How Two Catalogers Managed Brand Refreshes
At the center of everything your business does is its brand. It's the core of your existence. A well-defined brand is critical to attracting and retaining customers in today's ultra-competitive retail environment. On the flip side, an aging or stale brand that lacks direction, innovation and creativity will turn customers away.
Eastwood, a seller of auto restoration tools, and American Meadows, a seller of flower seeds and bulbs, are two companies that recognize the value of a strong brand. Yet both felt that their brands were stagnant, needing to be updated with a contemporary look and feel in order for them to grow and flourish going forward. Each company decided a brand refresh was in order. At NEMOA's directXchange Spring Conference in Boston yesterday, Ethan Platt, president of American Meadows, and Brian Huck, president and COO of Eastwood, discussed their brand refresh journeys.
Both American Meadows and Eastwood initiated brand refreshes in order to identify a core look and feel to the brands. With both companies looking to grow, it was first necessary to shore up the foundations before adding to them.
"We needed a sturdy, cohesive platform to grow on," said Platt, noting that at the time American Meadows - and its sister brand High Country Gardens - lacked definition and consistency.
For Eastwood, its brand refresh was broken down into four "D's": discover, define, design, deploy. The discovery phase involved identifying what makes Eastwood different than its competitors. The answer: it offers make than just products; it offers solutions that helps their customers get jobs done right. The define stage involved validating the assumptions it had about its brand and customers through testing. Design included rolling out a new logo and tagline ("Do the Job Right"). And the deployment phase is ongoing, including the launch of a new channel for Eastwood: brick-and-mortar stores.
At American Meadows, the brand refresh consisted of three parts: branding/marketing, design, implementation. The retailer created a brand pyramid to help it identify its unique value proposition. The exercise kept bringing American Meadows back to two themes: confidence and sustainability. The company wants its customers to have confidence in both its products as well as in themselves as gardeners. American Meadows new tagline is "Where Confidence Grows." Sustainability is at the center of our brand messaging, Platt said. American Meadows offers sustainable products that connect its customers with the beauty of the earth.
For Eastwood, the brand refresh has led to increased sales, increased average order values and a higher dollar per book return for its catalogs, Huck noted. In addition, its new retail stores are introducing the brand to a whole new segment of customers.
American Meadows is also reaping the benefits from the hard work of its brand refresh. In addition to sales increasing, American Meadows now has a guide book on what its brand should be. And its customers have become more engaged and confident with the brand. Case in point: American Meadows tested using branded rotating banners on its homepage vs. promotional (i.e., selling) rotating banners, and the branded banners ended up driving more sales.
Both American Meadows and Eastwood worked with a creative agency for their brand refreshes. Here are some of their reflections on the experience post-project:
- We've "onboarded" our brand strategy into everything we do at Eastwood, Huck said, noting that the company's brand map hangs in its office lobby and that new employees are trained on it.
- Identify what you're good at in-house, whether it's IT or copywriting or design or whatever, and then find partners to work on the other areas, Platt said.
- Huck listed the following things Eastwood could have done better in its brand refresh: involved its customers more, created firmer dates for milestones, and celebrated its successes more with customers (e.g., giving away free "swag").
- Platt offered the following tips for others beginning brand refreshes: start with your own people; develop a formalized mission statement, values and vision; don't take on too much at once; test, test, test!; nail the tagline - likely to be descriptive or aspirational; remember that people buy from people - "You can't outAmazon Amazon"; and this project doesn't have start and end dates - it's an ongoing process.