If suppliers want to have traction with retailers, they need to talk the language they understand: about growing categories. 

Discussing how you can help retailers achieve category growth is a very different - and more constructive - conversation to one purely about a particular product.

A trend has been emerging to bring a socially responsible element to category visions that shapes the category and brand in greater depth and changes how shoppers perceive both. This is about more than just a commercial asset to drive growth; it’s about winning hearts and minds, with retailers and shoppers alike embracing an inspirational vision with an emotive call to action.

Caryn Gillan

Suppliers should ask themselves what other perspectives - perhaps ethical or socially responsible - they could offer, such as healthy eating, general wellbeing and happiness.

The angle needs to be authentic in its intent and compatible with the brand’s genuine commitment to contribute to society to ensure no conflict between commercial and ethical aspects.

This approach has informed some of the more profound and ethical recent category activity including, for example Danone committing itself to the cause of infant nutrition and Pampers partnering with Unicef to deliver tetanus inoculations for newborn babies in developing countries.

Both are compatible with the brand’s innate socially responsible DNA as well as their respective categories but will also resonate with shoppers.

Such category visions expand the role that a category and brand plays in the broader fulfilment of a shopper’s journey to be something more emotive. Giving shoppers an incentive to act in line with your vision - and being able to demonstrate that to retail partners - should be a key objective. This will have the dual effect of making an authentic contribution to society while still informing business and brand strategy. It is accepted now that any supplier that thinks a category vision is not relevant for their business is less likely to grow, and less likely to remain relevant.

Caryn Gillan is director of category & insights at Bridgethorne