Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wanted: a new kind of retail exec.

         Natalie Zmuda, writing in Advertising Age, says retail marketing officers are coming of age. "It's no longer enough to be creative", she says. They "must be data-driven customer advocates able to deliver a consistent brand experience across platforms". In other words, they have to be experts at branding.

          In the early days of department store advertising, it was Macy's versus Gimbel's. Macy's ad manager. Bernice Fitz-Gibbons, had a motto: every time you sell the merchandise, sell the store. In other words, every store sells handbags; why should you buy one at Macy's?

          That's exactly where Sears and Kmart fell off the cliff. They believed that if they had the goods and the prices,  people would love them. They have the goods and the prices, but people aren't crazy about the experience. In addition to the look and condition of the stores and the service you get from the employees, the marketing is part of the experience.

          At the other end of the spectrum is Target, with its warm and witty, "expect more, pay less" emphasis on design and designers. The whole look and feel of their stores and their ads is why Target is different --- and a success. We've even given it a French-sounding name, "Tar'jhay". (Target  even came up with a new line of clothes they called "Targe".)

          Branding is an art in itself, and if retailers don't understand how it works, they're going to lose.

          Another thing to keep retailers up nights is the changing media scene. Not just the technology; the psychology, too. Everyone's using social media these days, but are they using it to enhance the brand experience --- or just to boast?

           We're in the era of transmedia storytelling now, and retailers have to realize they need to be good not only at buy and selling, but have to be good storytellers at the same time.

            Maybe that's why both Kmart and Target have been trying to recruit Chief Marketing Officers for a while.

            A Bernice Fitz-Gibbons isn't that easy to find these days.

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