Branding: The Multichannel Shopper
What about Bauer being the brand for the outdoorsy, recreational family — the well-heeled who’ll rough it in comfort? Nope, L.L.Bean’s bagged that crowd.
Over the years, Eddie Bauer has struggled with positioning. But now it’s back in the saddle and jockeying for position as the adventure brand. The company’s big fall book for 2008 struck the right chord. Its tagline, “The Original Outdoor Outfitter” — though technically not true since L.L.Bean began marketing his boots in 1912 — strongly supports the cover image of a ruggedly handsome couple casually lounging on the open tailgate of its Jeep in the broad expanse of the American West. If you want a rugged outdoor adventure and to look cool at the same time, you’ll be glad Eddie Bauer rented your name.
The Bauer site nearly fills this promise, but it confuses the message. At press time, the homepage highlighted “Expedition Belize,” with two models on a pre-Columbian pyramid. It’s adventurous and rugged, but it also smacks of travel, which is different. Maybe this is an intentional shift to add a new dimension to the brand that’ll be supported with ongoing, consistent messaging. If not, it’s subtle brand drift that can derail a company.
Eddie Bauer scores high in multichannel integration. At its local store in Overland Park, Kan., an in-store Web kiosk with the telephone hotline to the call center is multichannel functionality at its best. But function is different than form. Though it picks up the Eddie Bauer logo and some of its catalog-style imagery, the store essentially feels like any other store in a mall. The service is excellent, but there really isn’t a brand-enhancing component to set it apart from the crowd.
To attract attention, the founder used to have some one-string tennis rackets in his first store’s window. The current Bauer execs could borrow a play from him.