How can a brand possibly deliver a consistent experience, if they don’t even know all the potential points-of-sale? The simple answer is they can’t.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the BRITE conference at the Columbia Business School. This world class conference is focused on the intersection between brands, technology and innovation. The overarching theme of this year’s symposium was “brand is an experience”. How do brands emotionally connect with their target audience? What experience can the brand create that moves a customer beyond loyalty and move them to a state of evangelism? And how do we achieve such lofty goals pre-sale, at the point of purchase, and after the sale? Given the increasing inter-connectivity brought about by mobile, social media, digital interface, and apps, as well as “old world” channels, delivering consistency across mediums is becoming a herculean task. BRITE did a terrific job of helping brands understand how to promote consistent “brand experiences” in this very complex environment.
The concept of “promoting” an experience is built on the fundamental belief that we know where we are going to engage the target customer. We focus on reaching them where they are. Which retailers they frequent, what magazines they read, what web-sites they visit, what TV shows they watch and the list goes on and on. But what if target customers are engaging with us in places we don’t know about? What then?
Having worked in brand and supply chain management roles over the last 15 years, it has been my experience that increasingly brands don’t know all the places they are engaging customers. With the explosion of e-commerce accessibility to both buyers and sellers, many, if not most, brands can’t definitively say they know every outlet that their product is presented for sale, nor the prices offered. This is becoming a huge problem.
When product is for sale at outlets that don’t “share the ideals of the brand” (specifically rogue web-sites), delivering the desired brand experience is going to be a challenge. If anything, all the efforts in product development, marketing, brand and pricing strategies can be undone with a few clicks of the mouse. Channel discipline weaknesses on the part of brands are being exploited by an increasing number of web-sites focused on offering “lowest price available”, not promoting brand stories, brand experience, or brand value.
By way of example, Justcalculators.com sells branded watches, along with a number of other branded goods, at very steep discounts on their web-site. (In fairness, they do sell some calculators on this web-site as well.) Hardly the “brand experience” or consistency of message the marketing and brand people at the watch companies had hoped for, or anticipated.
Even with all the changes afoot, brand management still goes back to the fundamentals. Product, Place, Price, Promotion. Great brand management, and great brand experiences, requires that not only is product in the right places, at the right prices…it also requires that managers ensure that product is not in the wrong places at the wrong prices.
David Coleman is the CEO and Founder of Brandoogle (brandoogle.com). Brandoogle works with retailers and brands to combat showrooming with a proprietary suite of software and services. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.