Draw Up Your Brand’s Road Map
We all need road maps, particularly us merchants. There’s so much good stuff out there to choose from, so many different directions you can take in merchandising your catalog, that you need to find ways to navigate.
In my 20-plus years as a creative merchant, I’ve always made product fit charts my strategic tool of choice as I sift and sort through thousands of product possibilities for each brand’s offerings. I treat them as my merchandising road maps, driving me to the very heart of each brand I work with.
They help me edit the multitude of products I see at trade shows and in industry publications, or ideas vendors submit or internal employees bring forth, and particularly the ones customers suggest.
The product fit charts referred to here aren’t the types customers use to ensure their clothes fit. They’re a universal tool to use in choosing merchandise to include in a marketer’s catalog, Web site and/or stores.
‘Is This Ours to Do?’
No matter where the ideas originate, the same important question must be answered by all merchants for every product concept: Is this ours to do?
At the heart of a product fit chart is a thorough understanding of three things:
1. your brand’s positioning;
2. your brand’s merchandising concept; and
3. in-depth customer knowledge.
To create a product fit chart, you need to collaborate not only with merchants, but also with other internal brand ambassadors, such as marketers, creative folks, customer care specialists and, of course, top management. Have a strategic conversation with all these people and tackle the following subjects:
* what your brand means to your customers;
* why you are unique and different; and
* what merchandising gap your product or service is fulfilling.
Draw boundaries that complete statements such as: “Our brand is very much ______” and “Our brand is definitely not____.”