The customary three- to four-year cycle of brand building is just too slow in today's environment for anything other than a major re-stage or new product launch.
It is generally no longer feasible to engage in the traditional 10-step process that begins with focus groups, in-depth quantitative research, development and research of a concept statement; is followed by mass production of the concept, development of creative strategy, consumer communications and marketing programs, and culminates with the program launch, evaluation and any midcourse corrections.
In many cases, marketers can streamline the brand-building process simply by working more closely with key retailers.
Cheese is an account-specific, co-marketing case in point. Recently, Dick Schact of Dairy Management Inc., a joint venture of the National Dairy Board and the United Dairy Industry, discussed marketing initiatives to keep domestic cheese relevant to today's consumer through strategic alliances with the retail trade.
"Time was that cheese was pretty predictable," Schact said. "Big displays in the refrigerated case supported sales of blocks and slices. These were used for casserole and cheese dish cooking, or placed on top of cheeseburgers or in ham and cheese sandwiches." Schact recalled that sandwiches were a mainstay of the deli business, with a spike in business during holidays. Most products were whole-milk based.
Today, Schact noted, cheese is found in many other parts of the store -- in gourmet/fine food sections, on salad bars, as an ingredient in hot foods to-go entrees, and in frozen foods and expanded pizza sections. The old deli platter is marketed as a centerpiece of home entertaining sections. "Cheese has managed to stay relevant and contemporary by working closely with key retailers through its state and regional infrastructure," Schact explained.
Give the consumers what they want. It's an old adage, but really the heart of the co-marketing story. Consumers still love cheese -- with consumption rising 3% to 5% a year. But they want it on their terms. That may be as part of a prepared salad or premade macaroni and cheese meal.
Although the issues for the DMI may not be totally applicable for marketers of individual brand names, the same principles apply. Both marketers and retailers today need a sharper focus on marketing -- as opposed to just merchandising.
Key marketing issues include consumer preferences, the branding/shopping experience, the role of brand/ store in fulfilling changing and emerging consumer needs, meeting requirements of various customer groups/segments (targeting) and enhancing value without cutting price. For retailers, marketing helps define the channel, exceed customer expectations, drive service as a critical proprietary benefit, create the loyalty-building shopping experience and enable different offerings for unique customer needs.
Marketers, meanwhile, must be sure that their brands play a critical role in these retailer-defined marketing issues. By knowing the marketing needs of a retailer, the marketer can develop brand positions that correspond. These positions keep the brand relevant to the shoppers of each store. Done with enough retailers, the brands are continuously kept up to date.