This 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.
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 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?
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.
Cree LED lightbulbs. An Example of surrendering initiative.
For Stealing Share, Cree LED lightbulbs is in our backyard. I follow the company because it is great to see a local company innovate and win.
I remember a few short years ago, Cree was the darling of Wall Street. Charles Swoboda, Cree CEO and President, seemed to be interviewed and featured everywhere.
2012 was a heady time for Cree. In 2013, Cree LED lightbulbs were King of the Hill.
Innovating its way to the top of the class and the news promoting LED bulbs as an eco-friendly and promising technology turned the incandescent bulb market on its head.
LED bulbs have low heat, low comparative wattage, long life and more energy efficiency than the florescent bulbs that heretofore dominated the eco section of the market.
Cost and quality of light were the only downsides to LED bulbs. Often as not, they had a white-blue brightness that lacked the warmth of the incandescent bulbs that take history all the way back to Edison.
LED lightbulbs have become mainstream
The holiday lighting market transitioned from incandescent mini bulbs to the eerie, almost alien looking, LED strings of holiday lights just a few Christmas seasons ago.
They caught on despite the cost because of a longer lifetime and the ability to connect so many strings together that Clark Griswold would have lit the entire city without an electrical drain.
The transition to LED Christmas lights is almost complete. It is hard to find the old style mini lights today. The price is still steep, but it is more manageable.
You would think this is all good news for Cree LED lightbulbs. First movers have an advantage and the market now embraces LED lighting.
Just look at the displays at the big box do-it-yourself stores. The LED bulbs are featured more than the rest.
Cree LED lightbulbs have a retailer problem
One huge problem stands in the way of Cree however. Its bulbs are NOT featured at retailers. They are lost among the crowded competitive LED offerings.
I quote Mr. Wonderful from Shark Tank as if he was speaking to the engineers who pushed the envelope for Cree LED lightbulbs. “What’s to stop one of the big guys from waking up and crushing you like the cockroach you are?”
It is a fair question to ask in 2013. Today, with the current marketing, you can ask if it is too late?
The Cree advertising is top shelf. Well-produced spots featuring Lance Redick (you might remember Lance as the very deliberate Lieutenant Cedric Daniels from the HBO series The Wire). The problem is that the advertising campaign is fixing the wrong problem.
Watch the above advertisement and ask yourself what the advertising is intending to accomplish? The commercial obviously intends to laud the category transition Cree led. It informs the customer that the Cree LED lightbulbs were on the forefront of this movement.
They want us to know— borrowing from the copy, that the humble LED turns the lighting category on its head and that they (Cree) – told us so a while ago.
Nice clean TV spot. It might even work if being first in the category mattered a jot to the shopper today.
Cree LED lightbulbs need a new rebrand strategy
Stealing Share would not have created this strategy. It is an inside-out view of the market. Looking outside-in is the foundation of most of our business. Companies look at their own stories, decide what they feel is important about their own brands and then force fit that idea into the marketing and advertising.
The current campaign only helps build the category. It sells the viability of LED lightbulbs. Anyone who has studied advertising communications knows that, in communications that builds the category, the advantage ALWAYS goes to the market leader. Sadly, for Cree, it is not the market leader. Not anymore.
The retail space is full of competitors to Cree LED lightbulbs
Look below at the offerings in LED bulbs from Home Depot and Lowes. Cree LED lightbulbs is an afterthought. Giants in the industry like GE, Sylvania, and Phillips dominate the shelves. These behemoths not only control the shelf space, they also control the price point.
As a consumer decides to choose an LED bulb as a viable replacement item, does Cree believe the customer will have second thoughts about trusting any of the BIG BOY brands? Is there any chance that these name brands are seen as an inferior product? Do consumers care who brought the first viable LED bulb to the market?
The entire Cree LED lightbulbs advertising campaign has only one hope. You must feel so guilty about your preference that you want to switch to Cree.
The campaign asks you to reward the brand that first brought you the LED idea.
Even if the retailer has a smaller selection of Cree products and they might be a few pennies more expensive. Even though the original idea was expensive and the light was blueish.
Any brand named Edison would be an instant winner if that train of thought was correct. There is heritage for you. I’m not claiming to be the smartest guy in the room (research corrects that failing). I don’t know yet what the highest emotional intensity in the category is. I am not sure what incites a shopper to change and prefer the Cree LED lightbulbs.
