old painting
Written by Roger Jackson,
March 24th, 2020 | Views

Why is being a category manager like being the painter of an Old Master?

I watched a fascinating documentary the other day. It was all about why certain paintings were judged as being “masterpieces” while others painted at the same time over a very similar standard (by any objective measure) remained relatively unknown. Painting A became worth $50m, Painting B $200k at best.

The conclusions of the 1-hour program (happy to help!) was that the key point is fame. The painting that became well known early on stayed well known and became better and better known over time. It started with painting A bought by a businessman or noble who put it on show to everyone. Painting B wasn’t. From that point onwards, the die was cast. The best-known painting is worth the most and people consistently judge it to be better (because they already know it).

Fame. It’s a human factor. We don’t really judge things objectively in isolation. We judge things based on what people around us say and think. And if word reaches us via a third party, we place far more importance on that than what our senses tell us.

Maybe you can see where this is heading?

The fundamentals of your job in cat man is to analyze data well, extract the story and make sensible recommendations. So far, so good. But that won’t be enough on its own for you to truly win. Your competitors do that as well. You need breakthrough occasions to build fame (or let’s call it reputation, or confidence). Memorably I was told by a very senior retailer ( a buying director) that there weren’t companies that were good at cat man, there were individuals. And he could name them all. It stuck with me.

So, here is my take out:  put disproportionate effort into the ‘sizzle’ in the big set-piece meetings where you have the chance to build a reputation and influence a wider audience. Find ways to get the word “out”. Don’t just stick to the immediate issues and narrow data sets. Think bigger and broader. Seek to land a bigger point, get others to buy into your thinking. Make sure you get attention, that feedback is shared and outcomes are shouted from the rooftop.

Not easy, but remember what an “Old Master” ends up being worth!

And maybe we can help you. One good thing about our database is you can readily understand the entire store, and the department and that way, give your story way more sizzle than anyone else’s, certainly in the eyes of your buyer.

Good luck.