Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

30 May 2017

Will a new Staples CMO make a lick of difference?

This is not an open letter to Michelle Bottomley, the newly hired Staples CMO. Those tend to be trite. But if there’s a time for Bottomley and the Staples leadership to listen to reason, it’s now.

Bottomley, the global CMO of human resources consulting firm Mercer, is taking the job after the previous Staples CMO, Frank Bifulco, announced his retirement. It also comes on the heels of a failed merger with Office Depot, declining sales and a stock price that’s dipped 31 percent over the last five years.

“No, Staples must be different. If it keeps looking and sounding like an office supply store, it’s dead.”

In other words, times are tough for Staples and its ilk. In fact, that’s the problem. The ilk of Staples, Office Depot and all the other office supply stores are all basically the same. You couldn’t slip a piece of paper in between their differences. That’s why, even if the Staples Office Depot merger went through, it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference. Already, consumers think they are the same.

The new Staples CMO must make the brand truly different

What’s lacking in this industry is simple differentiation. Sure, there have been attempts. But none of them have resonated with audiences. Office Depot tested a “store of the future” in Nevada that went nowhere. (It also laid out a campaign telling audience that it has stamps. Like anyone sends letters anymore.)

Staples, for its part, has given up on its theme, “Make more happen,” because it didn’t really mean anything. It’s now turning to targeting small businesses with the theme of “It’s Pro Time.”Staples CMO

In a vacuum, that’s an appropriate strategy. Office supply stores are, in fact, for offices, right? But that doesn’t make Staples any different than Office Depot or, for that matter, FedEx Office.

Bottomley and Staples CEO Shira Goodman need to think bigger. They need to revolutionize the office supply business, which probably means fewer stores and a stronger online presence.

More importantly they must align themselves with the single most emotional trigger among target audiences within context of who they when they use the Staples brand. You could argue that, today, those audiences describe themselves as a pro, judging by the latest advertising campaign.

That, though, is not all the emotional and probably isn’t the most persuasive argument for shopping at Staples. No, Staples must be different. If it keeps looking and sounding like an office supply store, it’s dead.

See more posts in the following related categories: FedEx Office Office Depot Staples Staples CMO


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