FULL DISCLOSURE: This was going to be last week’s topic.
I’ve previously made the case that marketing cannot predict the future, and said all marketing teams can do is prepare for what’s next. I’m not changing that position, but I continue to worry how marketing is preparing for the new roaring 2020s. American consumers are filled with stress, and in multiple ways it impacts their buying patterns and habits. It is those buying patterns and habits that have been fueling marketing’s effort to digitally and traditionally connect with everyone who might have a smidgen of thought of doing business with your brand.
Today’s theme, “Think Boldly” surfaced last week when I received an email from Scott Hornstein from B2P Partners, a people-first B2B marketing agency that claims, “It’s marketing as if people matter.” Somehow, I thought that people always mattered and always came first.
In his email, Scott quoted that marketing guru we all love and admire, Yoda, who famously told Luke, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” It’s an excellent reminder of how marketers have to prepare for the 2020s.
INsight #1: Regardless of what you are selling and to whom you are selling, THINK BOLDLY. This has become a critical missing ingredient in the marketing process. Technology has provided marketers with so much data and so many automated processes that marketing teams have lost sight of the essence of marketing, which is to cause change in every buyer’s behavior patterns. As a result, marketers rely on rote thinking, rather than thinking boldly.
Here’s a classic example. I am following with great interest the fortunes of Bed Bath & Beyond (BB&B), a home goods retailer that has been struggling to survive in the new digital age of marketing. The new CEO, Mark Tritton, says the company will be grounded in the five following pillars: Product, Price, Promise, Place and People. I am not getting any strong vibes that there is any bold thinking here.
INsight #2: If BB&B really wants to turn its ship around, its first pillar should be people. Yet, Tritton begins with product. If you have ever shopped in a BB&B store, you know that they have an amazing, maybe overwhelming, product selection. Maybe it could be modernized, but I doubt that is the primary sales depressor. The same logic goes for price. I don’t see any outlandish pricing.
Promise could mean just about anything. It could get close to bold thinking. What we don’t know is to whom the promise is directed. I hope it’s the “people.” I hope it’s a promise to stay better connected and to embrace the best practices of the digital landscape.
I am really excited to see how Tritton addresses “Place.” I’m hoping it is a careful review of the store layout and the volumes of inventory each store has. My biggest “place” question is whether their merchandising is keeping up with the changing consumer demographics. Compare BB&B stores with Target or Walmart stores to see how merchandising and product placement have shaped their stores. In BB&B stores, product is stacked from floor to ceiling.
INsight #3: Thinking boldly requires that marketing knows their customer purchase patterns and how changes impact the business. We should not discount the other BB&B pillars, but it’s important to understand people should come first. Part of that review process should be to understand how their customers’ shopping habits have changed. Building a moving mosaic of shopping patterns will help guide the people process. Remember, people analytics is the foundation of every marketing initiative. It’s the first step in thinking boldly.
I’ll let readers judge the BB&B website and their e-commerce presence. I do know when I logged on, the first thing I saw was a 20% Off coupon, good in-store or online for 48 hours. I had an immediate flashback to the 80s and 90s when we got a BB&B 20% Off coupon in the mail every month. I also discovered they have a rewards program, Beyond+, which costs the shopper $29 annually. The reward is 20% Off every purchase and free shipping.
SIDE NOTE: Last Friday, I met a gentleman who shops BB&B online. I asked him to rate his last online experience and he said, “Great – BUT now they mail me coupons almost weekly and I don’t need them or want them.” There was another 80s-90s flashback.
KEY TAKEAWAY: It’s my opinion that BB&B is giving away lots of margin, every day. A wise marketing sage once said, “No retailer ever discounted its way to success.”
CNBC reports BB&B has a solid balance sheet and should be able to weather the storm. However, marketers know that balance sheets might be the last indicator that the business is eroding. Wall Street has already begun to punish the brand. Now is the time for the team to think boldly.
The EndGame: New thinking. New vision. New energy.©
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