Explore something new

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Explore something new in every brief: there is a huge tension that I see in the challenge facing FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) marketers. On the one hand they have to continue innovating as their brand media spend slowly fragments across new channels in pursuit of consumers.

Limits on the drive to explore something new

Although I think that there are limits on how much this fragmentation can happen in reality:

  • To explore something new in business models is expensive at a brand level, but it might make sense at a group level
  • Specifically direct to consumer a la Birchbox is attractive on paper and a great candidate to explore something new. It is what Scott Galloway would call a ‘rundle’: a recurring revenue bundle offering. But it only works on high value, high margin products. It won’t work for margarine
  • Personalised marketing is in a similar place, you need to have a certain size of the customer’s spend in order to make even database maintenance worthwhile. This also has implications for overall brand architecture. Yet digital transformation would be a key driver to explore something new

Explore something new in every brief

On the other hand, Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB) is now being used to bring increased accountability to marketing activity. Which fine in theory, but the advice to “explore something new in every brief” – whilst laudable, becomes harder to achieve. Unless the organisation has a ’20 percent fund’ for learning that allows that something new in each brief and the budget to capture learnings.


The move towards ZBB implies that FMCG sectors are value industries, and recent stagnant growth largely validates that impression – businesses like Dollar Shave Club and the like are edge factors rather than core drivers. Secondly ZBB doesn’t lend itself particularly well to long term brand building because ROI is measured over a much smaller time period – leaning towards activation. More related content here.