Summer's here--what are the plans for 2008?
Dog food bites man, further maiming the brand. The recent pet food recall fiasco has further reinforced that "branding" is really a marketing ploy to fictionalize nonexistent differences. Because pets are so personal and the issues easy to understand, this episode has educated those heretofore not paying attention. A recent GFK Roper survey found that 54 percent of respondents weren't aware before the recall that both premium and standard pet food brands were made by the same supplier. Knowing this, 26 percent said they were less likely to buy premium pet food. One expert put it this way: "The sheer magnitude of how many branded products come from one source erodes the whole basic premises of what branding is in the eyes of the consumer--they feel duped." (The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2007). The immunization of the marketplace against advertising continues.
How will this growing trend influence your marketing plans in 2008?
Think small and local
Big becomes the brand from bell. The trend toward small and local seems to be picking up steam. Micro-brewers are taking share away from the large beer brands, small community banks continue to win deposit share from large corporate banks, local terrorist groups who operate autonomously reek havoc on our larger-institutional army in Iraq. A Gallup poll finds that confidence in "big business" among U.S. adults is very low: Only 18 percent report "quite a lot" or "a great deal" of confidence. But Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport notes, "In polling, 'big' is an inflammatory negative. Ask Americans about small business, and they perk right up." (FORTUNE, May 14, 2007).
The distrust and disdain for large and distant is increasingly seen in the trends for home-based efforts--home schooling, work-from-home, home health care, home-based nursing care for the elderly, house churches and home-based businesses. Big is increasingly becoming a catch-all, category hell.
As you consider your plans for 2008, how will you lever size to your greatest advantage? Or, how will you negate it as a potential disadvantage?
Unwelcoming salespeople turn off customers
Retail salespeople., the largest source of dissatisfaction and brand erosion. When it comes to building a brand, the customer experience is still the single most powerful means for attracting or repelling customers. A recent survey of retail shoppers found that disinterested, ill-prepared and unwelcoming salespeople lead to more lost business and bad word-of-mouth than any other management challenge in retailing. (Second Annual Retail Customer Dissatisfaction Study--Wharton). Good advertising excites, engages and attracts customers to the brand. Bad sales and service performance makes a lie out of good advertising. Aligning the promise keepers--sales and service in all channels--with the promise makers, branding and advertising, is a must for brand development and a brand killer if it doesn't happen.
As you face 2008, how will you prepare the sales and service delivery organization to live the brand more effectively than in 2007?
To summarize these current trends in the most pejorative sense, you are not what you say, but you are your size and what your frontline people do or fail to do. These three trends race ahead of you and immunize your market to what your marketing messages say: Inform your customers on what to expect and color how you are viewed.
The most important planning question for 2008 may be: What have marketing and delivery agreed upon as their sales and service brand? Being sales focused or service oriented as not a brand any more than selling coffee is a brand for Starbucks or delivering packages is brand for FedEx. Those are the "what" that is to be done. The brand should inform us "how" we shall do it in a memorable, differentiated way.
Bankers, in their homogenous, highly regulated industry, are pretty much in the same boat as the pet food folks--their "dog food" is perceived to be pretty much like everyone else's. Starbucks baristas uniquely romance the coffee and the customer--at a price that is considerable higher than the competition. FedEx brings a unique hustle and determination to package delivery. What do you aspire for your delivery team to stand for in the market? Old things need to be made new, the obvious refreshed.
Robert Hall is author of "The Street Corner Strategy for Winning Local Markets." E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org