Can Digitalization Hand The Big Brands Back Their Power?

by Matthew Haws on 10/23/2020 | 4 Minute Read

The product development and launch frenzy can be a slow and stressful process, now often exacerbated by a remote team working in today’s global FMCG world. 

It’s also well known that the failure rate on product launches is very high. 80%, according to Nielsen

However, in recent years upstart brands have been able to take on the giants—the established category leaders—with flexible, agile responses to market trends, nipping at the heels of many large players.

This tipping of balance in favor of speed, agility, and flexibility, as opposed to scale, process, and resources, is changing the market share game. In Are Big Brands Dying? the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science indicated that many start-up brands never achieve the level of growth required to make their impact on today’s market easily measurable in line with well-established, dominant brands. The majority view is that the nippers are doing something right, with many assuming their success is in direct correlation to their size—small means nimble and agile.

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We know upstart brands embrace technology, so are they better at digital marketing, or is something else going on? With fast and furious pre-market testing and the ability to learn-on-the-go (as they don't rely on traditional retail channels to reach their target consumer), do they have the secret formula to winning the battle for consumer attention? Large manufacturers have endeavored to mimic these strategies by either acquiring those that threaten or creating niche brands with freedom of control. However, identifying what makes some of these embryonic brands so successful, or how the big brands can consistently launch successful innovations, remains unanswered.

While the assumption that confidence in digital marketing is part of the recipe, a road less well-traveled for many category leaders today is in embracing digitalization and automation of the actual product development and launch process workflow itself. From artwork to shelf, brands have a series of files, assets, people, and processes to track, all of which can quickly add to the launch timeline if they don't get managed carefully.

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We’ve all heard the shout across the office or the email ping, asking for a specific file the colleague can’t find. Or we’ve torn our hair out, not being able to identify a graphic or piece of information that’s lost in a previous job we were glad to get off the desk. As the pace of our lives accelerates, so too has the number of jobs we get asked to tackle on an ever-broadening geographic scale. Large brands today can operate out of Sao Paolo, with designers working in New York, pre-production meetings in London, securing materials in Shanghai, and producing in Warsaw. Now, enter the enormous task of ensuring clear and consistent communication across timelines, languages, systems, and suppliers. 

With that web of complexity, no wonder the NPD launch process slows down and becomes stressful!

So, let's talk digitalization. 

Gloriously called Industry 4.0 or the Internet of Things (IoT), digitalization has the potential power to be a game-changer for the big brands by embracing production and operations processes with new digital technologies. Digitalization in FMCG NPD and launch processes is not necessarily about smart devices or machine learning. We automatically assume hardware and physical entities are somehow going to solve all of our problems with the flick of a switch. They’re a part of the journey, but we’re talking about automating and connecting an ecosystem of people, processes, and companies that brands end up managing in taking products to market. 

Making the complicated simple, streamlined, and more accurate by utilizing software to eradicate losses in time and waste could allow the big boys to act like the upstarts when required.

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Classic examples of digital tools to support the war-weary marketeer include Esko WebCenter and MediaBeacon. A content creation platform for packaging, label, and marketing collateral for brands, each solution equips marketing, branding, regulatory, and packaging teams to increase productivity and save time in their content processes by working seamlessly together online.

WebCenter is a workflow management solution that helps teams efficiently create and update labels, artwork, collateral, and other content quickly and consistently, enabling products to get to market faster. While MediaBeacon is a digital asset management (DAM) solution that serves as a single source of truth for all brand images, video, audio, artwork, 3D, and labels. The combination of solutions enables brand teams to find the information and digital assets they need in seconds instead of spending hours or days to recreate them.

By embracing digitalization to streamline, automate, and connect all the data, people, and processes involved in a product launch, organizational agility and productivity can skyrocket. For example, Boots Retail USA, a member of the Walgreens Boots Alliance, historically had disorganized, informal, and inefficient merchandising, creative and promotional work for its cosmetic brands, including No7, Soap & Glory, and Botanics. 

Utilizing the combination of WebCenter workflow management and MediaBeacon digital asset management, they boosted productivity by an estimated 50%. They unlocked this achievement because they implemented a trackable content feedback solution from a single source, giving themselves the ability to self-serve product images from multiple departments, as well as an automated workflow for content creation and distribution.

As a brand evolves, the number of variables we get asked to manage escalates. However, this doesn’t have to mean that the NPD and launch process slows down or that waste levels increase. By digitalizing the go-to-market method, simply adopting software to drive clarity, transparency, and connectivity for all involved, there is a clear opportunity for the big brands to recover their power.

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