Branding Feature: Branding Beyond the Products You Sell
Not Your Father's Retail Marketing
Beyond a keen insight into the lifestyles, priorities and preferences of your target audiences, most nontraditional marketing efforts will include one or more of these elements:
A benefit without necessarily an obligation to the customer: Of course the goal is to sell product, but the customer doesn't have to make a purchase to participate. For example, lululemon offers free yoga classes at its stores led by well-known local instructors, as well as sponsoring weekly evening "fun runs." No purchase is required, but participants presumably will feel more positive towards lululemon gear when they consider their next purchase.
- A robust internet presence: By internet, I mean YouTube here. Old Spice almost created the men's body wash category. With competition increasing and knowing that women made more than half of all body wash purchases for their significant others, Old Spice needed a win. It introduced a couples-targeted campaign online over the 2011 Super Bowl weekend using the popular "man you want to be" character that garnered 11.6 million views. The campaign also spawned nothing short of incredible buzz from consumers posting their own versions of the original spot on YouTube to lavish mentions on "Oprah" and "Ellen." And then Old Spice took it to the next level. Over two days, Old Spice's ad agency, along with a team of digital strategists and producers, filmed 186 responses to questions culled from fans' posts on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit in real-time messages posted on YouTube. This was a brilliant use of social media that rejuvenated the brand and still has people talking today.
- A sense of community with events that bring your target audience together: Journeys sells shoes targeted to teens, often one of the toughest groups for marketers to reach. Partnering with one of the brands it offers, Journeys' 44-city Vans Warped Tour features known as well as up-and-coming music groups to bring out the crowds looking to see and hear the newest acts. If you don't have teenagers, you've probably never heard about it, but it's big — and a winner for Journeys!
- Companies that give back: This is the "do well by doing good" business model. For every pair of shoes TOMS Shoes sells, it gives away a pair of shoes to an impoverished child. The company also donates part of its profit from the sale of its eyewear to restore eyesight to people in developing countries. Who wouldn't feel good about purchasing from this company?
- They stand for something: Many companies have adopted this stance to some extent, but few do it as well as outdoor apparel and gear retailer Patagonia. Beyond producing high-quality adventure clothing and gear, this environmentally conscious company is transparent about where and how its merchandise is made. Patagonia ensures that all of its products are produced under safe, fair, legal and humane working conditions throughout the supply chain. This reflects a powerful insight into the values of Patagonia's customer base, and the retailer has been rewarded with tremendous customer loyalty.
So, for those of you who remember that simpler time and long for the good-old days, sorry, but those days are gone and they aren't coming back. But for those retail marketers who have the product, passion and creativity, there's never been a more exciting time for brand building. Smart consumers, multichannel distribution and social media have all raised the marketing bar. It's survival of the fittest and the winner is the customer.