But I know that the answer is knowable. The entire Stealing Share process aims to discover that trigger and position the brand to own that value. It is HOW you steal market share.
Real lessons here for us all
The lesson here is to not let your engineers dictate marketing and brand strategy. Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid. Don’t take an inside-out view of the market (navel gazing) and never leave the strategic brand point of view to the advertising agency (no matter how talented).
Even if they are good at what they do (and I believe Baldwin& is very good) agencies create advertisements and they don’t create robust brand strategy.
This market is mature and yet is growing at a blazing pace
The sheer power of the competitive set and the gravitational pull of lower pricing outweighs first mover advantage.
An upstart and innovative company is not a place for this strategy. The Cree brand is now outmanned and outgunned.
Today, Cree LED lightbulbs need a message that overcomes those barriers.
Cree. Light a better way (is NOT the answer).
As a symbol of all that is wrong, the theme is clever in its double entendre and FEELS like an advertising theme-line. As such, it lacks powerful meaning and authority.
Cleverness always seems contrived and cliché.
Powerful brand themes are often a bit awkward because they strike the prospect as important and direct. They are about the customer, not the product. They seem authentic, not clever.
Maybe one of the most powerful brand themes of all time is great advice for Cree. Think different.
Cree LED lightbulbs have lost brand power was last modified: November 8th, 2016 by Tom Dougherty
Malls are empty, traffic is down 5.8% from last year nationwide. Consumers spend their money on experiences (hold that thought), such as dining or travel rather than shopping. And too many retailers count on bountiful holiday sales to save their year.
What the retail industry truly needs is clear: Department store rebranding— a complete rethinking of the model.
It is worse and more desperate for major department stores. They will become extinct. This is especially the case for the legacy department stores. In a nutshell this is the entire argument for department store rebranding. Change now or die.
Amazon in particular and the web in general is the new normal for shoppers, dominating the retail industry. Amazon dominates by being an online portal for items ranging from electronics to toys to apparel. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who has not purchased through the online giant.
Department stores. What’s next?
So what are retailers to do? More specifically, what are department stores to do? There are all sorts of tactics they can employ to stem the plunge of market share. But they will fail.
Department store rebranding from the ground-up is a needed strategic decision and not just a tactical one. Without this complete overhaul of department store rebranding initiatives and the total repositioning this means the vaunted old brands are finished. And finished soon.
We’ve dissected many retailers, including a report written for the Retail Customer Experience which encourages retailers to merge their in-store and online personalities.
We’ve also said “stop trying to be everything to everybody”. But tactical changes won’t save department stores. They need strategic change. They must redefine the value proposition for the target shoppers and convince them that their brands are relevant.
Department store rebranding restores relevancy.
One way you recapture relevancy in a market — and even succeed — is rebranding. Department store rebranding pulls them out of the ditch because, done properly, they are meaningful to target audiences. And the store is more important than simply restating product or category benefits.
Without that preference, no tactic or strategy can ensure the brands future success. If you are a department store, rebranding is the only way you can survive.
Rethinking is more than just rebranding department stores and their messages.
Rebranding department stores is more than just a new name, logo and tag line. It is fundamental change— real changes in operations and structure. Changes implemented to magnify and support the new brand strategy.
Even traditional rebranding does not go far enough. Retailers must rethink everything.
The market, especially those large department stores like Macy’s, Belk’s, JC Penney, Harrods, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Sears, Debenhams, Meijer, Von Maur, Boscov’s, The Bon-Ton, and the like, are sliding into irrelevancy and, in many ways, are already irrelevant to the new shopper.
Shoppers vote with their dollars. And the department stores feel like they have passed their own time limit on this earth.
Probably right. Department stores: Be something different than what you are today. That’s how you survive. The ongoing sales promotions and specials that you rely on don’t do the trick. Black Friday won’t save you.
Their stores are overcrowded with product, there are no sight-lines, crowded shelves does not say variety rather it creates a feeling of being hurried. As a result shopping for apparel is boring at best and harried at its worst.
Department store rebranding for experience.
Remember, earlier on when we spoke about consumers spending money on experiences? Shopping in department stores is mundane and it does not get the pulse rising. Part of department store rebranding is to revitalize the experience and make it deeply personal.
