Reinforce your category entry points if you want to stimulate sales
Consumers are avoiding situations where they would typically buy something – like a warm drink on a cold day – so brands need to give them good reasons to spend in these moments.
Man walks into a bar and says: “Terribly sorry, just remembered that I’m trying to save money at the moment, so actively avoiding this category entry point. Bye.”
This is no joke; it’s happening up and down the country across all category verticals. Consumers actively avoiding buying situations to avoid spending. You need to do something about it – the question is what?
Often overlooked, category entry points (CEPs) are the cues that category buyers use to access their memories when faced with a buying situation. These cues are the reason we build mental availability because we want our brand to be the first thing to come to mind in a given buying situation.
The list of possible CEPs can be vast. The soft drinks category often serves as a good example – just think of the number of cues that prompt you to reach for a Coca-Cola (it’s a hot day, thirst quencher, a treat for the kids, lunchtime, etc). The trick is to link your brand to these CEPs so that, as and when they arise, consumers quickly and easily insert your brand into the picture.
But there’s a problem. A recession means consumers are actively avoiding CEPs. As a consumer, if you want to save money, one of the easiest things to do is analyse your spend, identify any unnecessary CEPs and remove them.
For example, in a recent Clear Channel survey, we spoke to 1,000 coffee drinkers to understand their existing CEPs and identify which of these they’re actively trying to avoid in a bid to save money.
On average, across the most common coffee CEPs, 52% of consumers plan to make a conscious decision to avoid them. And that is a problem, fewer CEPs means fewer sales.
Defend and attack
So, what do you do about it?
The answer is to defend and attack.
Defend, with messaging to reinforce why consumers should continue to enter into a specific buying situation. And attack, by identifying new reasons to buy, forging fresh links between the consumer, the CEP and your brand.
Establishing points of defence and attack requires a framework, a means of identifying CEPs both old and new:
- Why? What are the internal motivations behind purchase, eg to satisfy hunger or help me unwind?
- When? The influence of time, eg morning versus evening, working versus out-of-work hours, summer versus winter.
- Where? What role does physical location play, eg at the gym, whilst on holiday, during a commute?
- With whom? How does category entry link to other people, eg with the kids, work colleagues or friends?
- With what? What other products and services complement/influence the category, eg with a film or alongside a meal?
Any number of these factors can combine to form a CEP. Coca-Cola again serves as a great example, focusing on the When? Coca-Cola’s Christmas association is a masterclass in CEP generation. There’s no good reason why we should associate just one soft drink with the festive period, but we do. Coca-Cola started building this CEP through advertising back in the 1920’s (and I suspect have made a very tidy profit from it ever since).
Having identified your new and existing CEPs (i.e. those you need to defend and attack) you’re going to need some advertising, something to help refresh existing links to CEPs or forge new ones. But what channels are best suited?
Reach and reinforce
The more people your CEP is applicable to, the more profitable it can be. For example, trying to position your brand as the perfect gift for a 90th birthday celebration will have limited appeal, as only a fraction of the population will make it that far. Far better to try and align it to any birthday celebration, knowing that there are multiple category entry points throughout the year.
Broad-reaching CEPs need broad-reach media. Channels that can defend and attack at scale, such as TV or out-of-home (OOH).
In addition to broad reach, it’s also advisable to get up close and personal with the CEP. As Jenni Romaniuk, associate director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute and CEP expert, stipulates: “Category buyers build links to CEPs when they are exposed to the brand alongside the CEP.”
Positing your brand alongside a CEP can be as simple as visually representing the connection in your advertising. Or, better still, placing those messages at the very point at which a CEP unfolds. What better way to defend your cold-weather coffee CEP than by reinforcing the benefits of a warm drink at a time when consumers are actually outside feeling the chill.
The relationship between CEPs and the real world is a subject that Clear Channel will be looking at in detail next year, with new research coming early 2023. In this study we’ll uncover the value of advertising around CEPs as and when they unfold. We’ll also demonstrate how factors that define CEPs (the W-words listed above) are more common out of home – a place where external situations like weather, who we’re with, what we’re doing and where we are constantly change and evolve, to present new and existing CEPs.
While the avoidance of CEPs is no joke, with some strategic thought and the right media platform there is a chance to rewrite the punchline.
A man walks into a bar and says: “Damn those bloody posters, they’ve got me again. I’ll have a Guinness please.”
Lindsay Rapacchi is research and insight director at Clear Channel UK.