Belk Department Stores Advertising

Belk Department Stores — Modern. Southern. Style.

Belk Department Stores LogoThis brand theme(s) is supposed to get you (are you listening shoppers?) to skip other retail stores and online shops and to spend your time and money at Belk department stores. Wait a second while I gag.

I guess the marketers at Belk believe that three mediocre ideas are better than a single great one. This is a perfect example of a ship with no rudder.

Belk Department Stores
The obligatory shot of women in gowns catching footballs

It really pisses me off that Belk went through a supposed rebranding a few years back.

Like most of the rebranding garbage out there, Belk ended up with a new logo and color palette and not much more (smells like politics to me).

Navel gazing has never helped anyone and it has not surly not helped Belk either.

Great branding has a clear and emotionaly important single idea. Obviously, Belk could not decide what that was so it settled for three ideas.

Here is what Belk Department Stores has to say about themselves:

Belk, Inc., a private department store company based in Charlotte, N.C., is the home of Modern. Southern. Style. with 293 Belk stores located in 16 Southern states and a growing digital presence.

Belk Department Stores are owned by Sycamore partnersBelk is a portfolio company of Sycamore Partners (So much for Southern Roots. Last I checked, Sycamore Partners are in NYC), a private equity firm based in New York. Belk and www.belk.com offer a wide assortment of national brands and private label fashion apparel, shoes and accessories for the entire family along with top name cosmetics, a wedding registry and a large selection of quality merchandise for the home.

Belk offers many ways to connect via digital and social media, including Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google Plus, …”

Do I live in a imaginary world?

Belk Department Stores
Where fashion meets football. Good God. These writers actually got paid.

I live in the South (as I remember, North Carolina is south of the Mason-Dixon line).

The problem with Belk is not its origins or its Southern focus.

The problem is that it IS a department store.

Go back 30 years and that’s like being LIFE or LOOK Magazine.

Department Stores are generalist ships drowning in a sea of specialty boats.

The problem with Belk department stores is not that they are in the South or that their offerings are so yesterday or out of style (which the brand drivel passes off as a reason to choose).

The Belk department stores REAL problem

The problem is that all department stores are generalists (see Macys here). That means they do nothing exceptionally well but instead do everything just OKAY.

They need to remember that the enemy of great is not bad. The enemy of great is GOOD.

Belk Department StoresSo, what does a generalist do to save the sinking ship? I KNOW… advertise heavily on generalist media like TV!

This is nothing new, but it is so stupid that I have trouble even talking about it. But wait. It gets worse.

Belk actually advertises heavily on the ESPN SEC Network during football games. That’s because it is the main venue of all Southern women and the well heeled Southern guys.

Because, as guys, we all care and influence where our ladies shop. We all demand that our wives and girlfriends visit Belk because of the SEC connection.

Oh wait, I just remembered why I think it is such a stupid idea to me here in North Carolina.

We are an ACC state. Shit.

My Bad.

Oh, by the way… here is a REAL rebranding idea for department stores.

Retail advertising awareness drops

Tis the season where many retail advertising makes or breaks the retailers themselves. That’s why Stealing Share has been offering suggestions and criticisms for the industry lately.

retail advertising
With low awareness of all retail advertising, the future of those retailers is uncertain.

It’s a market that’s simply a mess. NBC News recently reported that a handful of retailers may announce closings unless this season’s sales drastically change things. Shoppers are increasingly shopping online. That’s a problem for retailers because Amazon owns that space.

The simply fact of the matter is that retailers are in this quandary because they thought they could exist on low prices and relative convenience. Turns out that shopping on Amazon is more convenient and offers the better deals. Who knew?

Shoppers also buy based on brand. And, right now, there is so little loyalty among consumers to those brands that the new parlor game is figuring out the order of retailers going belly up.

Most ignore retail advertising.

The news gets worse. The YouGov BrandIndex reported that almost half of all large retailers are seeing their retail advertising awareness drop from a year ago. Kmart and Best Buy suffered the biggest drops, but the whole slate of retailers have lower retail advertising awareness.

A bit of caution here. Awareness is one thing. I’m sure most people know of Kmart and Best Buy. What meaning they gather from those retailers is what creates preference, the more important factor.

But low advertising awareness means that those ads are not resonating with consumers. They are simply ignored. And they should be.

The one retailer whose retail advertising is resonating is, get this, Amazon. That’s partly because its new spot – A Priest and Imam meet for a cup of tea – is unlike anything else on the airwaves. It hits a political and social nerve that no other retailer would ever attempt.

But it’s also because Amazon means something to consumers. What does Macy’s mean? What does Old Navy mean? Bed, Bath & Beyond? Any of them?

We can help. Call us. But it means being honest in your own advertising and brand evaluation. Otherwise, the doom and gloom continues.

The soft drink industry sees trouble

The soft drink industry must wake up to a new reality.

You see, there are all kinds of business trends that are transforming industries. We’ve already seen what our smartphones have replaced. Streaming media has made CDs and DVDs obsolete. And, as we’ve written extensively, cold breakfast cereal is in its own mess.