It’s especially problematic for women. There is more selection and yet more difficulty in finding clothes that both fit and are appealing.
Men walk into a store, know their inseam, waist, arm and neck sizes and, voila, there is a suit. As a result, men are free to purchase based on the look, style, price and brand. They find what is available in their size and they buy it. Minor alterations are acceptable and easy to accomplish. Many times, off the rack is a real phenomenon.
Women shop on size and department, which varies by store and by brand. Go into a Macy’s, for instance, and find a size 4 that’s a size 2 at another department store. It’s even worse than that. Shoppers shop in that same Macy’s, find a size 2 that fits and another size 2 that doesn’t.
That variation in experience is confusing and…dull. Women look at overcrowded and jammed racks in poorly set up departments. And all this to find a garment that appeals to them aesthetically.
As a result they are forced to search the jammed racks for that design or style in their size – even though they know that label size is no guarantee of proper fitting. This means they try on everything and sort through all sorts of retail disappointment. This is not an experience. It is a nightmare.
That’s not shopping, either. It does not translate into purchases. That’s solving the Pythagorean theorem.
An example of rethinking everything at department stores.
Large department stores must rethink everything, from their brand to their operations to really rebrand effectively. Rethink the in-store experience. Attract more women shoppers. REAL preference is job number one.
Ladies apparel is a $225 billion business; so preference, not just dropping in, is immensely profitable and increases relevancy in a dying industry. It is optimal to make the department store the destination. And not just for Christmas.
Is the solution transitioning to on-line?
That still raises important business facts. Department stores own large amounts of real estate. They have expensive long-term leases. What does it do to profitability if the great department store chains are forced to retreat and rely on web sales only?
Can they survive that sort of apocalypse? There is another answer. There has to be.
If the Amazon model IS the future then bankruptcy and chapter 11 is the interim step to treading water and waiting for the merciful euthanasia. Any numbskull can suggest the move to on-line sales.
The problem is it won’t work with the current structures. Department stores desperately need an answer that lets them protect the brick and mortar investments that revitalizes shoppers today and in the future.
Success leaves clues. Shoe department retailing.
So back to the problem of finding the right fit. That is not a problem when shoppers shop for shoes or handbags. Consumers easily see what’s offered without the clutter, find the style they like in the right size and are off with it.
Shoe sizes are universal. The shopping experience is positive. Shoes are displayed on roomy racks and displays and the shopper scans all the shoes (including style, color and form) and then the shoe salesperson bring the shopper the shoes in their size.
Funny how simple it is. How civilized the experience, despite being in the morass of other crowded and jammed departments of clothing.
Why can’t women’s apparel be like that? Department stores rebranding is possible building on that successful model.
Rebranding requires retailers to rethink their stores operations and how technology is utilized. Sadly, the highest level of technology in retail today is a copy of Amazon’s model. Order online and pick up.
But apparel is a different animal, especially in women’s apparel. The sizing of women’s garments is useless. A standard that unifies sizing everywhere sounds like the big answer. Is it?
Yes, absolutely. The sheer amount of returns because clothing does not fit is an issue for Amazon too. There is no regulatory agency to govern sizing so that changes takes real effort from the industry.
Use digital tailoring software. Make the experience personal.
Instead, we recommend retailers of women’s apparel adopt the sizing structure that works in the shoe department model. That is, just use measurements. Display style samples and have sizes in the back warehouse.
Even that is unmanageable because women, unlike men, don’t share a basic shape.
However, the playing field changes as shoppers provide a profile of their exact measurements. Can high-end apparel stores digitally measure the consumer and privately store those measurements in a private file? Of course they can.
Is it then possible to alter custom fit clothes to their specifications? Yes, but that is not the best model. Executing that on a mass scale so a Macy’s or Dillard’s use it is a challenge.
Department stores can afford to automate it. Do it digitally.
As a customer visits your store for the first time, direct them to a private dressing room and digitally scan their measurements. Their exact measurements are stored in their personal and branded app.
As customers shop in the newly designed departments with newly redefined department titles based upon lifestyle rather than the traditional Juniors, Petite etc., departments. Shoppers can look at every offering, all displayed in a size 4. They now shop by cut, fabric, color, brand and style. Not size because only one size needs to be on display (just like the shoe department model we discussed earlier).
