The men’s retail industry in the US has consolidated with the purchase of the Jos. A. Bank retail chain by one-time rival Men’s Wearhouse. This is the opportunity to rebrand to increase preference and return more value to shareholders. Odds are, however, that the Men’s Wearhouse brand will simply consolidate retail stores and change the name of Jos. A. Bank to the Men’s Wearhouse in markets where the two do not compete. The rest… well some will close and others will combine.
This is a wasted opportunity. A big, wasted opportunity. The problem is the misguided idea of what rebranding means — a name change. Rebranding can include a name change, but the real change is found in the brand promise and the correlating brand preference. Changing the brand name from Men’s Wearhouse to another should only happen if the new, more effective brand meaning and preference couldn’t exist under the old moniker. One thing is for sure. Men’s Wearhouse needs new and improved meaning.
If Men’s Wearhouse expects this kind of fundamental change in meaning to come out of its advertising agency, it is badly mistaken. Ad agencies make tactical adjustments based upon their own ability to think creatively. They execute commercials and ads — they don’t create brand strategies.
It might be helpful here to outline the process that Stealing Share uses in any rebranding project. It is a case in point that growing market share at the expense of your competitors requires that the target audience change its mind and choose differently. This change of mindset requires a clear understanding of the precepts of the market you wish to influence. Finding those persuasive keys is crucial. This is how Stealing Share approaches the problem — rather how we would approach the problem for a merged brand of a Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank.
Our researchers would start by conducting one-on-one interviews with current shoppers of each brand. Note we do not conduct focus groups. We are not interested in a group mentality for what is a solitary activity for men. We would also include one-on-one interviews with the spouses of those shoppers. Yup, we would also talk to the wives and partners of the shopper, because they are influencers.
The goal of these private interviews is to gain insights into the belief systems and influencers of the target audience. This process is about identifying questions to test quantitatively, not about finding answers. Qualitative research is never projectable and we never use it to project an answer.
We would also interview (again one-on-one) employees for both brands. These interviews would be conducted with buyers, managers, executives and sales people for both brands. The goal of these interviews is to begin to understand the cultures. We want to uncover cultural differences between the brands and hear first hand the goals of the merger from the perspective of the top management. Here we evaluate the brands themselves and look to understand the emotional promises of each.
Our researchers report all of their findings back to the strategists who, by the way, have been busy doing a competitive audit of all the brands in the category. They have been evaluating messaging, advertising, online sites and everything we can uncover in the way of advertising and communications by the entire competitive segment.
The strategists would also utilize any existing research by the two brands. The strategist’s job is to see the category dispassionately. They look into positioning, messaging, the competitive set and the trends within the industry. Every competitor is included (specialty stores, department stores, online stores — everything) in this evaluation.
The strategists at Stealing Share then create what we call a preceptive behavioral model of the target audience. In this model, the strategists hypothesize the emotional and rational motivators at work in the industry. These hypothetical emotions and drivers are graphically linked so that we can understand the linkage between what the target audience believes to be true about themselves, what they strive to become, what they fear to become and how these beliefs are linked to their purposes, goals and shopping choices.
This is just the beginning of the process. It is detailed, scientific and goal-oriented.
Based upon these activities, the strategists and researchers work together to create a (multiple) quantitative survey(s). We may consider more than one study. For example, if we discovered in the qualitative that the spouses of the target were deeply involved in the choice, we would conduct a quantitative study with them as well.
In quantitative research, methodology is an imperative. Today, there are many research methodologies and most are inappropriate for the rebranding of these two retailers. Online studies, email studies and mailed studies of prospects and customers are what Resultant Research calls self-selecting studies. Normal distributions look like a bell curve. Self-selecting studies are an inverse of the distribution. The results are skewed to the extremes. The results are skewed because the most likely respondents either love or hate you and the majority in the middle is underrepresented.
So, for the purposes of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, we would insist on a telephone interruptive study. Randomly executed using a CATI system. We would limit the study to 20 minutes or so as to be less intrusive and would insist that cell phones are included in the lists.
So assuming that we are also conducting a study with spouses, we would conduct three separate projectable studies. One from a randomized list of prospects, one from a randomized list of past customers, and one of the influencers (spouses/partners) of the shopper. All three of these studies would be double blind. Neither the interviewer nor respondent would know who was sponsoring the studies. This helps eliminate bias.
In all cases, we would be testing the hypothesis gleaned from all the modeling and qualitative work that preceded it.
What would we learn from all of this work (work that precedes the strategic recommendations)? We would understand the brands positions. Their limitations, meaning, and emotional fabric. We would understand the considered set, competitive choices and the switching triggers. We would understand the category with a completeness that always astounds our clients. We ask questions they never thought of and find the emotional motivators that drive preference and increase share. We would find those values beyond holding sales and having the lowest price. There are other motivators that make these tactical offerings more important.
Questions that come right to mind: Which brand name has the highest emotional value and why? Should the stores change to a completely new brand name? If so, why? Should one of the chains morph into a sub-brand, augmenting the parent brand by playing in a different position? What should the marketing look like? What is the highest emotional intensity that the brand (or brands) can claim? What are the primary switching triggers? Where is the future opportunity and how do the brands claim it? What needs to change and what needs to remain? How does this new brand promise (even without a name change) affect the brand’s culture? How much training is necessary to make the brand promise true?
I could go on and on but I’m going to stop here. I’m stopping at precisely the point where Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank think rebranding starts. But you can see that there is much to be done before the strategic elements are created.
What will the new brand do? I don’t have a clue. What I do know is that the opportunity is huge and the shareholders and management should jump on the chance to be more meaningful and more persuasive to the prospects they need to influence. The market gives them a short window of opportunity — maybe once in a brand’s lifetime opportunity. I hope they grab it. I guarantee it.