Success Breeds Success – Five Ways to Unleash “Pent-up Demand” at Major Retailers

By Vincent Young

Retail buyers hate risk. Their compensation and reputation are tied directly to how well their category performs versus corporate expectations, prior year sales, and growth relative to the balance of the retail market. However, the marketing strategies & programs that most lesser-known challenger brands bring to major retailers for new-to-the-world products essentially ask the retailer to take a big risk and “trust” that the challenger brand’s marketing plan will work.  When this happens, the risk-averse retailer is almost sure to trust their previous category experience and their own instincts over the challenger brand’s research-based marketing strategy. The result – the challenger brand has no leverage to bring its marketing plan to life in a way that is consistent with its stated brand positioning or business plan.

One of the most important lessons for challenger brands to learn when seeking leverage at major retailers is that “success breeds success.”  The more your product has proven itself to be a winner with consumers in the past, the more motivated the retailer becomes to support your marketing strategy in the future. Therefore, challenger brands should seek to gain marketing leverage with major retailers by adopting any of the following five approaches which establish a track record of success prior to engaging with the universe of major retailers.

Retail Leverage’s Five Ways To Unleash “Pent-up Demand”:

  1. Over-invest in Trade Shows – This is a rare time for challenger brands to put forth as much sizzle as steak. Retail buyers attend trade shows to get a read on what will be the “must-have” products in the future. Maximize the confidence that retailers will have in your product and your brand’s positioning by letting them see everyone associated with the industry going gaa-gaa over what your product has to offer.
  2. Seriously consider direct-response advertising – Brands such as Rosetta Stone, Bose, and Dell made strategic investments in direct-response advertising and today have successfully maintained their brand positioning within retail. Even the Sham-Wow and Magic Jack have been able to smoothly enter retail despite having  no prior record of retail success
  3. Launch exclusively with specialty/boutique retailers – Most major retailers have little desire to simply transfer existing demand between current suppliers.  Major retail buyers believe that introducing new brands to the category that have been restricted to niche or specialty retailers may bring specialty channel shoppers into major retailers thus representing true incremental foot-traffic and category growth. Plus, smaller retailers are more likely to partner with challenger brand suppliers on marketing initiatives than major retailers
  4. Build a “community” – Create a following for your product by using the most popular social networking tools (right now, they’re free).  Utilize Facebook and Twitter to populate the community of consumers who have an interest in the promise of your new product with industry experts, special user groups, trade show attendees, direct-response consumers, and early adopters.  The more, the merrier!
  5. Launch exclusively with one major retailer – Nothing gets the attention of one retailer more than a successful product only available at another retailer. The offer of exclusivity gives you a form of leverage with the launch partner and successful performance will increase the desire that all other retailers have to replicate your marketing strategies within their environments.

Remember, very few strategies give your challenger brand more leverage at retail than the promise of bringing your successful past to the retailer’s risk-averse present.

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