Channel Strategy to Create Brand Preference

By Tom Dougherty

Branding Tug of War — Sometimes brands need a push and a pull

brand preference development
The Channel Strategy

There are a number of companies that require a third party to distribute their products. Companies and brands like Nike, Nintendo, GE, P&G, Sheetrock (USG), HP, and Benadryl all require, with varying degrees, a third party to bring their products to market. These companies and others like them rely on the Wal*Mart’s, EB Games, Home Depot’s, and Piggly Wiggly’s of the world to sell their wares and be the first line in the execution of their brands. Can your channel strategy aid in brand preference development?

Brand Makeup

Normally, when we speak of branding we typically approach the art form from the perspective of the ultimate end-user in order to build preference, create market pull, and finally generate revenue. While ultimately, this is absolutely the correct thing to do, companies such as the ones listed above, cannot forget about the necessity to push their brands into the channel (selling mediums) as well.

For companies who sell their products through intermediaries, it is essential to understand the critical ingredients needed to make the brand relevant to the actual sellers of the product as well as the final end-users.

If we were looking at dividing the relevance of the brand between sellers of the product and the end-user, the make up of the brand needs to be about 20% directed at the product seller and 80% at the end user. Make no mistake; in order for any brand to be successful in today’s marketplace, the DNA of the brand must be a reflection of the end-user’s belief set. However, it must also be peppered with the belief set of those in the channel as well.

Peeling Back the Layers

The brand preference development behavioral model
A model for understanding affects on behavior

If done correctly, this should pose no real concern in the delivery of the brand. After all, we, at Stealing Share, look at the preceptive fiber of individuals to be universal, that is, that an individual’s precepts or, beliefs about their world they believe to be truths, effect every single decision they make about their lives from what brands they choose to how they rear their children to what they do in their spare time. The only way to uncover the synergies in the precepts between the channel and the end-user is to conduct research that goes beyond strictly looking at usage and attitudes, market intelligence, and awareness.

This kind of research must be able to peel back the layers of protection individuals use to hide their true motives, fears, and precepts. Branding to the channel as well as the end-user allows a brand to increase its brandwidth In short, brandwidth is a brand’s ability to get through the clutter and noise of the myriad of marketing and advertising messages out there by being as relevant as possible to those the brand wishes to influence without having to have the largest share of voice.

It is all about the “amplitude” of the voice. Lets face it, retailers, dealers, wholesalers, and distributors have a whole host of product providers they could choose to sell, and while customer demand is the primary driver in choosing the products they choose to sell, it is not the only thing that influences that decision. (Read more about the types of research that work here)

Maximizing Value

In order to maximize your  efforts in brand preference development as you consider the channel strategy, it is essential that the brand has meaning to the individuals at each stop the brand makes in the channel. Not only is the choice of a specific brand a reflection of who the end user believes themselves to be, for the retailer, it is also a reflection of who the retailer is. Brands being a reflection of who the retailer is exemplified best by Wal*Mart. Wal*Mart constantly flexes it’s buying power muscle in deciding what products they choose to sell.

A quick Google search reveals a number of products that have either been pulled from Wal*Mart’s shelves or have never made it to them in the first place. The products that Wal*Mart sells reflects what kind of retailer Wal*Mart believes themselves to be. While brands need to appeal to retailers, as good brand stewards, it is essential that brands select the correct retailers, distributors, wholesalers, and dealers to distribute their products. (Read how to beat WalMart here)

The customer is the heart of any brand preference development
Don’t overlook anything

To the end-user, the place of purchase of any brand affects the perceived meaning of that brand and, as a result, who the customers believes they are when they are using that brand. This deals with the permission of the brand to be in a specific outlet and the permission of the outlet to carry the specific brand – branding products that are not direct to consumer can be an extremely complex process if you do not use the correct tools.

Making this process as simple as possible mandates careful resource management and asking the right questions. To maximize success, managers must begin to shift their thinking from the efficacy of the product to the efficacy of the BRAND, which, to be as successful as possible, must be carefully examined from the perspective of everyone, the brand comes in contact with.