Retailers Discuss Brand Marketing Strategies at eTail East
In a panel discussion at eTail East in Boston this week, a panel of retail executives discussed how their companies are creating authentic brand experiences for their customers. John Lacy, co-CEO, Burton; Sherill Kaplan, head of marketing, Zipcar; Catherine Lewenberg, vice president, digital and omnichannel, CVS Health; and Joe Megibow, CEO, Purple, detailed how consistent brand messaging can help drive customer acquisition and retention. Here are some of the highlights of that conversation, which was led by moderator Trevor George, founder and CEO of Blue Wheel Media.
Does Brand Even Matter?
John Lacy: Brand is critical. Consumers want to have an emotional connection with the brands they do business with. Brands can build community and speak a voice of change. Brands can stand for a greater good, not just pure commerce.
Sherill Kaplan: In a crowded space, it's important to stand out as a brand. Connect with trust and the values of your brand, which will attract audiences that share those values.
Catherine Lewenberg: With the proliferation of touchpoints and shortening [consumer] attention spans, brand has become increasingly important. CVS has evolved its brand from the neighborhood drug store to the country's largest healthcare network. We're the No. 1 trusted healthcare brand. How we show up as a brand matters.
Joe Megibow: Does brand matter to your customers? The answer is less and less. Price-driven commoditization of unbranded products is a factor in this. Brands should matter, but the game is changing. How do you differentiate yourself? Trust? Brand values? Product differentiation?
Keys to Seamless Messaging Across Channels
JL: Honesty is about control. An authentic story can travel through multiple channels. It's a way the consumer can grab your brand. Invite retail partners, vendor partners to share your brand messaging, and how you would like to show up. But the narrative can’t be controlled — that's just reality.
SK: Our message is sustainability, convenience and ease, and speed of service. We had to cut through our own clutter and figure out what our core message is, then communicate that consistently across all channels and touchpoints. Identify one or two key messages, then distribute.
CL: Personalization. Our active loyalty program, ExtraCare, helps us to be specific with our messaging. We're able to access purchase history to personalize messaging, but we're also using machine learning to anticipate future needs and wants.
JM: We launched with a bang with viral video — 500 million views of our launch video. That has driven brand awareness and sales. But there's a dirty secret. That viral success can make you forget who you really are as a brand. Our videos featured funny content that resonated with a 12-15 year-old-range, but they’re not able to make purchases. We need to strike a balance between reach and resonance and who is that core customer. [We're] going through a shift to really understand our customer to make it work for the long haul.
How to Control Brand Messaging
JL: Building partnerships is key. Moving from wholesale to D-to-C, partnerships are key. Bring people together and build trust with partners, not just consumers. Recognize the brand is the jewel, and find ways to service the customer that works for them. Make sure there's honesty and openness with partners.
SK: In April we did a 360-immersion around Earth Month. Our brand has a huge passion for sustainability. Everything was tied around that message of sustainability, and that message represents our core values.
CL: We've leveraged our employees to disseminate messaging. Each individual is a shepherd of the brand.
JM: Product is the factor at the end of the day. You have differentiated product, and then brand is how do you sell that story. It comes down to how you connect that story to consumers. And the physical world still means a lot. When I was American Eagle Outfitters, the fastest way to grow our online business was to open more stores. At Purple, we've started partnering with the largest retailers of mattresses in the world. We now have 5,000 beds on display at different retailers across the country. People can now test this internet product. The message from Purple needs to be consistent, online and in-store.
One Thing That's Driving E-Commerce at Your Brand
JL: New technology that echoes the story in e-commerce, providing brand understanding.
SK: We need to help consumers think about and understand our product, then drum up the love through marketing and customer experience.
CL: We go way beyond just an e-commerce-focus. We call it "harmonized retail." For example, the expansion of our CarePass program this month. This program give customers access to healthcare services. We've seen a lift of 15 percent to 20 percent [in sales] with core customers participating in the program.
JM: We’ve discovered a different approach with video. Some fell flat, but those that didn't gained such reach and exposure that they easily paid for those that didn’t. We're going to keep investing in the channel.
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