Merchants Need to Differentiate to Succeed

Only 20% of today’s brands have a relevant or differentiating message for customers. And with consumers facing upwards of 4,000 marketing messages per day, they will tune you out before they consider paying attention to you.

So how do you get consumers to choose your brand? It goes way beyond the promise of free shipping, or talk of great quality, service and value, said Brent Niemuth, creative director of catalog agency J. Schmid & Associates, during a session Thursday at the CognitiveData Summit in Chicago.

“Everyone says they are great at (quality, service and value),” Niemuth said. “I don’t know of a single marketer who doesn’t say they are good at those three things.”

Niemuth said merchants need to look at a different set of four Ps than they focused on in marketing school: Now it’s all about purpose, point-of-difference, persona and police.

Purpose is why a consumer will buy your brand. Consumers buy for two reasons: rational and emotional. No merchant brand hits that home better than Harley-Davidson, Niemuth said. Customers are so passionate about that brand that the second most popular tattoo in the world is the Harley-Davidson logo.

“They don’t sell motorcycles, they sell freedom,” Niemuth said. “And Harley-Davidson’s customer gets it.”

Niemuth pointed to the auto enthusiast catalog Eastwood as a client that redesigned its catalog with purpose in mind.

The book used to just be a vehicle to sell high-end tools that hobbyists would use to restore classic cars. Now Eastwood has strong messaging throughout the book that tells consumers, in various ways, that its products are the tools they need to get the job done right.

Point-of-difference can be tough when you sell a common product. But Hale Groves went from being just another seller of citrus fruit to being the merchant that has its workers hand-pick each order to assure freshness.

Color and graphics can help create the persona. Niemuth pointed to the redesign of the Childhood Graphics maternity catalog, which didn’t really speak to its mother-to-be and new-mommy audience. When it changed its color scheme and graphics to convey the theme of motherhood to its audience, it gave it a whole new persona, Niemuth said.

As for police, the question is, who is the one single person in your organization who is keeping tabs on the creative and messaging? You must have one person to see that the messaging and creative is consistent across all customer touchpoints so the consumer knows they are buying from you, regardless of the channel.

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