Branding the Experience

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Branding the Experience

By John Stanley I recently read an article that stated that the number of coffee shop brands in the UK had doubled to over 2,500 brand outlets in eight years. I realize we are now in the �coffee culture�, but take Starbucks out of the list and how many retail coffee shop brands can you name?, that�s before we start on the list in your local supermarket. Branding, in today�s retail climate, is a key ingredient to success, but the consumer is becoming �branded� out with the plethora of brands in retailing and it may be time to re-look at your own brand strategy and learn from some of the global leaders in branding. Branding started in the days of the �wild west� when cattle owners need to place a burnt emblem, or brand, on the backside of cattle to ensure they could prevent cattle rustling and to distinguish ownership of particular animals. Eventually branding entered the marketing arena and now the consumer is exposed to thousands of brands a day. Out of all this confusion you want your brand to become �top of mind� in the consumers brain. Retail versus Product Branding Keep it simple, is in my view, always the most effective and in branding this is by far the most reliable route. Retail brands should be about the customer�s experience. Think about Starbucks, MacDonald�s, Pizza Hut and Disney Stores. They all have one thing in common. They do not allow other suppliers to pollute their brand experience by promoting product brands within the store. The integrity of their retail brand is critical to their success. I�ve often asked what role private labels should take in today�s retail environment where the retail �experience� brand is so strong, as in the above cases, it may be in the suppliers interest to provide a private brand for these retailers where it adds value and enhances the retail brand experience. A good example of this is Tesco�s Supermarkets. Few retailers have achieved the �icon� status where the retail brand experience is the total brand experience. This means that many retailers have to rely on their brand as the destination draw-card for the consumer and then rely on recognisable product brands to clinch the sale. This puts pressure on product brand suppliers to have an effective product brand advertising campaign. Confusion at the Point of Purchase I we are not careful we now can cause confusion for the customer. Let me give you some examples. I recently worked for a hardware store who had spent a considerable amount of money on promoting the retail brand as a destination of home improvement excellence. They then relied on product suppliers to develop product branding. These suppliers felt they needed to promote their range under their own supplier brand positioning statement. The result was that, for example, hand saws were located in six different locations in the store on specifically designed manufacture stands. The result was a confused consumer who started losing respect for the retail brand. The solution was to position all the saws together in one location. The result was a more satisfied customer, a stranger retail brand and a reduction in product duplication. The suppliers were concerned that they had less brand exposure, but the winners did see an increase in sales. If you walked around a supermarket you see products displayed by category, not product branding based on suppliers. A retail experience is about displaying products in a way for the consumer understands. Hero Product Branding In my view there is a role for �hero product branding� within a retail brand. Product suppliers who invest heavily in marketing to get brand recognition can dominate a retail brand; they can become the �hero� category within the store. Where this is the case, it is logical for a retailer to provide retail floor space in the category for the product brand. The supplier can dominate the category by planning and managing a sole category. This is very effective where the brand is a recognisable name in the consumers mind and the supplier can provide width and depth in the category. The key to success is supplier consistency and reliability, without that the consumer and retailer will suffer. This arrangement must be approached as a partnership with the aim of a �win: win� result. In my experience, as soon as one partner wants to dominate then the relationship fails. This does rely on retailer integrity. The space must be allocated purely to the supplier and the retailer must resist duplicate product offerings, especially at lower prices, from competitors and brand pollution by using the brand stand for competitors products. The Brand is Not a Name I recently worked with a client where I mentioned I was confused with his brand strategy. He looked at me even more confused and stated he had spent thousands of dollars with a consultant on branding and why was I concerned? He then presented me with a logo. As far as he was concerned he had branded his stores. But; all the internal and external customers saw was a new logo. Branding is not about a logo. It is about a consistent, memorable journey that a consumer takes. It starts at their home and finishes once they have established the brand in their own lives. The exposure in store is only part of the brand journey, the logo is only a badge you put on that journey. A retailer needs to consider their car park, guarantees, services and product use at home as an integral part of the branding exercise, some of which may not be under their control, but influences their brand reputation. Critic your retail brand, but don�t look at anything you have written down. Take a look at the space you�ve created; the aroma�s you�ve established; the sounds you hear; the cleanliness of the store; the tastes you can sample and the memorable pictures you could take away from the store as a consumer. With thousands of brands out there it is tough. With over 2500 coffee shop brands, we know it is not the taste and smell of the coffee that makes the difference, it is the total experience.