As we saw earlier this week, brand communications have the opportunity to evolve from a promotional tool, into a new avenue to deliver brand benefits.
However, this opportunity isn’t limited to communications; it can easily extend to the rest of the marketing mix too.
When it comes to branding, everything communicates: packaging, purchase experience, and after-sales support all play critical roles in shaping people’s perceptions of our brand.
However, brands often approach these elements as distinct activities, and deliver a range of different experiences as a result.
To address this issue, brands need to adopt a more holistic perspective, aligning everything they do to a common objective.
This isn’t about image consistency; it’s about maximising the opportunities to actually deliver what people really want and need (another case of starting from your audience, not the brand)
As we move towards a more holistic approach to marketing, planners need to think beyond ‘advertising’ to identify the ways we can help marketers to blend the various ‘Ps‘ into a truly seamless mix.
Let’s start by looking at distribution.
Take it to them
One way planners can help is to fundamentally re-think the role brands play in people’s lives.
A big part of this is helping to shift the marketing mindset from selling products to selling benefits.
Let’s take FMCG brands as an example.
The vast majority of these are sold through conventional retail channels – supermarkets, drugstores, etc.
Withing these channels, many even have their own dedicated category ‘aisles’.
Until recently, our concept of ‘innovation’ in distribution has been to locate brands in different parts of the store, like putting men’s toiletries next to the beer.
This is a good start, because it starts to think about people as they think about their needs.
But brands don’t belong to just one distribution environment.
Indeed, many FMCG brands have evolved beyond their core product offerings to become ‘lifestyle’ choices, and consequently, their relevance extends far beyond the supermarket shelf.
Furthermore, it could really come to life in nightclub bathrooms and gym locker rooms.
So what does this have to do with planners?
The answer lies in value delivery.
Getting involved in distribution strategy doesn’t fall into the traditional planner’s realm of influence, but demonstrating and delivering the brand’s benefits at the times of greatest relevance lies at the core of a new planning manifesto:
Identifying the most relevant and engaging times and places to deliver specific brand benefits, and the most efficient and effective ways to deliver those benefits in that context.
If planners are to help brands create real value, they need to get involved with all aspects of the marketing mix.
Developing a distribution strategy around delivery of brand benefits helps build brand equity at the same time as expanding sales and revenue opportunities.
It also enables brands to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with other like-minded brands.
Alongside these growth opportunities, a unified ‘one brand‘ approach allows brands to reduce costs by harnessing operational synergies.
Rather than limiting our thinking to conventional retail norms, we should re-examine the times and places where our brands’ benefits have the greatest relevance, and use this as the basis for developing distribution strategies instead.
Previous posts in the ‘planning for the future’ series
Introduction: a new planning manifesto
Use communications to deliver value: moving from advertising to adding value
It’s all about the benefits: a simple example of how to deliver a brand’s core benefit with a TV ad
Add CSR to everything you do: how contributing to the greater good can help your brand too.