In our industry, we continually strive to optimize every square foot of selling space — believing it’s the most important area. I did too until John Hegarty, founder of Hegarty Advertising, caused me to look at retail differently when he said, “Always remember: a brand is the most valuable piece of real estate in the world; a corner of someone's mind.”
While that statement may be a few years old, it still captures one of the retailer’s most important challenges: marketing their banner as a brand. Market proliferation, combined with channel erosion and the digital marketplace, are making the brand more important than ever. Location and price, formerly key tenets of an effective marketing strategy, will soon be neutralized and retailers will be forced to redefine their brand’s competitive position.
Branding the banner should be on every retailer’s short list. And it should remain there because branding in today’s complex retail environment is a fluid, ongoing process that will drive long-term shopper loyalty and differentiation.
Effectively branding the banner will require a relentless focus in five key areas:
1. Brand associations
Brand associates can be unique products that separate the banner and create an enhanced position, like Trader Joe’s Two-Buck Chuck. Programs like ShopRite’s annual Can Can sale, which is now in its 44th consecutive year, can also serve as great brand associations.
2. Private label
Private label products now cover the full spectrum, including premium offerings, natural and organic, and GM and HBC. Retailers who put their banner on the brand, as in the case of Wegmans, integrate their overall value proposition. However, the same can be achieved without matching the banner and the label, as demonstrated by Costco’s Kirkland brand and Whole Foods’ 365 brand.
3. Shopper insights
Today, shoppers are commanding more power. Therefore identifying their needs and localizing products and services will be paramount. Retailers that extract new and meaningful insights from their data (loyalty and/or transactional data) will be better equipped to reward and retain a more loyal shopper base.
4. Communicating value
“All is for naught” if the brand messaging is not communicated properly. This means maintaining a consistent brand voice across all communication platforms, including in-store and digital (website, social media and mobile apps).
Service has become the dead horse because nearly everyone claims to compete through superior service. But few actually do. Not only is it overstated and underutilized, it’s changing. Service, according to the Millennial, is likely to include recipes, complete meal solutions, instruction on meal prep and delivery options.
While the focus on branding the banner will require additional cost and resources, the payback will be exponential in terms of market share and share of wallet.
How else are you building your brand with customers?