It’s time to all work together to ensure that our retail landscape doesn’t deteriorate any further.
Because we have seen quite a few brands disappear in recent years: from CoolCat to V&D and from Neckermann to Nuon. Not every consumer is the same and not everyone is attracted to the same brand or product.
Skoda has a different target group than Audi. But Telfort and XS4ALL also had a different target group than KPN. And AllSecur is a stronger brand in the Netherlands than Allianz. Yet the arithmeticians at the top see brands mainly as a cost item. And it is true that a good brand experience is at odds with operational efficiency. It is expensive to maintain brands and much cheaper to simply offer all customers the same options.
Everything for everyone
For anyone who has time, I can recommend that, in addition to Twinkle, you read the series ‘Brand Disruption Megatrends’ on the MarketingTribune website; this charts the causes why (according to the writers) many brands are going to disappear in the coming years. The result, as described there: everything is for everyone. KPN has the network for the Netherlands, Everybody is Appie at Albert Heijn, bol.com is the shop of all of us, at Zalando everyone can be themselves and at Basic-Fit everyone decides for themselves. In short, it seems that brands mainly differentiate themselves by appealing to as large a target group as possible. Throw enough against the wall, and you’ll probably end up with something sticky.
The mass of brands keeps pace with the emergence of the possibilities for personalisation. The idea is that a generic brand can become more personal by personalizing well, in other words, by making good use of data. By personalising communication and tailoring it to the person, a brand can acquire a completely different meaning for one person than for another.
My clients mainly work in media/publishing. This world revolves around brand awareness and brand image. Magazines in particular are bought and read because of the bond that consumers have with the brand in combination with quality content. An initiative such as Blendle, in which the product (the content) is disconnected from the brand, is successful to a limited extent. The brand is literally the carrier of the product and is inextricably linked to it. Everyone knows immediately whether they have a connection with a brand such as Cosmopolitan, Elsevier, Quote or Football International. No personalization can beat that.
Of course, brands are deleted if the target group becomes too small. However, it will not be easy for anyone to come up with the idea of creating a single media brand and expect that you can then, take a hold of it, delete Autoweek, Donald Duck and Libelle. In any case, this will cost a lot of subscribers, people who have had ties with a brand for years and even want to contribute to it.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s still a weakness in ‘all-for-all brands’ in which everyone is served according to their own preferences. If the brand is only a platform on which products are offered based on data, who is going to offer me something new? Who is going to surprise me with something I don’t know at all? Who had offered me an iPhone in 2007 or a Tesla in 2014? At least not a machine learning algorithm, that’s especially good at optimizing. Unfortunately, optimisation mainly means cutting away what is not productive enough.
My children have already found the answer to this question. Through Instagram and YouTube, they follow influencers so that they are constantly in contact with products and brands they don’t know. If we go to a zoo, they suggest Emmen instead of Amersfoort, because they have seen them on YouTube. If they want to make some extra money, they make phone cases, which they then try to sell on Instagram themselves.
The big question is, of course, what should we as retailers do with this? There is good news: if the large consumer companies offer more and more all-in-one propositions, there will be room for new emerging brands. For example, Tesla has jumped into a hole in the car industry and Picnic in online shopping.
More good news. Personalities partly fill in the role of new brands. Perhaps the best example is Linda de Mol, now a personality on TV with its own magazines and an online platform. Personalities with their own followers form a countermovement compared to the platforms with all products and their automated advice. I regularly see clients starting magazines with well-known influencers.
And then there’s the last good message: maintaining multiple brands doesn’t have to cost a lot of money operationally these days. With the help of headless e-commerce systems it is for example possible to maintain several shops from one back office.
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This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)