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Nürnberg, 17.02.2022

Q&A with Jutta Langer on how to shake-up your strategic planning

Every businessperson out there recognizes the different quality of insights that are gained by tying insights from multiple lenses together into a holistic view. You’ve only to look at our ‘Who Cares? Who Does?’ report to see that in action.

But the reality is that companies face challenges dedicating this quality time. Brands are battling ‘full spectrum inflation’ – by which we mean an inflation of ‘data overwhelm’, an inflation of time-scarcity with multiple priorities clamouring for attention every hour of the day, an inflation in the speed of market and consumer change, an inflation in the disruption caused by challenger brands with innovative business models.

So, what do brands do? Accept the risk of making major strategic decisions based on a partial picture and unchallenged ideas? Or is there another route?

We asked Jutta Langer, GfK's Vice President Consulting, to answer the following questions:

Jutta Langer, VP Consulting, GfK

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Why is it getting so challenging for businesses to make the very best strategic decisions?

This has never been something that’s easy. It calls for senior leaders to split their minds – on the one hand calling on their experience and understanding of the market and what has been working for them, while equally trying to clear their minds of preconceptions and take fresh viewpoints on developing trends, to try to spot early signs of opportunities and threats that might play to strengths or weaknesses.

But now it’s even more complex, thanks to the sheer number and volatility of the different impulses that have to be considered. Whether it’s changing consumer attitudes, drivers and demands, or disruption from challengers with innovative business models, or responding to increasing costs within production and supply chain, or truly understanding your brand value and positioning in different markets.

You need to equip your strategic thinkers with a true 360-degree view of consumer, market and brand insights that avoids blind spots, while also driving them to question firmly held assumptions, rethink how the company operates, anticipate tomorrow’s biggest trends, validate the best ideas.

Give me an example of what you mean

Expanding into new categories, or even securing and expanding existing market share means – amongst other factors - tapping into major consumer and market opportunities and understanding the full competitive environment in light of consumers’ needs and expectations. This then needs to be carefully mapped with the capabilities and strength of the respective brand to secure lasting in-market success.

Take sustainability as an example of a very major trend. On the surface, it seems easy to shape a strategy that ties into this, but the truth is that it’s very easy to get it wrong.

Consumers are increasingly researching the validity of brand claims and quick to smear any brand they perceive to be ‘greenwashing’. The challenge is to tell what’s driving consumers, when 65% of global consumers say they try to buy products that are packaged more sustainably, but only 29% actually do regularly avoid plastic packaging. Is changing your product packaging a good strategy in a certain market – or will your core audience actually react negatively, and perceive this a shallow, half-hearted gesture in the face of a looming global crisis? Will the disruption and cost of transitioning your organization’s entire operation to a sustainable best-practice deliver significant ROI in terms of client loyalty and endorsement? To answer these questions with confidence you need to deep-dive into the insights and engage with the industry experts strategically.

Or take premiumization. Why is it that, in the face of rising inflation and cost of living, premium brands (those with a price of 50% or more above market average) accounted for nearly a quarter of last year’s T&D sales globally, with particularly high growth in APAC and LATAM? Understanding the cohesion between the brand offer, sales execution and marketing claim is essential in developing a coherent brand position that resonates with consumers’ personal values, making them willing to pay more.

You mentioned the risks of getting it wrong. Can you elaborate on that?

Trust in a brand is huge asset with 42% of people across 18 core countries worldwide saying they “only buy products or services from a trusted brand”.

But today’s consumers are more demanding and less forgiving. This is strongest in younger consumers, who are particularly concerned with choosing sustainable brands – and our research shows their passionate activism is having a significant influence on the purchasing behavior of main household shoppers. In many cases, they may be the main shoppers.

Younger adults like Gen Z and Millennials are tech- and social media-savvy and determined to make a difference. As a result, brands that fail to demonstrate their commitment to values that these consumer groups hold dear, risk becoming irrelevant.

Deepening this risk is today’s crowded, competitive busines landscape. Consumers who lose trust or fall out of love with their usual brand have a wealth of alternatives to choose from – be it start-ups, or established players, built around innovative business models that fully reflect to the new consumer sentiments and demands.

What’s the answer? What can I do avoid pitfalls and rejuvenate our strategic planning?

My advice is to bring in an external partner to help your team strategize, spar with ideas, and drive the right strategies forward.

GfK as your partner is rooted in comprehensive data and insights relevant to your specific markets. We live and breathe the data every day and have the flexibility to interrogate it from every angle, knowing the diamond insights it holds and surfacing new thinking that is pertinent to your brand.

With gkconsult we are taking our client partnership to the next level, leveraging our AI empowered data, our analytical and industry expertise. We inject unbiased 360-degree thinking and help you challenge assumptions and validate your big ideas into winning strategies.

If that sounds interesting, please do come to me with any questions you have, or take a look at our gfkconsult offer

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