Brands need to start harnessing Category Entry Points to drive effectiveness

Alasdair Robertson
By Alasdair Robertson | 14 November 2023
Alasdair Robertson.

In today's cut-throat business arena, brands find themselves in an unrelenting struggle for market share growth. In their quest for success, many have turned to the evidence-based principles of marketing science to sharpen their competitive edge. Specifically, the focus has often been on building mental availability, ensuring their brand readily comes to mind when consumers are ready to make a purchase.

Yet there's an overlooked gem in the realm of marketing science, a powerful catalyst for brand growth: Category Entry Points (CEPs).

CEPs, as defined by Jenny Romaniuk of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, are the cues that consumers use to access their memory when making a buying decision, encompassing both internal cues like motives and emotions and external cues like location and time of day.

Research demonstrates a direct correlation between market penetration and the number and strength of CEPs associated with a brand. In this fiercely competitive landscape, leveraging these entry points is not merely a smart move; it's essential for thriving, not just surviving.

Surprisingly, only a handful of brands have embraced this evidence-based marketing principle. Instead, many have favoured the concept of Distinctiveness, as it appears to be an easier and more straightforward strategy to grasp and implement.

We all know the famous examples of this thinking from the likes of KitKat with break time, VB with owning the afternoon occasion after a hard day’s work, and the more recent example of Baileys going after the dessert occasion. But these are still the exceptions, and most brands simply aren’t employing this approach consistently in the right way.

So, why the reluctance to adopt this proven effectiveness strategy?

There are several factors at play. Firstly, it necessitates a shift from the conventional marketing mindset, one that prioritises the brand before comprehending the various moments in consumers' lives where the brand could be relevant.

Furthermore, the allure of short-termism often distracts brands from the more patient, longer-term commitment required to consistently build and maintain CEPs. I believe that many brands feel occasion-based marketing like this is the preserve of Shopping Marketing and many agencies in this space simply just don’t get it and are still banging out short-term promotions rather than taking a slightly more strategic and longer-term view.

Yet, the primary obstacle is likely the lack of understanding about how to identify the right CEPs for a brand and integrate them meaningfully into consumer experiences. It requires a CEP framework model that guides brands in identifying and harnessing the right CEPs and aligning with consumer cues, codes, and consumer mindsets.

Brands need not always commit entirely to a shrine occasion that sits at the heart of their brand strategy; they can strategically use their media mix to focus on the right CEPs through the appropriate channels. Social media, often overlooked but strategically vital, can be a powerful channel to promote CEPs, as it is frequently consumed close to specific occasions, enhancing contextual relevance.

Alasdair Robertson – Managing Partner – The Station Agency

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