Branding: The Multichannel Shopper
Have you ever walked into a store and felt like you’d stepped into that company’s catalog? Or visited a familiar company’s Web site and intuitively known where to find what you need because the site’s organized just like its store across town? Regardless of channel, your experience is the same: You experience that brand.
Can browsing a catalog or clicking an e-mail compare to getting a free sample in the store? To find out, in the first of a three-part series we’ll present in Catalog Success throughout this year, we scrutinized the multichannel efforts of specialty food merchants Dean & DeLuca, Penzeys Spices and Godiva (none of which we’ve ever done business with professionally).
Dean & DeLuca
The Dean & DeLuca brand began in 1977, when Joel Dean and Giorgio DeLuca opened their first store in Manhattan. This legendary pair set out to capture the feeling of a turn-of-the-century food department. They’ve since expanded to more than 25 retail locations, including stores, cafés and wine rooms in the United States, Japan and even Dubai. We recently visited Dean & DeLuca’s store in Leawood, Kan.
The Store: The high ceiling, specialty service counters, gourmet sandwich deli, laden shelves and food displays create an old-world feel that encourages you to explore and shop. The store bustles with energy and activity, and strongly reinforces the company’s brand identity.
The Catalog: Dean & DeLuca’s October 2008 catalog features its signature white cover bleed with silhouette images of products. This white background intentionally reflects the design of D&D’s branded product labels. Cutout images dominate the catalog spreads and allow for minimal styling with a consistent look and feel. The propped images that reflect an old-world store display reinforce the brand well. A few propped images look like a stylized home table setting and seem strangely out of place. They don’t reinforce the brand.
The Web Site: The homepage of the Web site does a fair job of capturing the food-department feel of the brand, though at times the above-the-fold layout has a horsy feel that can be cluttered and makes you wonder where to click. Competing Flash components add to the confusion.
Scrolling down, however, reveals an organized, pictorial table of contents that reflects the catalog’s design and creates the feel that you’ve found the right place. Without being privy to site statistics, giving advice on how to clean up the homepage is tricky, but the above-the-fold presentation probably could be tightened up.
In 2008, D&D changed its tagline from the emphatic, “The Icon of the American Epicurean Experience,” to the rather generic, “Purveyors of Fine Food, Wine and Kitchenware.” If the previous tagline suffered from erudition, the current is bland and could apply to just about any gourmet grocery store, which is unfortunate because D&D isn’t just any gourmet grocer.
The E-Mail: Though the new tag is common fare, it should be used consistently. The company features this tag on both the catalog and site, but it doesn’t show up in D&D’s e-mail campaigns. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but when it comes to your logo, a little narrow-mindedness is a good thing.
The e-mails always feature one of three categories highlighted in the missing tagline. Using the tagline on these e-mails would clarify the scope of the product offering and explain why one e-mail features lobster potpie, while a second features continuity wine clubs and a third spotlights a Japanese tea set.
Although these campaigns may be wildly successful, as consumers we experienced a disconnect. The e-mails for the most part maintain the unmistakable D&D feel, but there’s more to a brand than fonts and a color palette.
Multichannel Synergy: The catalog cross-promotes the company’s other channels by featuring the Web address and phone number on virtually every spread. Unfortunately, the store locations, a paragraph titled “The Store Experience,” and all customer service information are buried on pg. 32.
D&D should consider moving this collection of information to pg. 2, where customers expect to find it. The company also could use variable ink-jetting to promote store locations on catalogs that are delivered close to the retail sites and could run a series of retail gravitational tests to drive store traffic.
At the store, it wasn’t readily apparent that you could shop via the company’s catalog and Web site. For instance, when we visited the Leawood store to see whether catalogs were available on site, we couldn’t find any displays and eventually asked a clerk. She removed a cover sheet from the catalog display rack, handed us a catalog and promptly re-covered the display to hide the catalogs.
Though D&D may prefer to close the sale at point of purchase to not muddy the waters with other channel choices, an in-store terminal for gift giving or a more obvious gift-giving message is worth a test.
On the other hand, the Web site does a commendable job of promoting both the catalog request feature and the store locations. Copy highlights the regional features of the different sites.
At times, Dean & DeLuca delivers an inconsistent cross-channel experience. As we explored the brand’s various channels, we encountered some elements of brand drift that let our minds wander. As a marketer, that’s the last thing you want to encourage your customers to do. However, these problems mostly are cosmetic and easy to solve. We give it a B+.
If you helped reintroduce the joys of Vietnamese cinnamon to American home chefs, you’d have reason to be proud. With 39 stores in 24 states, a 56-page print catalog, a Web site and a paid-subscription cooking magazine, Penzeys Spices may be the biggest little multichannel merchant you’ve never heard of.
