People look like their dogs. I say this based on my GEN IPTV Subscription sample of fellow pet owners I have met while walking through Oz Park in Chicago with my own (handsome) dog, Kelsey. My informal assessment is supported by researchers at the University of California at San Diego. Dog owners, the researchers theorize, pick pooches that reflect the owner’s disposition–happy, moody, tough, etc.
What does this have to do with marketing? Well, marketers should foster the same type of match between their brands and channels as pet owners do between themselves and their dogs. If your company’s brand stands for “productivity,” that’s what your channel should deliver. If you promote your “inventiveness,” your channels should be similarly creative. If your company is known for its “high style,” your customers expect to see that cutting edge image when they meet your resellers.
While this might seem intuitive, I am amazed by how few companies take proactive steps to ensure that their channels reflect the brand image the manufacturer is trying to present. In our brand implementation work with clients, Frank Lynn & Associates uses a detailed checklist to review all of the potential “touch points” between customers and the brand. While advertising, Web sites, product literature, and other media clearly play a role, the channel is frequently the most influential brand communicator on the list.
One of our industrial clients is working hard to promote a brand image that stresses cost-cutting and efficiency (by promoting the use of its products in six-sigma manufacturing processes). The client has educated its salespeople, enlisted industry consultants, created an online knowledge base, etc. Unfortunately, most of the client’s distributors are primarily “order-takers.” The distributors’ salespeople do not know how, and are not motivated, to make a consultative, engineering sale. Having visited our client’s Web site, or hearing our client’s CEO speak, a customer would be significantly confused when they visit one of the distributors.
The situation reminds me of the (possibly apocryphal) meeting between Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe. Monroe gushed, “Gosh what do you say, professor, shouldn’t we marry and have a little baby together? What a baby it would be–my looks and your intelligence!” Einstein then quipped, “Yes, but dear lady, it might be the other way around.”
Fearing such a result, our industrial client is taking steps to rectify the situation.
Before we get into the steps that any manufacturer can take to align brand and channel messages, we first need a sidebar on the issue of channel power. When I bring up the issue of brand/channel alignment, many clients complain they do not have the power to compel their channel partners to behave in a certain way. Sure, if you are John Deere, Lexus, Coca-Cola, or IBM you carry some clout in the channel relationship. But, even these companies cannot command adherence to a brand strategy. And, at the other extreme, manufacturers of tertiary products, those who might represent less than 1-2 percent of their partners’ business, sometimes feel powerless.
I do not believe the situation is as problematic as some companies might believe. We have developed a significant list of tactics that can help. While each tactic might not apply to your company, or a tertiary-product company, I am convinced there is something for everyone in our list.