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  Ted Mininni Your Brand Isn’t Selling? You’re Disconnected.
by Ted Mininni
July 29, 2010

Product cycles aren’t getting shorter. They’re disappearing. Retailers are concentrating on their store brands and giving shorter shrift to national brands and manufacturer partnerships. They’re culling nationally branded products that fall short of sales and turn expectations from shelves. Sometimes, these metrics aren’t even used as justification!

Think Wal-Mart: numerous branded products have been sent packing by the world’s #1 retailer and being replaced by its own brand. In category after category, massive consolidation is underway. Will other retailers follow the leader? It’s likely.

So how can companies make their brands so relevant retailers will not be able to reduce assortments and footage without being confronted by customer backlash?

National brands need to reinvigorate their most potent marketing weapons: service-laden interactive media and packaging. They must evolve to be where the consumer is now. In too many instances, marketing messages in all channels are still offering “features and benefits” or lifestyle aspirations to a consumer who has fundamentally changed. Upshot: they’ve become disconnected.

The consumer-brand equation has changed for good. Few brands command undying loyalty now. Consumers have left the rarified atmosphere of undying brand love and come down to earth with a thud. Bottom line: the new consumer dictates: practicality, convenience, time savings, usefulness and taking control must be met for brands to remain relevant.

Consumers are hungry for superior services that will help them “live their best life”. They expect more and respond to brands that deliver. Demand is being driven by offering free services and expert advice first, and then selling the products that best meet customer needs. This keeps brands current, fresh and relevant.


These services go beyond basic customer service. They go beyond expectations. These services provide rich content, tips and advice on dedicated web sites and interactive media. Tip: it’s time to utilize mobile online connections with special apps now. The right kinds of services seize consumers’ attention in a compelling manner. They elicit excitement, buzz and buy-in. They build meaningful relationships.

National brands must stop thinking in terms of how much great content and services they are giving away. They must start thinking in terms of how a stronger base can be built for their brands once they are perceived as the “experts” ... the “source”, the “only choice” within a category.

In exchange for terrific free services, tips and advice, interactive media opens the door to valuable insights for manufacturers. Brand managers can find out:

  • How consumers are using the kinds of products they offer.

  • How they may be adapting them for additional or different uses than originally intended.

  • How the products assist them and integrate into their busy lives.

  • How they may be making their lives easier.

These insights are more relevant than those gleaned from focus groups. Answers to questions framed in the context of actual usage and free-flowing dialogue are often more clearly articulated than those obtained from isolated consumer panels.

Armed with new insights, marketers can focus on realigning brand communications that are most relevant to an evolved customer directly into every marketing channel. Tip: revitalized web sites and product packaging are top priorities.

Data shows consumers are increasingly relying on web sites for product information before they buy. Leveraging relevant communication customers are responding to is crucial. But remember: final purchase decisions are made at the retail shelf almost 70% of the time. If packaging isn’t speaking to consumers in their new vernacular, it represents limitless lost sales opportunities. Even worse: it fails to connect the brand to consumers and their new values.

Ideas? Whole Foods Market is using a well-conceived iPhone app to assist busy consumers with downloadable recipes. Shopping lists can be generated with one click on the recipe. Customers then find out which ingredients are on sale in the stores. Users are encouraged to share their favorite recipes with friends. Ingenious way to build buzz, quickly and easily, isn’t it?

How does this concept work for consumers who are seeking time-saving, money-saving advice? It’s like having a private shopper service that can be consulted when most convenient for the customer, and it’s always right at hand. Why can’t national brands get creative like this?

P&G’s Olay brand offers free online consulting for consumers with every skin type. Olay for You asks consumers to select from a menu of questions, targets their concerns, and offers appropriate products to address their specific needs. Each product brought up on the screen can be purchased online or in stores. How’s that for expert help without having to seek out skincare experts?

These brands are pioneering the way. They’re evolving with the consumer. Expertise and service leads consumers to brands. It builds demand and leads to loyalty by making sure all marketing communications are in alignment and keeping pace with consumers’ needs.

At a time when courting and keeping customers is a tall order, helpful content and new services in all channels go a long way to delivering brands in a relevant, connective manner. Retailers, like consumers, will see the value in brands like these, ensuring they will survive and thrive.

   Ted Mininni is President of Design Force, Inc., the leading package and licensing program design consultancy to the consumer product and entertainment industries. He can be reached at 856-810-2277.

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Your Brand Isn’t Selling? You’re Disconnected.
 Well said Ted! It's time for retail brand owners to wake up or pack it up. It's time for some major rethinking and redesigning of how brand marketers reach and influence consumers. 
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