensibilities. The narrative combines old-fashioned elbow grease with the cleaning product scents of a lovingly-kept garden.

Playing on the nostalgia of “mother knows best”, the brand’s story infuses each product with Mrs. Meyer’s personality and invites emotional investment with this feel-good emotional driver for consumers to immerse themselves in.

 

Consumers seek comfort in this emotionally-charged space

“Turning a stressful situation into a positive” 35-54
“I want something that has the power to affect mood and emotions” 35-54
“This would bring calm and comfort and peace to my home” 35-54

Within our “Beyond the Surface” study, consumer verbatim revealed that the quest for individual wellness extends beyond personal care products and into those used for the home. As a result, consumers expressed that within the home scents category, products with the ability to mask odours only went part of the way to meeting their needs.

Our study’s persona group of “Explorers” revealed an opportunity for home scents to meet needs personalised to consumers from moment-to-moment. Following this, a trend emerged linking control over one’s habitat with the ability to fully relax. Our insights reveal that wellness plays a major role in the ideal offering of a home scent, and should not be underestimated. You can read our full report for free to see the use frequency and occasions for consumers’ favourite de-stressing scents.

 

How Lysol turns reliability into consumer relief

Another way for brands to take the guesswork out of the path to purchase is to anticipate consumer pain points and reliably solve them. For household challenges that require a high standard of cleaning, Lysol is one of the market-leaders demonstrating the value of no-frills relief in trying moments.

Their plant-based disinfectant wipes earned Good Housekeeping’s 2022 “Dependable Wipes” award, and just last month the company announced the world’s first ever air-sanitiser to kill airborne viruses. Staying firmly within their core offering of killing germs and viruses, Lysol continue to innovate and diversify their portfolio – all while keeping their products easy-to-use and consistently effective.

 

Simplehuman used a product innovation to create consumer excitement

One consumer emotion guaranteed to motivate purchase is excitement. Simplehuman proved recently that a sure-fire way to generate this driver is innovating to improve product experience. The brand launched a paper towel holder with a first-of-its-kind design, replacing the centre rod with a slender, reusable spray pump, that users can fill with the detergent of their choice; effectively combining two separate functions in one item.

This award-winning upgrade in convenience for household care consumers made a splash with press at time of release and has generated buzz online, with excellent peer reviews and word of mouth continuing to the fuel excitement – and fuel purchase.

 

The emotional buying motives of consumers are nuanced

From the need for safety and comfort in the control of consumers’ homes, to frustration and excitement about the products that allow them to achieve it, these emotional buying motives are just the tip of the iceberg.

Understanding and tapping into these emotional drivers can help brands in this category be present for the right consumer at the right time. Crucially, solving the right household challenges meaningfully will build loyalty and differentiation in the crowded household care market. By aligning their offerings with consumers’ emotional needs, brands can create a strong emotional connection and enhance their market share.

To explore these emotional buying motives in-depth, download our FREE report “Beyond the Surface: Unlocking complex consumers in the household care market.” Find out how we can deliver mind-opening WOW insights to unlock growth, and gain valuable insights for your brand’s success. Always the insight, not just the data.

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