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I’m really not being disagreeable….but it’s brand: A response from Sheryl Altschuler

The Marketing IS in the Middle interviews got me thinking a bit. Positioning and product appear to be dominating the discussion as to which is the most important component of marketing. When I look at the question, I immediately go to brand.  To me, brand actually combines both product and positioning. A company’s brand is their promise to the marketplace. That promise is based on delivering a quality product whose value is articulated through positioning.

Once a company develops a recognizable brand and becomes known as reliable for delivering on their promise, it is much easier to drive revenue from new product introductions–just based on brand reputation alone. The company’s product may essentially have the same capabilities and functionality as the competitors, but brand recognition and what the company has become known for in the marketplace, will enable the business to sell it more quickly and easily than companies who haven’t developed a strong, recognizable brand identity.

On another note, in looking at the responses to the interviews, it seems that “what marketing does” can vary significantly from company to company. However a company decides to deploy its marketing function, the overall mission should be driven by the basic principles from your Marketing 101 class: Attract prospects, generate Interest and Motivate customers to buy. (AIM) An integrated marketing strategy and plan, with consistent messaging across all marketing/communication mediums, is the best path to achieving those goals and developing a brand. It takes time, so lack of patience and changing the message frequently will not yield the long-term and lasting benefits (i.e. revenue and growth) of developing a strong brand identity.

Brand Damage? A Wal-Mart use case

Wal-Mart is a great brand which seems impervious to damage, almost Teflon coated like the skillets you can find in aisle 6 in housewares.  Low Prices as a brand promise appears to not only be valid in tough economic times, but also in not so tough.  I know their tagline is different, but the promise is the same.

The recent Black Friday death and miscarriage in a Wal-Mart store more than likely will have no impact on the choices consumers make, neither will the numerous YouTube videos about the incident.  Wonder why that is? Is consumerism solely price based?  A professor I had would say that price is the biggest P, as a product guy I think Product is, but we all have our own view.

Can a Wal-Mart avoid damage to their brand over the recent events?  Sure they can – the brand’s value has to be like eleventy billion dollars and most folks care only about what is in it for them more so than how things are working out overall.   Think about it – Wal-Mart has had a Wal-Mart sucks movie made about it, nasty t-shirts abound and countless discussions have been had about the ruining of main street America based on it’s geographic focused site selection and extended assortment of goods which no mom and pop retailer can counter, in price, service or in value.

photo by you.

As an aside, service doesn’t appear to be that important to the US shopper, but in other markets it does and the Wal-Mart brand doesn’t “live” in other markets.  Wonder why?

What is kind of interesting is that in more conscious based markets, like the EU, Wal-Mart is a different brand – ASDA and their message is more or less – We are your friend, let’s do good together.  In fact their tagline is People, Prices, Planet – completely different promise than Wal-Mart, below are some shots I took about a year ago while in the UK to back it up.  I knew I took these for some reason…

IMG00134 by you.

ASDA is also service focused, there are more associates in any given ASDA I have been in that most Wal-Mart’s I’ve entered and they even want to make sure your car works, as you can see from this sign from the car park of an ASDA in Preston, UK:

IMG00133 by you.

I guess in the end, a well developed brand can avoid most situational brand blights, as long as they deliver on the promise they make to the marketplace.  Wal-mart never said they were going to help your town, keep you safe while shopping or provide you assistance in the parking lot – only that you Save Money and Live Better.

PLEASE NOTE: Live Better apparently doesn’t mean you will survive a shopping experience/day at work.

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