A recent conversation with a business executive reminded me that, for many non-marketers, there’s often vagueness or even confusion about the term “branding” and its application.
I suspect it’s connected to a fuzziness about what marketing is/does in general and the use and power of brands, branding and brand management in particular. That’s unfortunate because excellent marketing and effective brand management can be cornerstones for strong customer relationships and sustainable long-term business success.
Take last week’s announcement that Kroger is mounting a major 2018 holiday season push to sell specially branded toys via the launch of Geoffrey’s Toy Box across a multi-banner network of nearly 600 supermarkets. The branded store-within-a-store is a reconstituted marketing and brand concept created from Toys “R” Us intellectual property. More on this in a moment.
First, as a general principle, when it comes to your products and services, it’s an excellent idea to brand them. Doing so creates a distinct identity and perception with your customer that can generate sales, establish differentiation and produce loyal, repeat business. Lack of a brand name may put you into an unknown, generic box with everyone else.
So what do marketers mean when they use the terms brand, brand management and branding? A few definitions may be helpful.
● Brand. “A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. It is an intangible asset that is intended to create distinctive images and associations in the minds of stakeholders, thereby generating economic benefit/values. (Source: Common Language Marketing Dictionary)
● Brand Management. It’s an organized, disciplined system to manage and nurture brands, and often includes various marketing activation and overall general management of a specific business. This marketing management philosophy and operating system was pioneered by Procter & Gamble.
● Branding. Branding is the creation, activation and leveraging of brands (including the company name/brand) to create a business advantage and achieve financial objectives. Note that the term branding is often loosely yet imprecisely used as a catchall or substitute term for marketing, advertising, and/or creating awareness and publicity. While branding isn’t a synonym for marketing, it is an integral component of marketing.
If there’s any doubt about the marketing, sales and economic benefits that strong brands can generate, consider the partnership Kroger announced to leverage Toys “R” Us brand assets. Before you jump out of your seat, yes of course I know TRU closed its doors. Although the iconic toy retailer declared bankruptcy and shuttered its retail stores, it doesn’t mean the equity built up over decades with consumers also went bankrupt.
Leading American food retailer Kroger agrees. That’s why they have a deal to leverage the Geoffrey mascot, a brand element Toys “R” Us created in 1965. Starting in November, Geoffrey’s Toy Box merchandise and displays will appear in participating Kroger Family of Stores with a selection of 35 branded children’s toys, ranging in price from $19.99 to $49.99.
The reason why this branded merchandising concept is viable and has a chance for economic success is that Geoffrey became an iconic symbol and brand mascot of its own. The friendly giraffe first appeared in a television commercial in 1973, and is now in its sixth decade of brand management effectiveness.
The partnership makes sense for both Kroger and the owners of TRU assets. Kroger seized an opportunity to drive traffic and boost holiday sales by leveraging interest in the Toys “R” Us brand. The TRU brand owners gain a new distribution outlet. And gift-giving adult shoppers looking to satisfy their young customers gain another merchandise source. Note what the partners had to say:
◾ “Geoffrey’s Toy Box delivers a unique shopping destination within Kroger stores,” explained a Kroger executive in a press release. He added: “We’re excited to offer Geoffrey’s Toy Box this holiday season to provide our customers with the opportunity to purchase a selection of toys once exclusive to Toys “R” Us.” (emphasis added)
◾ “We are thrilled to partner with Kroger to bring a curated collection of product from our beloved portfolio of brands to American consumers this holiday,” stated a Geoffrey’s Toy Box leader in the same press release (emphasis added).
Kroger is a sophisticated operator. It is one of the world’s largest retailers, with nearly 2,800 stores in 35 states under two dozen banners and annual sales of more than $115.3 billion. They don’t do marketing and merchandising by accident. While various factors impacted the demise of the retail company Toys “R” Us, there is still life in, and money to be made from, their brands.
(Note. Geoffrey’s Toy Box is a division of Geoffrey LLC. Per a company press release: They “control a portfolio of intellectual property that includes trademarks, ecommerce assets and data associated with the Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us businesses in the United States and all over the world, including a portfolio of over 20 well-known toy and baby brands.”)
Harvey Chimoff is a versatile marketing and business team leader who believes good marketing sells. Contact him at StratGo Marketing, a plug-in marketing department resource for company leaders.