Final word with Luke Chapman

Curb the competitive spirit. Business thrives on competition, but now is the time for cooperation

If we are to boil down the ideal future for the industry to a single idea, then the final word is ‘coopetition’ (or ‘cooperatition’ as some would say). OK, it may not be a real word, but it describes perfectly where our industry needs to be.

There is no doubt that we live in challenging and dynamic times. The need to be lean and mean is more apparent now than ever before and if you listen to any of the predictions this is a trend that is only going to accelerate.

Long gone are the days when the market could afford to fund so many varying elements within the supply chain that either do not demonstrate value, or have fixed costs that are too great for such a variable outcome.

Manufacturers are competing for dealer engagement and are fighting harder than ever to gain both ‘air time’ with the end user and with consumers.

What we need to do is consider our sales and marketing costs and determine which elements we can outsource to others or find partners to help execute them. In this way we can move fixed costs to variable ones, which are 100% linked to an outcome and a key performance ratio. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t pay more money for better outcomes, but as an industry we are still paying significant sums for less and this is going to have to change.

What we need to be able to do is to directly communicate with and influence the consumer. If we can speak to the ultimate user and gain brand loyalty, we can then work on changing behaviour and buying patterns, leading ultimately to all elements of the channel being able to see a return from our activity and investments.

In addition to this, we also need to look for ways in which we as an industry can come together to collaborate more effectively and more efficiently. By working more collaboratively, we will be able to drive greater dealer engagement, end-user activity and consumer ‘air time’.

We have seen some elements of the industry trying to affect change and develop new initiatives to support this argument; we need to embrace these changes and go with them as otherwise the world will change around us.

Far too often there are too many ‘voices’, all fighting for space and speaking at the same time with a different message. The dealer hears them all but fails to fully take any of them on board and this then leads to a confused message being delivered to the consumer, resulting in an undesired outcome.

There are many ways we can achieve a ‘coopetition’ position. Brands can work in partnership to drive a message to the consumer around a business need, or an issue such as hygiene or breakroom. These brands do not necessarily have to compete with each other but could easily be complementary. Currently however, manufacturers and brand owners are all fighting for space individually, leading to low air time with consumers, confused end users and ineffective dealers.

Think about how effective a joint sales and marketing campaign would be if manufacturers cooperated in a structured, process-driven way, rather than fight for limited space and restricted return. Think about the consumers’ position and the customer life cycle. Do we as a market speak to them in the right way today, with the right message at the right time?

We have to be honest and accept that in most cases the answer is ‘no’. If we can collaborate and create a joined-up approach then we will make all of our messages more powerful and more succinct – speaking the right language at the right stage of that cycle.

There are two rules I have always lived by: if you aren’t driving the change, it’s being driven at you, and if you can’t beat them join them. Our landscape is changing and so are the consumers; what they buy and how they buy it is moving faster than ever before.

What we accept as normal today and the way we are used to doing things will only continually evolve to meet these needs – will you?

Long live change and long live co-opetition!