How Brands Survive Bricks to Clicks

bricks blog shotThere is nothing sadder, I think than seeing an empty space in a shopping center, once filled by a vibrant, bustling retailer.

E-commerce is no longer a new growth segment. It is now shaping the future of retailing. Aided and abetted of course by savvy consumers who shop the retail options they want, without moving more than their finger.

Yes, we get it. This is not news. And ‘brick’ retailers are already finding ways to marry ‘bricks with clicks’… personalized offers, store pick-up/return, etc.

But now Amazon is reported to be acquiring premier food retailer Whole Foods. Bricks and clicks galore!

 There are all sorts of predictions and scenarios on what this will mean to traditional brick retailers. Especially as it relates to the future of large format retailers? Do we really need to battle our way to and through the local Costco, Target or Wal-Mart? Why can’t we buy online and have them battle their way to us? Uber of everything?

And more to the point (as it always is) why do we, consumers, have to pay for that large space (as we always will). Give us what we want in an affordable, convenient way, and we’ll take it every time. And that probably means that we won’t be paying for the real estate taxes, utilities, and wages that the local, debt-ridden municipalities will seek from your ‘big box’ facilities.

 What does this all mean to traditional brand retailers?

 So you are a brand that has spent years, if not decades, building its reputation and support through the shopping experience.

You may be like a local hardware store that thrived for years near me with its jam-packed shelves and friendly staff. Customers walked in with some piece from a broken old faucet and walked out with the right part and emboldened with the knowledge of how to fix it. You survived a Home Depot opening near by and a move to a bigger space. But you couldn’t compete on price and still pay the costs to keep your doors open. You are now a large empty space in a strip mall.

What do you need to do to survive this rather miserable scenario?

Hey, brighten up. You own the one thing that no new brand or new online store can ever have. You have been successful in brick and mortar shopping for a long time. Chances are you have built a familiar and trusted brand relationship with your local community. There is absolutely no reason why your brand reputation will not transfer to the digital world and be even more successful.

It is really as simple as understanding your brand story.

 Take that hardware store above. I cannot get anywhere near the same help or solutions from Home Depot or any website as I once did from that store. Even if I had somehow I wouldn’t feel as confident or supported.

So set up a ‘knowledge’ site with video integration where I can connect, show you my broken faucet. You’ll help. If I need a part you’ll deliver it from a supply warehouse (maybe have a local charity deliver and be part of your Millennial’s ‘cause related, purpose-driven community’) or you’ll send a plumber with a new faucet, etc. Whatever. The idea is that you transfer your knowledge brand story to an online retail opportunity. Site costs are still a lot cheaper than the mounting store costs.

Knowledge is the new ‘secret sauce’ in digital retailing. It is also the great equalizer. With more and changing options for every shopping item in the world, knowledge is invaluable, profitable and competitively sustainable.

 Yes, I know there is a ‘depends’ comment here. How can you replicate the smell of fresh bakery online or new car leather or ogle a paper thin TV or try on the new fashion, etc.? All good issues but also creatively solvable with technology and understanding your brand message.

We believe that with rare exception ‘brick’ retail brands can survive and indeed thrive in the new digital age. It’s all about brand story, not bricks.

 We at Rocket Branding love this stuff. Call us, and we’ll help find your online brand story and profitable future.

 

 

 

 

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Brand America. Bruised or Beaten?

Amercan Flag Map

 

America’s status at home and abroad is not at all clear. Is the America of the last century gone? The ‘global powerhouse’ done? The ‘American Dream’ over? Or just in a state of flux?

Dreary questions for sure. And yes we go through this every election cycle, but a lot of the mud flung on the walls by the PROTUS hopefuls is sticking. There are real concerns about America’s future across every demographic.

