The tragedy of the day is Sears. They are nose-diving with no end in sight. After comparable store sales falling off between 16-17% in 2017, no one can see a way to reverse this trend. Wall Street ‘s collective view is that they will be lucky to survive 2018. They should have focused on reinvention all along.
What makes this so sad is they were not able to build upon the venerable brand equity established over generations. For much of the last century, Sears was the source of quality and durability for many things. It was literally where America went to shop. Most appliances that our grandparents counted on came from Sears. Their catalog was where Americans bought what they needed. Quality was assured. So powerful was the brand that it could carry the product offering of the “mail order bride”, then used by homesteaders who could look at a Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalog and order a wife delivered to his home just as easily as an appliance. (The Zoosk, Match.com and eharmony of the time). That’s how embedded the brand was in our culture.
But things changed, and successive leadership never focused on reinvention to keep the brand relevant.
To prevent the erosion of a strong brand, leaders need to constantly evaluate where they are and where markets are headed. Of the powerful brands of the mid-to-late 1900’s, what happened to Kodak, Howard Johnson’s, Polaroid, Borders, and Blockbuster? Imagine the extraordinary brand equity each had built. At In the end, each brand did not manage their business into a changing future. Kodak didn’t believe in the digital revolution. Howard Johnson’s yielded being America’s rest stop to fast food chains, etc.
The big message here is having the forethought and will to acknowledge change can help a company navigate the future. It is about embracing disruption. Great leaders must continually make this a primary responsibility. Particularly with the ever-increasing acceleration of change, the mandate is here, right now.
One significant consulting firm that specializes helping companies focus on the future in a rigorous and strategic manner is Innosight. They have developed formalized processes to look at the future and manage to it. We have seen it in action and it is impressive.
Net… don’t put your head in the sand. Embrace that change will happen, identify what the future will look like and have a strategy to navigate there. If you do this well, you won’t become a Sears.
January 12, 2018 Comments Off on Reinvention is the Key to Sustaining a Brand
The postulate that “watering down” a brand has long-term affects is generally well understood by smart marketers everywhere. But recently, two brands have been caught up in literally and figuratively watering down their products and consequently, their brands. We’d suggest that the act of watering down a product, or even the suspicion of it, will have very serious and long-term impacts on the business.
The two brands are Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon Whisky and Budweiser. Maker’s Mark announced that they were lowering the alcohol content of their premiere product from 94 proof to 86 proof because demand is exceeding capacity, and consumer testing had indicated that the difference was undetectable. While possibly statistically true, the idea that slowly diluting a product so that the perceived change in the taste profile is negligible could end up taking the teeth out of a product and without ever understanding why. This incremental product thinking almost always gets manufacturers in trouble. [Read more →]
March 1, 2013 Comments Off on Why “Watering Down” a Brand is a Fundamental No-No.
Kellogg’s Rice Krispies famous “Snap, Crackle, Pop” was introduced in 1933. According to a radio ad of the time, “Listen to the fairy song of health, the merry chorus sung by Kellogg’s Rice Krispies as they merrily snap, crackle and pop in a bowl of milk. If you’ve never heard food talking, now is your chance”. It’s arguably the most famous of all brand sounds but there are other great examples of brands that have used sound as a differentiating brand communicator. The well-researched thud of BMW’s door closing is a deliberate effort to communicate quality and a premium positioning. Smart marketers are looking at all aspects of a brand to create a memorable brand experience.
Since the 1970’s, most markets are flooded with essentially parity products. The result is a quest for marketers to find ways to drive home differentiation and make their brand more memorable and unique. This is a mandatory in today’s competitive marketplaces. Sound is one key aspect of some brands that can make a significant difference, and it is often over-looked.
October 25, 2012 Comments Off on Sound Can Be a Powerful Brand Cue… Think “Snap, Crackle, and Pop”
A feature in the Sunday New York Times about Johnson & Johnson struggling with many of it’s consumer brands raises a much bigger issue… when you lose trust in a brand name. The specific manufacturing problems and recalls for J&J open up consideration of less marketed store brands. In that moment where value intersects with (brand) price, it will be interesting to see how consumers shift shopping behaviors over the near to longer term.
January 17, 2011 1 Comment
Starbucks is introducing a new concept idea this week. It will serve regional wine, beer, cheese, soup and other small dishes. While designated by location (e,g, “Olive Way store”), it will indicate it is “by Starbucks”. The interior will be more like a cafe that has been in the neighborhood for years, but extremely eco-friendly. This evolution into an after work, evening business just feels right for the times.
October 22, 2010 25 Comments
The telling sign of yet another automotive brand signals the importance of having a differentiated and relevant position in the marketplace. The economic times we live in have forced Ford to terminate the Mercury brand. But if you think about it, the Mercury brand didn’t really have a clear meaning and wasn’t differentiated from competition. Keith Naughton of Bloomberg writes about the end of the Mercury brand after seven decades.
June 1, 2010 19 Comments
It looks like upscale shoppers may lead us out of the recession. Tiffany’s sales are up globally. So are sales at Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. High-end shoppers are leading the way.
But what is interesting to me is the attraction to these strong brands as the vehicle for higher end spenders. Under the assumption that the wealthy have a great deal of liquidity as they have been hording their cash and not investing in the market, they are apparently spending their money on brands they can trust. [Read more →]
March 23, 2010 36 Comments
From a marketer’s standpoint, the resurgence of the Ford brand is a monumental success. It wasn’t but a few decades ago when Ford was viewed just like the other big three auto manufacturers. [Read more →]
March 12, 2010 2 Comments