As Walgreens installs Brad Fluegel as its new chief strategy officer, a few words of advice: Figure out what you are.
That sounds simple enough, but it’s the problem “drug stores” have had for years. There isn’t a sliver of difference between Walgreens, CVS, RiteAid and the rest. Walk into any of these shops and you’ll find they have disparate things like milk, wine and an anachronistic photo station standing empty in this digital and photo-printer age.
What are these stores? More importantly, who do they serve?
The lack of brand precision means that choice usually comes down to location, such as being on the more accessible side of an intersection. A RiteAid near my house closed recently. Not because it offered less than its competitors. It failed because it was difficult to get to from the street.
When choice is based on such benign values, there is no brand. A brand that’s persuasive means consumers will inconvenience themselves and pay more for it. That hasn’t happened in the drug store category.
Walgreens must stop trying to be everything to everybody and focus. It needs to find the highest emotional intensity in the market – from the point of view of consumers – and align itself with that intensity.
The opportunity is huge because no company in the category is doing that. If Walgreens continues with business as usual, it will soon be looking for another new chief strategy officer.