The convenience of their smart phone is utilized, They scan the code of the item of interest and the app stores the choice. The store is no longer jammed with every offering in every size. The result? The branded experience of shopping is civilized.
The racks are not crowded and the styles themselves are highlighted. The retailers use their merchandising skills to highlight offering. Suddenly, there are sight lines in the department store and an opportunity for the retailer to practice their skill at displaying wares and merchandising.
How it benefits you.
Here’s how this complete department store rebranding works. Simplify the offerings on the store floor much like high-end retailers. Customers actually see the garments in lengthy and leisurely glance. Consumers develop a digital profile on their measurements that is part of the retailers database. Because you know them and they now know you, a relationship is established.
When they return to the department store, consumers open the app to say they are in the store and what, in general, they are looking for.
If the garments are bar coded by actual measurements, then a warehouse employee gathers those garments in real time from the back warehouse (remember the shoe model) that actually fit that customer.
When shopping is done, the shopper tells the app and are assigned a dressing room. The promise is that, in 10 minutes, everything they scanned will be in their dressing room and in their size.
Better yet, customers could use the app to say they are coming to the store and to get their personal rack ready and pre-placed in a dressing room.
Think about this. If implemented, it creates a preference for the department store brand (which reflects the change in the retail experience) and a database is established to enable more effective buys from designers and better PERSONALIZED service (read how affinity programs fail here). The customer chooses if they want the clothing in the dressing room or if they require human assistance.
The newly branded department store experience.
The new experience reconfigures the department store experience and decreases the display space and increases the warehousing. It requires an investment in logistics and warehouse systems.
But the new department store is now an adventure in experience and we know that customers covet that. The department store rebranding process combined with new thinking provides new preference.
Think it’s not possible? Amazon can do it, and Amazon is the retailer that terrifies the rest of the industry. The online retail giant, who just announced plans to open brick and mortar stores, is threatening to take over the entire industry while its players stand still and watch.
Amazon transports product anywhere in the world overnight. Is a tight logistics system that creates in-store logistics providing results in 15 minutes impossible? Believe that and you are doomed.
The future in department store rebranding is in personalized automation.
All it takes is an automated, software system that makes it easy to find the right clothes at the right time from your warehouse space. It, therefore, allows the shopper to buy and shop based on taste, style and color, just like they do with shoes and handbags. It means sales improve because shoppers see the entire inventory.
Plus, in the spirit of discovery, the store adds a few surprises— a few alternatives for that shopper based upon the customer profile and design preference. All of this accomplished by an algorithm.
Department stores, don’t get caught up in — “That can’t be done.”
Change or die. That’s the simple truth. This is just one idea. The point is that department store retailers, whether they are in apparel or not— let go of age-old habits. Dead brands are full of leaders who once said, “That can’t be done.”
Department store retailers must do two things. 1) Consider a total rebrand because few retailers position the brands against the competition and as a result are not meaningful enough to target audiences. (Here’s how we rebrand for our clients.)
2) Rethink everything. Ask the right questions in brand research that goes beyond simple usage and attitudes. The current model is a rapidly dying one. And given the current trajectory, there will only be room for one of the major department stores.
There is a third strategy retailers can adopt (and many are). Do nothing and watch Amazon destroy your business. But, as in most things, victory belongs to the first mover.
Read more about the retail market and department stores here:
Recently, I wrote in Supermarket News that grocery stores have landed in a trap. It’s a trap of their own making, by having grocery rebranding messages focused on price and fresh food. Everyone uses those same messages and they are just definitions of a grocery store. You have low prices and fresh food.
Now comes news of a new competitor that actually responds quickly to change: Amazon.
The online retail giant announced that it will open 20 brick and mortar grocery stores over the next few years, with the stated goal of swarming the country with up to 2,000 eventually. That’s four times more than Walmart owns now.
Grocery stores such as Kroger, Albertson’s and others have reason to be worried. Walmart owns low price. The local chains own fresh (although all grocery stores should own it). And now Amazon will own new and exclusivity.
Amazon will have true grocery stores, where you push a cart (or a buggy, as we say in the South) and shop aisle by aisle. But it will also have a click and collect drive-up component in which shoppers shop online and pick up at the store.
