Why your service delivery is part of your marketing strategy, not separate from it.
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece for B&T about retail communications. In it, I argued that there were three basic things you had to get right. First of all, you had to make your offer clearly and transparently. Second you had to avoid the hustle and help people make a choice on their own terms. And finally you had to let people have a taste of your brand experience, even if your main message was about a price or a deal.
I cited Coles as a brand that was doing this well. Coles has been really successful in recent times and its retail campaign has played a part in that success. But its “Prices are down” TV advertising is wildly unfashionable and so I copped a few flames in the online comments section.
Because of this, I thought it might be worthwhile having a look at how a more sophisticated retail brand performed against my criteria.
How about David Jones then? With bricks and mortar retail under increasing pressure from online, and with its own profit forecasts down by around 10% for the second half of 2011, here’s a company in real need of the spark that an effective communications approach could give it.
In July of this year, DJs launched its first new brand campaign in over a decade. The work, from M&C, is smart and stylish, featuring Miranda Kerr in Palm Springs and a tagline that’s a confident, competitive statement of category leading intent: “Was. Is. Always David Jones”. As industry professionals, we can probably all look at it and like it more than we like the Coles campaign. It’s good, alluring fashion advertising.
But, how does it work according to my three principles? Is it a campaign that’s got potential to be more than just likeable among people like us who are pre-disposed to liking good ads?
To start with the offer is clear. There’s a simple and relevant promise to customers of access to a selection of Australia’s best designers. Following on from this, there’s no hard sell or hustle, just the seduction of image, emotion and aspiration. It’s advertising that invites people into the brand’s world in response to their own desires.
Last of all, there’s a strong message about the likely experience you’ll have as a customer of David Jones. Here is a premium brand, aligning itself with all of the codes of premium status: Prestigious locations, aspirational brand icons and expressions of contemporary affluence. It’s not portrayed literally, but there’s an implicit promise of the best of high-end retail service. It’s the promise of the type of service that Miranda Kerr would expect.
So, because that implicit promise is being made (and because in its own press release about the campaign DJ’s talks about itself as “the premier department store in Australia”), I thought I’d give the campaign an extra pressure test by actually sampling the service experience.
To me that’s fair enough. For a retail campaign to genuinely deliver against that third principle, the brand experience promise has to be met at point of sale. For example, whatever you think about the “Prices are down” ads, they give a realistic impression of the best of Coles’s service. It’s basic, it’s unpretentious and it involves fairly ordinary people. I wanted to know if David Jones would really give me the type of high-end service that a supermodel like Miranda Kerr would expect.
With this in mind, I made my way to the Elizabeth Street store in Sydney to buy a present for my wife. This adds an extra dimension of reality to the test. Elizabeth Street is the flagship women’s store, so it’s where Miranda Kerr would probably go to buy things (probably with her 10% staff discount).
I have to say that my actual DJs brand experience fell well short of the campaign’s promise. To start with, when I arrived, I couldn’t find a single sales assistant to help me, either working for David Jones or the individual designer brands on the floor. That’s not an exaggeration to make a point. There was actually no one around in a sales capacity. There were a couple of bewildered looking older women with badges identifying them as “Helpers”, but they couldn’t tell me anything about the brands, they couldn’t help me convert Australian sizes into European sizes and they weren’t authorised to use the register.
When I’d chosen an item, by myself, without assistance or encouragement, one of the Helpers and I wandered around together looking for someone who was allowed to process a sale. The Helper told me that staff often failed to turn up on Saturday morning because they had hangovers from Friday night.
Then, when we found what seemed to be the only qualified sales assistant, she was doing something administrative down behind the counter and was annoyed at being disturbed. She told the Helper, sulkily, that there was staff training on and that’s why staff numbers were down. She couldn’t confirm whether the European sized item I picked out matched the Australian size I had written down.
At this point, I gave up, went to the Calvin Klein store in Sydney Westfield, found the same item, was re-assured on size by the sales consultant and spent an extra $60 on impulse.
It’s a tough call on M&C to bag their campaign because the brand’s service doesn’t sync with the tone and imagery of their advertising. That’s not their fault. But there’s a point to be made here. In retail, your service delivery is always part of your marketing, and if it’s poor you’re in trouble. You’re in even worse trouble if you go out into the marketplace and let people believe it’s better than it is.
David Jones has invested a lot in a campaign that pushes Miranda Kerr as the face of their brand. But she’s not. The face of a retail brand will always be the person who’s serving your customers. And your equity stands or falls on his or her performance. Whatever you’ve spent on advertising.
Turning Intent into Action – Where are the green consumers?
It seems every day we see another media poll telling us how the majority of Australians want to go green. With figures as high as 80% bandied about, it makes sense to take advantage of this demand by releasing a green product or service. Seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it?
But look a little closer and you’ll find it’s only about 20% of consumers who ever a green purchase. It’s understandable given that most of us naturally want to answer, “Yes I want to be more green” when asked. But when the world isn’t watching we revert back to our traditional behaviour.
If, however, you asked people would they buy green and pay more? Or would you buy green if the product is of lesser quality? The answer is a different story. Suddenly, you’re forced to think deeper about a fairly complex area.
Now that green is the new black, companies everywhere are selling green products and services. There has been a proliferation of certifications and language about everything green. All of which has done little but to cause confusion.
Current green marketing fails to address the two key barriers to purchasing green: price and quality. Significant change will only begin when green products offer the same quality, value and convenience as ‘non-green’ products. Until then, green credentials will only appeal to a minority of people.
Start-up costs naturally make products initially expensive but once consumers take up the product, production increases and costs drop. So targeting the average person and, therefore, a bigger market makes much more sense than focusing on a niche market.
Corporates are making major changes to the way they operate. They’re investing in CSR initiatives to enhance their green credentials, breaking their objectives down into simple steps. But when it comes to marketing their products, they fail deliver this message clearly and simply to consumers.
In order to improve this communication you should:
1. Take the time to understand what other attributes of your product or service are important to your consumers beyond its green credentials. After all, people buy in order to solve problems, not just to be green.
2. Ensure you provide consumers with clear, succinct information with demonstrations that help explain the product or service’s benefits, not just its features.