It’s absolutely astounding to me, that after a decade’s movement to moderate our culture (you know ‘everyone gets a prize’, ‘we need to sit with our enemies’, ‘share the wealth’, etc., etc.), the two earliest surging candidates, Sanders and Trump, are anything but moderate. Arguably they represent extremes on either side, and voters are turning out in record numbers to support them.

No question, anger at the seemingly dysfunctional government is driving this, and this isn’t new. Obama and the Democrats took over eight years ago with a kinder, happier mandate. Just two years later the Republican’s stormed back and won the senate as the ‘tea partiers’ pushed for dramatic change. Alas, not much happened to favor either agenda. The frustration grew.

Furthermore, today we have a world in deep doo doo. Global economies struggling, dire political and religious unrest, environmental decline, traditional cultures and ethnicities losing ground. And, closer to home, of course, adult children still at home. The list goes on. No matter your concern about the world and your life, it is a rather grim picture going forward.

So here’s the question or, at least, a question. What is the American ‘brand’ in all of this?

I see two factors – America’s role in the world and, the strongly philosophically, divided populace at home.

It’s possible that the first rules the second.

The world play is critical. The world has become a single marketplace where physical borders are less apparent. American Corporations aren’t necessarily American anymore but global entities with offices, plants and people working across time, space and currencies every second of the day. We may be upset with US companies moving facilities and jobs overseas but that’s how they have learned to compete in this highly leveraged and regulated world. And no one likes to talk about China’s influence on the global economy and our ridiculously high national debt.

No matter what your concerns, be they financial and personal security or cultural values, we need to look at the world to understand our future.

And on the personal level, the digital generations are now global. We communicate and share anywhere, anytime worldwide with a simple click or a touch. Our younger cultures are increasingly globally centric, connected and in many cases nationally ambivalent.

What the ‘baby boomers’ see as lost values the millennial sees as just the new norm.

Why even third world terrorist organizations recruit and terrorize anywhere they want via the World Wide Web.

The world is morphing into cultures beyond countries, and if America does not understand and succeed at the world level, it will not win on the home front…regardless of political doctrine.

So what happens to the Brand America? Can it remain the powerful symbol of a land and it’s people or does it have to change? Are we fierce, gun-toting, freedom fighters guarding our borders with our lives or are we open -minded individuals with a ‘cork -floating-on-the-ocean’ mentality? Or both?

As a traditionalist, I would rather not change but as a realist I believe we should deeply examine this question and find the right answer … and rather quickly.

One answer is to look into the emotional needs of the people. Americans of both parties are showing an angry reaction to their government and leaders.

Anger is not a good emotion to base a brand on. It usually does not last long. But what is behind anger can be useful. I believe in this case it is fear. People are worried about every aspect of their future and with arguably good cause. There is no good news or simple answers anywhere and leadership has been lacking.

So what do we do with this?

I would suggest that in a changing world with a deep fear of continuing to survive, the American Brand has to stand for two things to regain its power status in the world and continue to be the iconic, symbolic inspiration for its people.

The ‘brand’ has to be both TOUGH and FAIR.

 ‘Tough’ to compete and win on the world stage and ‘fair’ to optimize opportunity for all. It is extremely important that the world knows where we stand on key commercial or personal endeavors. We desperately need to take a hard line where we need to, but we’ll only gain respect and support, both domestically as well as abroad, if we are fair.

It’s quite simple. America has little trouble in the ‘tough’ department, but it does need to have precise positions and build its defenses to back them up.

The real breakthrough is in the ‘fair’ department. On the one level ‘lies, cronyism, lobbies, special interests’ all need to go. On another so do overreaching regulations and ‘PC’, controlling dictates like ‘the rich are bad’ and ‘everyone gets a prize’ and only certain ‘lives matter’. We all matter equally and can thrive equally if the game is fair.

If a new leader emerges who can execute on toughness and fairness and the American populace can see this happening, then I believe that Brand America for the next 50 years will shine through.

 What say you?

We love talking brands. Let us work with yours. www.rocketbranding.com.

