If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?"  ~Vince Lombardi

Category Management continues to evolve!

1990's:  When category management first officially came on the scene in the 1990's, a lot of people were skeptical and did not give it much chance to survive any longer than a short-lived fad.  As the business process took hold and the discipline started yielding category growth, there was the additional burden labeled by some as the "template treadmill" referring to huge effort to fill out and complete all of the templates and worksheets - let alone getting to decisions and execution!

2000's:  Around 2005, there was an effort to re-establish the "consumer" as the central focal point while still keeping the structured process in place.  By emphasizing consumer needs and preferences, it was expected that the category plans and results would improve.  In the late 2000's, there was another call - this time to streamline category management and add the "shopper" into the equation, resulting in shopper-centric strategies supported by loyalty data and connecting with shopper marketing efforts.

Let's not forget the purpose of Category Management:  Increase sales and profits

The reasons why category management has survived for over 20 years include: 1) process, 2) focus, and 3) adaptability

Below are some recommendations for approaching category management in a smarter way that you may want to consider


Sustainable and scalable

Category management has survived in part because it established a process for partners to manage and grow sales by taking an overall category perspective.

While process is important, you need to make sure that you don't get lost in the details of the process to ensure your efforts pay out! 

The important and most valuable components of the process include:

  • Objective - what's the purpose?
  • Efficiency - is this sustainable?
  • Reach - is this scalable?
  • Reward - is the payout worth it?


Prioritize what matters most

Category management has survived in part because it was focused on driving incremental sales by understanding and catering to the needs and desires of consumers and shoppers.

Importantly, you should always focus on what matters most to your customer - both the shopper and the retailer!

The important and most valuable components of your focus include:

  • Consumer - usage & need states?
  • Shopper - trips and mission?
  • Conversion - purchase barriers?
  • Leakage - regaining lost share?

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Defining how to stay on top

Category management has survived in part because it has adapted to the changes over time, such as the emergence of shopper loyalty data and shopper marketing capability.

Similarly, your company's success depends on your ability to adapt with a game plan to stay ahead of competition!

The important and most valuable components of adaptability include:

  • Value - reason for being?
  • Strategy - how to differentiate?
  • Internal - business plan to grow?
  • External - who will you win with?