Now, many groceries offer that, so that part won’t be all that different. Although, it should be noted, that Amazon’s brand gives it greater permission to do it.
Amazon is better at grocery rebranding.
No, the real Amazon advantage is that it will know its customers. It already has a handful of Amazon Fresh customers who pay $15 monthly fee. More importantly, it has millions of Amazon Prime customers, meaning that Amazon could make its grocery stores exclusive to those members.
There are two advantages to that approach. One, we humans believe that exclusivity means better quality. The clubs we can’t get into are the ones we want to enter the most. (Or, as Groucho Marx said, he wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that accepted him as a member.)
Secondly, Amazon has more data on its customers than probably just about any company in the country (maybe the world), with the possible exception of Google and Apple. That means Amazon can tailor its stores to its specific customers.
Grocery rebranding has been a wasteland for chains, both regionally and nationally. If there is more than one grocery store in your area (and that’s true for most Americans), you end up buying at the store that’s most convenient on the way home. Or you buy on price (Walmart). Or you have a tiered system in which you buy basic supplies at the cheapest store and produce & meats at a more high-end store, like Fresh Market.
Amazon entering the market, though, tells grocery stores that they better get serious about grocery rebranding or they are going to be looking from the outside at more successful efforts that respond to change.
Grocery rebranding welcomes Amazon was last modified: October 31st, 2016 by Tom Dougherty
Macy’s declines in market share and revenue because department stores are holding onto a model of the market that no longer meets the needs of shoppers. Competition is everywhere and shoppers have more choices than ever. All too often, these choices seem better than the traditional department store model.(Read a market study of the retail market here)
Many of the brands that stores like Macy’s rely on for magnetism (attracting shoppers into the store) have recognized that the worm has turned and are pulling their brands form the retailers. Like Coach, for example. Even Michael Kors has decided not to play the game anymore and has asked retailers to stop couponing and discounting their products.
Macy’s declines can be predicted by looking at the world of magazines
I think you can see a corollary to Macy’s declines in the periodical market back in the late 60s. All businesses naturally seek economies and the broad-based and horizontal magazines like Look and Life found it increasingly difficult to attract advertising dollars. Advertisers learned that it was more effective to spend their dollars in vertical publications that mined the exact consumer they hoped to influence.
The magazine world learned a lesson in focus and these once heralded magazines folded up and went away. Meanwhile, there was a rise in vertical publication advertising because, if you wanted to sell bird seed, it was smarter to buy a small add in Bird Lover magazine then spend for greater subscription numbers in Life magazine.
Today’s world is about focus.
It was all about focus. It still is.
Today’s shopper is accustomed to laser-like focus. Some retailers even specialize in clothing of a particular color or style. Others specialize in a demographic segment or price point. At the end of the day, shoppers are placing a premium on their time. Wondering through a department store to locate only what you are looking for seems like a fool’s errand.
Times are different and the desire for greater focus will remain for quite some time… until a broad nostalgia for the experience of bygone times surfaces. Macy’s declines and Belks’ failures can’t wait that long. My suggestion is to split off the departments as separate brands and run them independently. It’s how you retain value for your shareholders but asks for great pain from the traditional department stores in the transition.
Those retailers won’t do it. They will stick their heads in the sand and maybe invite a new branding initiative. (Like Belks did. It got a new logo with no new meaning and no new customers from the effort.) That initiative will be confusing and without new and improved brand meaning.
Macy’s declines in importance. Tip of the iceberg. was last modified: October 25th, 2016 by Tom Dougherty
Personal branding forms unbreakable bonds Personal Branding
Personal branding is the most overused and most misunderstood of all the branding jargon I come across in my job title (Brand Strategist).
Luckily I have never been asked to work on a personal brand in my professional career.
The whole ...
Rebranding Do’s and Don’ts for marketers Rebranding is an effort that shouldn’t be taken lightly. That’s why, when the decision to rebrand is made, it should be completed with honesty and no holding back.
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Cree LED lightbulbs have lost brand power Cree LED lightbulbs. An Example of surrendering initiative.
For Stealing Share, Cree LED lightbulbs is in our backyard. I follow the company because it is great to see a local company innovate and win.
I remember a few short years ago, Cree was ...
301 South Elm Street
Greensboro, NC 27401