 

 

 

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What Can Business Learn from Microbiomes?

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Actually quite a lot.

If you haven’t heard, microbiomes are the ‘communes’ of life, so to speak, and quite possibly the source of the next big breakthroughs in health and agriculture.

Microbiomes are all the organisms that co-habit a living organism.

Our human cells are only a small fraction of us. There are also some 100 trillion microbial cells … good bacteria, and the like, that live within us and keep us healthy. Same with plants and animals. Without these symbiotic, interdependent relationships we would not exist.

As scientists are now delving into collective genomes, they are understanding that the old way of just focusing only on the ‘host’ cells misses the enormous importance of the whole microbiome entity.

Business is arguably the same. We traditionally think of our company as a separate, independent organism that lives within itself and only interacts with the world through sales and marketing.

What if we learnt from science and created our company’s microbiome? What if we sat down and truly defined each of the entities in our entire business eco system and then built interdependencies with each so that we all thrive and survive together?

What the heck am I talking about?

A simple example. Let’s play with ‘advocacy’.

We all know in today’s digitally connected world that the more people advocating your company and brands the better. Right? Personal referrals are king.

Yes, we already have tactics to motivate and even incentivize advocacy and, yes, from time to time this works, but what if we actually make it our master strategy?

What if we deliberately set out to make it a priority in our relationships with every organism or entity that lives within our company’s microbiome? This would include employees, neighbors, customers, consumers, partners, affiliates and communities.

In each case, we can develop an ‘interdependency’, whereby it is in the best interests of all to vigorously advocate for each other. In fact, we could get to the stage where we only hire or, work with entities, that actually have our advocacy linked to their ongoing success.

Tons of ways to do this but if every entity in our microbiome is offered a different deal for advocacy (employee bonus, cost or price incentives for others?), then even in small ways we are working as one.

Heady stuff granted but one heck of a philosophical approach to building a company’s future. Right?

We love this stuff and are always looking for creative, innovative and sustainable ways to grow companies and their brands. Come play with us. And we’ll help you work out the best way to grow your company.

We are Rocket Branding and honored to serve. www.rocketbranding.com, 312 951 5178

Thank you.

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A GROIN ANOMALY

A recent odd travel experience highlighted for me how difficult it can be to launch fast growing brands today.

I was retained by airport TSA agents who informed me that the x-ray had detected a “groin anomaly’ and I needed to go to a secure room.

Suffice to say that after a thorough investigation and, a herculean effort on my part not to make a slew of jokes, they let me on my way.

Now I was more than happy to immediately “drop trou” and show them that their fears were quite unfounded but no, I had to go through an extended pat down and questioning. They had their roles and I had to have mine.

So what does this have to do with branding today?

Well two things.

1. Caution

We now live in very cautious world.  What we say or do in public is open to massive amounts of scrutiny and judgment and, in many situations we have to be very careful about how we behave, act or react. The same goes for a brand that competes in any arena where caution is now common. E.g. food, ingredients, health, financial, travel, children and so on.

2. Watching

With the Internet, cameras, drones you are being watched, recorded and classified. So is your brand.

No, this isn’t about ‘big brother’ or sinister plots and it is in no way suggesting that brands should not be spontaneous, flippant or even irreverent, if that is what the brand strategy calls for.

This is just a reminder to carefully assess the mindset of your core customer or consumer and the way life is causing them to make decisions relative to your brand.

And especially be very careful with competitive positioning focuses on Trust or Freedom.

‘Trust’ can easily be broken if there is a ‘gotcha’ moment or inconsistency from one brand connection to another.

‘Freedom’ is an incredible promise as an anti dote to caution and concern but this had better be legitimate or it can become an albatross around the brand’s neck…. any one for sea cruise on a sick ship…just ask luxury cruise ship how freedom on the high seas is working for them?

What say you?

Let us help you work through this. Visit www.rocketbranding.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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