Whose Brand Is it Anyway?
Are you sacrificing your brand for others?
It sounds like an '80s game show in which the host (that's me) asks the contestant (that's you) the $60,000 question: Whose brand are you emphasizing in your store?
Seems like a no-brainer -- until we look at the facts. We spend thousands of dollars to promote a gasoline brand, we offer our prime endcap space to various vendors, and we let our vendors guide what we sell and where we sell it. But what kind of attention are we giving to our own brands?
Let's take a look at some stories from the field:
- Customer No. 1 has a very consistent execution of their brand. The name is consistently placed above the door on the fascia of each of the stores in the same type font. The name of the store: Food Mart. Not very enticing to the customer, is it?
- Customer No. 2 realizes that foodservice is the key to the future of this industry. The customer aligned his name and image to a company whose claim on foodservice is a week-old pimento cheese sandwich in a hermetically sealed triangle.
[image-nocss]A prepackaged sandwich product does not constitute a foodservice program in this ever-changing market. The competition has raised the bar and we must raise the bar with it. It would be funny if these stories weren't so prevalent throughout our industry.
I have the privilege of traveling this country from coast to coast and I see hundreds of examples of convenience stores with little or no branding emphasis. We take free stuff to allow others who are brand-savvy to place their brand throughout our store, but we forgot about our own brand in the process.
What is the true cost of all this free stuff? For many of us it is our brand identity. As we prop up other brands, we let our own brand fall to the wayside.
When you think of great retail brands, what names come to mind? McDonald's, Starbucks and Abercrombie & Fitch jump out at me. What is the common thread that ties these brands together? I believe it is the intentionality and consistency that they have in approaching who they are and what they stand for.
Great retail companies control their image from signage and advertising to packaging and promotion. We know this to be true intellectually but for some reason, when it comes to our own stores, we fall short.
I believe it is time to take our stores back and reinvest in our own brand. In some cases, that means developing one in the first place.
I do think there are good examples of brand development in our industry. Rutter's, Quik Trip, Sheetz and Wawa all do a good job of communicating their message to the public in a consistent, quality way. The misconception is that you have to be one of the big guys to develop and maintain a brand. This is definitely not the case. In today's world, you can develop your brand, launch a website, have a loyalty program and put it all together in your own app for smartphone users everywhere. All this can be done whether you are a single store or a chain.
Paragon Solutions currently has numerous branding programs in development, from entire image development including private-brand gasoline and retail, to individual foodservice concepts and profit centers.
Lately, we've seen a dramatic increase in branding within our industry. This shift is indicative of market trends showing that more people are taking back control of their own identity through brand development. It also shows that in order to compete in today and tomorrow's marketplace, it is increasingly important to develop and maintain a strong and consistent image that reflects who you are and what you provide to your customers.
Whose brand is it anyway? Hopefully in the very near future, it will be yours.
Michael Lawshe is the owner of Paragon Solutions, a nationwide convenience store and retail industry design and consulting firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. He has 24 years of specialized and targeted industry experience consulting a multitude of customers.