Branding. It could be a retailer’s greatest asset on the sales floor. Walk into Best Buy and it’s not hard to walk out with a Samsung, Sony or LG television vs. something less familiar. But the flooring industry is somewhat unique in that it has few recognizable consumer brands. Over the years, Stainmaster, Armstrong, Karastan and Pergo were among the most recognized. But to get there they had to spend a fortune on consumer advertising. And to get similar penetration today that fortune would be a pittance. Why? Back then you had six or seven TV channels and several significant consumer magazines. Media today is so much more fragmented; it’s virtually impossible to build a consumer brand.
We are an industry of retailer brands. Suppliers market to you. Our job is to be the conduit to deliver their message to retailers. This Power of Brands issue is just one example. After all, we all know you and your salespeople control just about every sale.
Against this backdrop—and we have been preaching the same refrain for years—your store is your most important brand. Contrary to popular belief, companies like yours don’t sell products—they sell experiences, feelings and ideologies. Companies with amazing brands like Coca-Cola, Apple or Amazon know exactly what experience they want customers to have when they make (or consider) a purchase. Thus, being able to control the purchasing experience is the power of branding.
So what exactly is a brand? It’s the identity and story of a company that makes it stand out from competitors that sell similar products or services. In other words, how should consumers view your store vs. the retailer a mile away? How are you different? How are you unique? The goal of branding is to earn space in the minds of the target audience and become their preferred option for doing business.
Your brand is an effective way for you to clarify what you stand for and why. Your brand also relates to the overall experience a consumer may have when interacting with your store. Branding creates the identity of a company. This process also delivers materials that support the brand, like a logo, tagline, visual design or tone of voice. Something as simple as a logo font may define your business.
For example, Coca-Cola has one of the most recognizable logos in the world. It has captured the attention of buyers for more than 100 years. The Coca-Cola brand is a testament to the power of consistent, successful branding. Does Coca-Cola taste better than competing colas? Who knows. But given the choice of ordering a Coke or unfamiliar cola brand, the masses will usually choose Coke. What’s more, they will pay a premium for that brand.
The next thing to understand is the difference between branding and marketing. While it’s easy to combine branding and marketing into one bucket, they are not the same. Put simply, branding is your identity; marketing includes the tactics and strategies that communicate your vision. Branding usually supports your story and identity; marketing usually amplifies your products, customers or other initiatives in order to drive sales.
It’s important to develop your brand for a number of reasons. First, it will influence purchase decisions and create your identity. For example, let’s say you have been in business for 100 years. That’s part of your branding story. The longevity translates into confidence. Another example: Companies that sponsor things like Little League teams find favor with consumers because the brand is associated with being invested in the community.
Branding also makes your business memorable. It’s the face of your company and helps consumers distinguish your business across every medium.
If you don’t feel your store has a strong brand, it’s never too late to build it. First, determine your target audience. If your brand doesn’t resonate with your audience, it won’t lead to that awareness, recognition, trust and revenue. Understand your ideal customer and speak to her. And for God’s sake, don’t pull a Bud Light and alienate her.
Next, define your unique values, qualities and benefits. If you can’t tell me how you’re different than your competition, then you probably aren’t. And when there is no difference between competitors, you become a commodity and the lowest price wins. People clearly understand the identities of Nieman Marcus as well as Walmart. Both brands are successful and have entirely different sets of values and personalities.
You eventually will need to create visual assets: logo, colors, fonts, etc. But it goes beyond logos. Do you run commercials? How do you want people to see your store in their minds?
I could go on and on. Just remember your store is your greatest brand.