“FIFO” (an acronym which we’re not going to explain here) is often applied to Regional Heads of Trade, Regional Directors of Insight, and Regional Brand Directors. In some of our clients these roles are often disliked and more labels than “FIFO” are sometimes applied to these roles/managers.
A recent survey of eight FMCG firms working in a Regional model in Asia Pacific looked at the Consumer Insight roles in particular. It found several reasons why the Regional role was challenging, and several best-practices that would ensure that the role would add value to end-market stakeholders and other regional leads.
So what does good look like?
Good, based on this research, looks like:
- Very clear regional roles with no overlap of the end-market, and lots of value-adding activities.
- A matrix of activities based on market sophistication. For example: Japan does not want to share research with Cambodia. So the activities that Regional Departments sponsor and facilitate/coordinate must be done based on the market’s sophistication.
- Triple empathy. The Regional people must understand the difference between the markets, their consumers, and their local managers’ agendas.
- Stakeholder management. Regional teams must be uber-political – they must know how to play the game to avoid the turf wars, and work effectively on other people’s turf.
Why can a Regional Department be a real value-add?
In this research, much of the activity could be done to a high standard by many of these large FMCG companies in their own market. So the Regional value-add was about the five-year growth ideas, performance improvement and enhancement, and knowledge sharing. What end-market company would turn away a Regional Manager who brought all of those three attributes to their market? Sadly, the role is often misunderstood, and can turn into the “Regional policeman”. But when it is executed well, as was found in a quarter of the sample, a regional role is a strong idea. And a key role for FMCG multinationals who seek rapid performance improvement…across multiple markets – fast.