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A huge chunk of a brand’s consumer base is now connected to an endless world of information. He or she gets his or her information through the social media via a multitude of devices, ranging from a home computer to a TV package to a smartphone. Even some cameras are now connected directly to social media locations.
This has implications for branding that aren’t fully understood yet. Or rather the implication is clear – but the industry as a whole is reluctant to face up to its new responsibly, rather like someone who has just been told they are to become a father for the first time. The marketing and branding industry is going through a period of adjustment.
The truth it is trying to face is this: a multichannel consumer, always connected, means there’s nowhere left to hide. Price structures can be toppled at the touch of a button, even right at the point of purchase. A customer can look up prices for an item he or she is about to buy, put it down, and walk away – only to buy it somewhere else where he or she can get it cheaper.
This is one stop short of unfair, as far as the brand is concerned – specifically where that brand has traditionally occupied bricks and mortar locations, for which it must pay rent and upkeep. The price of running a store is reflected in the cost of items sold from those stores – and so purely online suppliers, backed up by 30 day no quibble refund policies, are in a position to take a huge chunk of brand business.
There are two ways to deal with this, and both involve paying attention to the best points of your branding.
The first way is to make your brand so exclusive that you can only buy your products directly from you. If your branding is strong enough this can work – though you tend to find it only works like this where you already exist in a luxury product or service segment, in which a raised price and exclusivity are part of the original brand proposition. Some upmarket department stores have incorporated this into their branding, as too have most luxury restaurants, hotels and car manufacturers.
The other option, ably exemplified by a range of modern brands, is to make your brand so cool that people would rather be seen shopping in your store, or buying from your site, than from third party distributors. Among the best exemplars of this kind of branding are (as ever) Apple – which has made its Apple Store such a hub of techno-cool that fans prefer to go there and spend more, than miss out on the experience by buying somewhere else; and Vibram, whose barefoot running shoes command a following so desperate to get the benefits of proprietary technology that they will pay much more to use the Vibram site and get the same product, than they will to use a third party distributor and worry that the product they get may be fake.
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