When you browse the shelves of its Overland Park, Kan., store we recently visited, you take a virtual world tour, transported by fragrant aromas and exotic origins. Helpful, well-written product descriptions explain the benefits and uses of the herbs, spices and blends.
The Store: The Overland Park store features a contemporary, minimalist design. Products are displayed on clean pine shelves, giving the feel of packing crates and the subtle implication that your spices just arrived from some distant land. Burlap bags printed with the names of spicy locations, such as India, drape the walls to complete the sensation. There’s a decidedly upscale feel.
The Catalog: But a disconnect begins when you pick up the catalog from its prominent in-store display. We quickly asked ourselves, “This is their catalog?” — never a good sign. The Holiday 2008 cover features a Thanksgiving dinner and has a magazine feel reminiscent of Taste of Home. The inside front spread uses multiple fonts and background screens that should be simplified.
Penzeys presents many recipes throughout its catalog. At times, however, the recipes are promoted rather than the spices. A collection of children’s crayon drawings is embedded in the columns of product text with no clear explanation as to why.
If you were first introduced to Penzeys through this catalog, you might not imagine that its products are great — though they are. Spicing your breakfast eggs with Penzeys’ Rogan Josh curry blend is an anticipation that’ll get you out of bed.
The Web Site: Penzeys’ disappointing Web site features a splash page with a version of the company logo that you see nowhere else and at first blush bears little resemblance to the logo on the catalog. The secondary Web pages feature another logo treatment that’s different enough from the catalog logo to appear as a third treatment.
The catalog Web site is essentially an alphabetical listing of products with virtually no images. Though this listing of products is a helpful feature of the site, making it the main way to shop and present products means it misses many great selling and branding opportunities.
When you go sequentially from the store to the catalog to the Web site, you feel like you’ve just experienced three different companies.
Multichannel Synergy: Penzeys does benefit from one cross-brand decision that’s brilliant in its simplicity: The products in the store, catalog and site are alphabetically arranged, creating a top notch cross-channel product organization consistency — although the store does get the upper hand.
Within the store, the products are clearly organized, first by the broader categories, such as spices, herbs, curries and blends — the way home chefs instinctively shop. Then the company alphabetizes the products within those categories. This subtle difference makes Penzeys’ stores a much more enjoyable experience than its other channels.
With the catalog and Web site, if you know what you’re looking for, you can find it easily. If you don’t know what you’re looking for or want to be surprised, which is one of the charms of shopping a specialty
food retailer, you’ll miss the active engagement of good marketing.
Many companies have a great brand identity but suffer from mediocre product. Penzeys experiences the opposite challenge. It has great product but suffers from weak branding. Our grade: C.
If you’re a miscreant designer, you’ll slip nothing past Godiva’s brand police. With stunning consistency, Godiva delivers a premier experience through every channel. Its chocolate only sweetens the deal.
The Catalog: Consistent product styling (with moderate variations), copy voice and clean layout are translated from catalog to Web site to e-mail to store. The back page of the Holiday 2008 business gifts catalog presents the same layout as many of Godiva’s e-mails, setting a standard of cross-channel consistency.
The Web Site and E-Mail: One fault is that its Web site and e-mails use a different sans serif display font than the print catalog. This decision prevents uncontrolled font substitutions in the electronic media, so this font variation is a necessary evil.
Apart from that, Godiva’s Web site presents the company consistently and confidently. Catalog requests are easy, and if you can’t wait for your Godiva fix, the store locator identifies both its branded boutiques and other retail outlets that carry Godiva’s chocolates. At the Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan., you can get Godiva chocolate at three separate locations, making its brand discipline even more impressive.
Forward-thinking features of the Web site include a schedule of in-store events at boutiques and a solid promotion of Godiva’s in-store chocolate-by-the-pound program — or it may be chocolate-by-the-piece; the Web site references vary.
The Store: The lush, premium experience extends to the retail store, which picks up the brand’s color palette and product presentation. There’s that elusive feeling: We stepped into the catalog.
We did notice a subtle difference in the photography between the consistent brand presentation in the catalog and the retail point-of-purchase displays. The in-store signage seems brighter and bolder than the catalog photography, although this appears to be a conscious choice.
To create a boutique feel, the store has a controlled, lower light level than a department store. The catalog photography might appear too dark in this environment, but the overall experience is consistent.
Multichannel Synergy: For these three merchants, Godiva gets the top mark for its cross-channel brand presentation. It earns an A+.
Brent Niemuth and George Hague are vice presidents at J. Schmid & Assoc. Inc., a full-service catalog consulting firm. You can reach them at BrentN@JSchmid.com and GeorgeH@JSchmid.com or (913) 236-8988.