At Blue Feathers, we work with our clients to help them create insight-led successful propositions that drive business growth. A vital part of the process is getting under the skin of both consumer behaviour and business objectives. This helps develop a truly motivating proposition for the target customer that also delivers what the business needs. It’s fascinating work, and something we’re passionate about getting right.
Our guide to developing successful propositions.
Firstly, what is a proposition?
A proposition is a service, product or experience that meets a need common to a group of target customers. It becomes a reason for customers to choose a brand.
A successful proposition is meaningful and relevant to the target customers. It is differentiated from the rest of the market and distinctive to the brand and commercially attractive.
Here are a couple of examples of great propositions in the UK market:
Pets at Home is the UK’s leading pet care business. Their focus is on “providing everything a pet owner needs to be able to look after their pet”. They bring this to life by consistently showing they genuinely care about pets. They do this through conversations with customers where they share their knowledge in a meaningful and relevant way. Their staff are well trained and always have time to talk, and their stores are well laid out and a fun environment, providing a distinctive customer experience. The commercial impact is evidenced in their results – growing both customer numbers and turnover in 2021.
Dove Kids Care hair and skin care range is a great proposition that encourages kids to discover the fun side of caring for themselves and helps raise their self-esteem. A diverse set of kids characters are used on pack for kids to identify with, along with messages to boost body confidence, for example “I am caring, brilliant & creative”. It’s differentiated from the rest of the market and feels distinctively on-brand for Dove, who continue to deliver business value through social impact.
What’s important when developing successful propositions?
Over the last few years, we’ve had the opportunity to develop propositions for some of the UK’s best-loved brands. Reflecting on this experience, we’ve drawn out three things we think are key to unlocking a successful proposition:
1. Getting the right inputs
There are 4 key areas of input that we look at:
- Customer insight
- Competitor positioning and performance
- Current business performance
- Trends – category, macro & wider market
We work closely with our clients to mine all the information they have and use research to fill any gaps. This could be desk research to explore existing relevant reports or papers, visiting relevant retailers if it’s a physical product, or interviewing category experts.
We then look across all of the information to understand the ‘so what’ for the proposition. What is the insight telling us we need to think about for the proposition? Often some key themes start to emerge at this point. Later in the process, this insight becomes the springboard for idea generation for the proposition itself.
It’s a very rewarding and creative process, as we gather in one place everything that we think is relevant. Our clients find it equally helpful as we discard what’s not relevant and they see the key insights pulled together, along with our strategic thinking distilling what matters, to inform the development of the proposition.
2. Being clear about the behaviour you want to change
We then use the customer insight we have gathered to help define the behaviour change the proposition needs to drive.
Successful propositions should ultimately change customer behaviour, so we map out how the target customer thinks and behaves today, and how we want them think and behave in the future, as a result of this proposition. This gives us the framework for proposition development.
Let’s take the launch of a new toothpaste as an example. Busy families may well be on autopilot when shopping for toothpaste, so they always opt for the big brand they’ve always used. As a result of our proposition, in the future we want them to know there is another toothpaste available that is created by scientists, better protects their family’s teeth and gums with natural, active ingredients and meets more of their needs than their existing big brand.
The inputs from the insight stage and this behaviour change framework help us prepare for a workshop to further explore the themes that have started to emerge. We encourage a cross-functional team to participate in the workshop and use it to share the insights, before generating ideas under each theme in a fun and engaging way.
After the workshop, we look at all the ideas generated and map them back against the behaviour change we want to see. We also consider appropriate success criteria for the proposition (e.g., Is it scalable? Does it have longevity?) to quickly filter and refine the ideas.
We write the ideas up as descriptive concepts with supporting images to test and refine with customers via qualitative and/or quantitative research, and we use the learning to get to a final concept.
3. Translating the proposition into reality
The next stage is translating the successful proposition into the full marketing mix, to bring it to life for customers.
The critical element here is making sure execution is true to the proposition, and therefore directly addresses the customer insight.
Playing back what you’ve heard in the customer research sessions and even creating a one-page customer pen portrait can help keep your thinking firmly in your customers’ shoes!
We map out the strategic intent and key metrics for each of the 4-7Ps (depending on which model is used by our client), showing what needs to be achieved in each part of the mix for the whole proposition to come to life.
Let’s take a dog walking business targeting very busy working people as an example. Here, the heart of the proposition would be about making it easy for owners to quickly book a dog walker if their schedule changes, with a 2-hour ‘quick book’ service.
The product would need to be easy to book and deliver a reliable 5-star service, so the customer can get on with their busy day. Customers could sign up to a monthly subscription, giving them unlimited quick booking.
It would be priced higher than the competitive set who don’t offer this premium fast turnaround service.
In terms of place (how the product is made available to customers), the business could launch a free booking app, perhaps with extra services such as real-time photos and location updates so owners can see what their dog is up to!
For promotion, the business could drive awareness by getting customers to trial the service and provide feedback, with a free month’s subscription if they recommend a friend.
All of this helps us to develop successful propositions that are meaningful and relevant to the target customers. They are differentiated from the rest of the market, distinctive to the brand and commercially attractive. And of course, we take the client along on the journey with us.
Author: Michelle Solomon
Michelle is a brand and communications strategist. She has experience working for blue chip companies, government bodies and national charities, including Tesco, E.ON, Severn Trent, Shelter and the Food Standards Agency. With a degree in psychology, Michelle likes using her skills to identify what drives and motivates customers and colleagues. Charming, tenacious and persistent, Michelle is passionate about brand & customer experience and enjoys facilitating workshops to unearth actionable insight for clients.