by Mark Breitfuss
What inspired me to write about this topic was that I recently came across a number of Cat Man training companies who are not instructing on Cat Man best practices (e.g., Discovery being done too late in the steps; misunderstanding between the consumer and the shopper; recommending strategies that by definition are actually tactics; using an unproven approach, etc.).
Companies are facing many challenges (e.g., channel blurring, an ever-changing retail landscape) and finding it increasingly difficult to provide a meaningful point of difference in today’s dynamic and competitive business environment. Improving skills in Cat Man is a fundamental element for this success. Anyone looking at Cat Man training must be sure their program follows best practices that are compatible within the industry, provide organizational consistency and will result in superior results.
Let’s Start from the Beginning
Category Management traces back to TPG’s founding partners and their ground-breaking work with the industry’s ECR committee. In the early 90s TPG founder, Dr. Brian Harris invents and patents Apollo Spaceman (and eventually sells it to IRI). Dr. Harris and current TPG CEO Frank Grossi (then a sales executive with Procter & Gamble) are asked to join the ECR committee – a joint trade and industry body working towards making the grocery sector as a whole more responsive to consumer demand and promote the removal of unnecessary costs from the supply chain: Category Management is established as the core demand management process of ECR in the mid-90s!
The ECR Committee’s validation and endorsement initiatives lead to the acceptance and adoption of the Category Management concept by an ever increasing number of retailers and manufacturers who start to see and experience the benefits. This creates industry momentum, especially among the more capable retailers and manufacturers in the more advanced markets. Today, global adoption includes the recent adoption of the basic principles and methods on Category Management even in what were traditionally considered to be “less advanced markets” (e.g. China and India).
The “Old” Category Management
Beginning in the mid-90s Category Management became the ‘normal way’ of doing business, grew sales and profit and had a primary focus on operational efficiencies. It also had abundant data analysis that rarely led to insights; provided little focus on the consumer and no focus on the shopper; had many retailers and suppliers believing that Assortment Optimization was Category Management. For Category Management to continue to succeed in the 21st Century it needed to evolve.
Today’s Category Management
Today, TPG, who was there at the “inception” of Cat Man and helped “raise” it over the years, continues to lead the way in developing new and leading-edge Category Management best practices, processes and training. We now refer to Cat Man as The Collaborative Category Planning Interface Process and have incorporated all the best practices into our approach:
- It’s shopper-centric and strategies are driven by insights fueled by advanced research approaches.
- A “selective set” of tactics are linked to each strategy.
- Category Definition is breakthrough, practical and has customer-driven definitions while the Category Role is performed on an “as needed” basis.
- The process enables differentiation.
- It drives sustainable results and puts more emphasis on plan-execution, linking implementation to initiatives.
- The customer is at the heart.
Ensure Your Organization is Using Category Management Best Practices
The Partnering Group built its practice on Category Management it continues to be a primary practice for us among our other world-class practices: Strategy, Customer Development, Shopper Marketing, Innovation, Supply Chain, and Organization Capability. And our Training Practice has built Cat Man skills for over 15,000 employees of both retailers and suppliers through our blended-training approach of experiential/on-the-job, instructor-led/classroom, and e-learning.
If you’d like to learn more about how The Partnering Group can help build capabilities through Category Management consulting or training, please contact us.