The failure to recognize what’s going on and building your brand to respond to market forces will leave you in the dust. Retailers are flat-out ignorant of enacting true change to adapt to a new reality, which includes dead malls.

The soft drink industry is also experiencing massive change. Bottled water has replaced many of our sugar-infested soda drinking habits, with soda sales dropping 1.5% in 2015. The industry itself is responding with ads saying its players will reduce the amount of sugar and offer smaller sizes.

This is, of course, the equivalent of the tobacco industry saying it will have light cigarettes with less tar in them. The industry itself knows that it has a problem, but is trying to stem the tide of consumers leaving it.

However, the soft drink industry is also responding by diversifying their portfolios. The epitome of irony is that those soft drink companies now own most of the most recognizable bottled water brands.

How the soft drink industry can survive.

If I were to make a prediction, I’d say Coca-Cola has the best chance of surviving for one simple reason. It’s the only one with a meaningful and preferred brand. Pepsi once held a direct position against Coke by being about youth, while Coca-Cola was about nostalgia.

Since those heydays, however, Pepsi has been all over the map and must consider a new direction. Today’s youth are veering away from soft drinks. (A 19-year-old son of a co-worker has never sipped a soda in his life.) Capturing the imagination of Millennials is important, but that means all the players need a different strategy. Not just thumb plugging a hole in the dam.

Even Coke’s recent announcement of a selfie bottle won’t do the trick. It’s a gimmick. Big whoop.

A repositioning is in order for all the players. Otherwise, it demonstrates another industry failing to respond to trends in a meaningful manner.

The Chipotle brand needs help for customers to return

Woe is the Chipotle brand. Its third-quarter results showed net income plummeting nearly 95% versus last year and same store sales declining more than 20%. The food safety issues that plagued the chain last year continue to haunt it as once loyal customers are fearful of coming back.

Chipotle brand
The Chipotle brand is in need of serious repair.

Publicly, Chipotle continues to laud its industry leading food safety program and praising store efforts to create an excellent guest experience. Chipotle has also doubled its marketing efforts and is running its first television ads since 2012.

However, I don’t think Chipotle has fully grasped that its failure is not a business one but a brand one.

How the Chipotle brand can fix itself.

Prior to its very public food safety catastrophe, Chipotle was a Wall Street darling. It touted fresh and sustainable menu offerings, made to order for each customer. The Chipotle brand was so tightly tied with the freshness of its food that it was positioned as the anti-fast food establishment.

So what did it expect when people got sick from its food? Any connection that Chipotle made with the customer quickly vaporized. The expectation with food being fresh is that it is safer than at other places. Being non-processed gave consumers a certain security blanket.

Jump ahead a year later and consumers still feel like they were lied to.

The Chipotle brand is in serious need of repair. Shortly after the food safety incidents, it launched the before mentioned industry leading food safety program. If your brand is supposed to be about fresh and non-processed, why didn’t Chipotle have such a program in place already? The simple answer is that Chipotle never placed the bar high enough to fulfill its brand promise. Food safety to them was non-processed.

This is the rub. It is facing an almost insurmountable climb to get consumers to come back based on the laurels of its past. Chipotle appears to be simply telling consumers, “Come back to Chipotle, this time we mean it!” Customers are wisely not buying it.

As painful as it may be, Chipotle needs to revaluate its brand in an effort to reconnect to its lost customer base. They’re not just going to come back to the brand that has already failed them with a safety program. Consumers need an emotional reason to return.

Sponsoring the Today Show and others

Advertisers have been scrambling for the last few years to find new channels to reach target audiences. People are cutting the cord, watching TV on streaming services and recording shows on their DVRs so they can fast forward through the commercials.

Therefore, advertisers have looked for other avenues, primarily social media and ads on YouTube and the like. TV still represents the best way to reach a broad audience, but the playing field has become more complex.

Today Show
Is sponsoring a show like The Today Show the new (old) thing?

So what are advertisers to do? Well, they can go back to the future, which is just what American Express has done. It will now sponsor entire segments of the Today Show that will reduce the number of commercials, increase the amount of show content and give American Express a channel to raise its profile.

Sponsoring The Today Show is old hat, but also the new wave.

This tactic, of course, is nothing new. In fact, it’s as old as television itself. The early 50s saw the Texaco Star Theater, a vaudeville show hosted by Milton Berle. It was common for shows throughout that decade and the 60s to have a title sponsor that simply owned that time on the air.

American Express is spending $28.1 million of its $141.7 million advertising budget on NBC alone, with a good chunk of it going to the Today Show. Is this the wave of the future (the past)?

Absolutely. And it won’t just be broadcast TV. Networks and streaming services are playing in a field advertising dollars spread thin. It’s not a big stretch to imagine advertisers owning a show, either on broadcast, cable or even (gulp) streaming.

Does this approach have the potential to turn off viewers? Yes and no. It would actually be welcomed, if the programming already includes advertising. As a viewer, I’ve always appreciated the European model in which the programs are sponsored and ads are shown at the beginning of the program, thus not interrupting during the show itself.

I don’t expect an immediate push to adopt the American Express Today Show model. But don’t be surprised if, in the desperation to open up new channels, that advertisers and TV networks don’t consider it more often.