Sears branding

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

15 October 2018

Sears branding spells its doom

Scan through our website or this blog and, no doubt, you’ll find many articles on the downfall of Sears branding. So this will seem like piling on with the news that the once great retailer is filing for bankruptcy.

But the sorry state of Sears branding in the last decade serves as a warning and a case study for all of retail. As many of us remember, Sears once stood at the pinnacle of retail shopping. There was no annual publication met with greater anticipation than the Sears catalog.

Sears brandingIf the purpose of any branding effort is to create preference, then Sears held it in spades.

So what really happened? Well, the emergence of e-tail and Walmart became serious threats to all retailers. In fact, Amazon probably represents what Sears did years ago.

But that’s just the reality facing all retailers. Some reacted to it better than others. How Sears branding reacted spelled its doom.

In the face of any share-stealing threat, it is only your brand that can fend it off. Because that’s where true preference exists. What you mean to those who you are trying to woo.

And the definition of a preferred brand is one that defines who it is for and not for.

Sears branding went in the opposite direction.

“Think about that for a moment. What Sears branding really meant was a collection of other brands. When those brands became meaningless, Sears was left with nothing. It simply broke the basic law of economy. It never gave consumers a reason to buy from Sears.”

The mistakes of Sears branding

First mistake: It tried to be for everyone. And when you are for everyone, you’re really not for anybody. You, in essence, don’t provide a true choice. You’re just a pile of mud of means nothing.

Because, think about it, what was the focus of Sears? Even Walmart, a generalist if there ever is one, holds a focus on low price. (Which is why others trying to claim the same thing fail.) Amazon replaces the mall and focuses on convenience.

What did the Sears brand mean? Zippo.

Then its leaders became really stupid. Instead of investing in its brand, Sears slashed its marketing budget, failed to upkeep its locations and generally believed cutting costs was the direct path to relevance.

But cutting costs without improving your meaning is just a slower way to die. Sears branding became even worse when it sold the Craftsman brand – the one thing it was known for – and is now hoping someone will buy Kenmore from it.

Think about that for a moment. What Sears branding really meant was a collection of other brands. When those brands became meaningless, Sears was left with nothing. It simply broke the basic law of economy. It never gave consumers a reason to buy from Sears.

Seriously. Think about it. Why in God’s name would you ever go to Sears? Sears branding simply never gave anyone a reason to go there.

So what now? Sears is gone. It will hang on with a few locations, an online presence (as it were) and join the trash heap along with Circuit City and Toys R Us, wondering what happened. When what happened was in its control the whole time.

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