She doesn't buy the brand... she buys into it.
Faith Popcorn, the weathervane of trends and habits, identified the "cocooning of America" back in the early '80s. Now she suggests that we better understand the "Eve-olution" of the American woman. In the early '80s, the American woman was setting up her office at home, buying from catalogs, making decisions that would allow her business to grow, hiring people as her business expanded, and throughout the decade, became a power in consumer spending.
Some home furnishings retailers and manufacturers mouthed her words. Some even went so far as to try to understand what she was saying. A few implemented her thoughts into "lifestyle" displays, which took off.
Today "Eve-olution" means that she not only will buy the brand name...but BUY INTO the brand totally. That means that she is interested in what the company is all about. She wants to know your business ethics... your business practices... your customer service AFTER SHE BUYS the product. When she is stuck with a group of people coming to town for the holidays, can she reach you if something goes wrong with the product she bought from you or will you be unavailable? She is interested in the environment. Are you a company that cares about the air we breathe...the water we drink? What do you do for the community she lives in; about the community of the world? Are you a contributor to the programs she is interested in? Or are you just a company that takes and takes giving nothing back? Or are you just a "NO... NO... NO" furniture company?
She wants to know if the manufacturers of the products you sell really care (or don't care) about the people you sell to. Who are they really selling to... the dealer or the eventual customer of the dealer? She will find out.
You see, she is interested in the "AtmosFEAR". That's why she is so negative. She's concerned and she cares. Do you present a positive or negative face for your business? Do you sell things negatively? Or are you positive about the product and the services you sell?
"No, No, No" is not a positive way to attract her long term. Do you believe that she doesn't think long term? If you think that way, you won't be around long term.
She is plotting your future. She is measuring you each and every day. If you really care, you will listen to the complaints that come in and respond. She is measuring you for the future of her business...not just her home but ALL THE HOMES SHE HAS INFLUENCE OVER. This includes the hordes of new employees she has hired. This includes the hordes of friends she has made. This includes neighbors, acquaintances, business associates and some who are not. She is a lightening rod for influencing your future business.
So you are just getting around to thinking about incorporating BRANDING into your business philosophy. Sorry, you may be too late. After all, we have been talking about this in Furniture World for the past five years. But we know. You are in furniture. That gives you a little dispensation. And you can stop the clock from turning into the new Millennium any time you want.
Branding identifies her to you. It was acknowledges her as the CEO of the WALLET. Those good retailers who understood this have really outpaced the competition within their markets during the last eighteen months. They have benefited from all the hard work they did in the previous three and one-half years of setting up programs that did reach her and assisted her in understanding a little bit about their company.
It included reaching her when she could be reached. It included using television as the core medium. It included using cable as a major way of reaching her with the messages she was looking for on the programs she watched, on the days she watched them. It included your understanding that she goes through a deceleration period after she comes home and that the best time to reach her is not the moment she steps through the door of her home after a long day at the office.
It included reaching her on "A&E's 'Biography" series because she has a fertile imagination about famous people and believes she can become one. It included reaching her on The Discovery Channel as she watched Lynette Jennings struggle with different tasks about the house or Movie Magic and it's tech side. It included CNN and "Larry King"... the Family Channel and their movies... CNNSI and the world of sports according to Inga Hammond. It included CNBC and the moneywheel... CNN with Lou Dobbs. Remember that she is a businessperson who demands to know everything there is to know about business. It includes Bravo and interviews at the American Theatre. It includes Bloomberg Television because the stock symbols are not listed... the full name of the company is listed. It includes MSNBC with Jody Applegate because she is so folksy and just "one of them". Remember, furniture wonders of the world, they are not "gals", "girls" or "significant others". They are YOUR CUSTOMERS. Don't use "gals", "girls" or "s.o.'s".
It includes catching a few licks on BET to settle down the nerves and relax. It includes a VH-1 break with one of their "special features" on an individual or group. It includes "National Geographic" on WTBS, or a Bull's game on WGN. Yes. Your customers do like Mike. As Dick Vitale would say, "This is cable...baby!"
It includes "South Park" and the "Daily Show" on Comedy Central; isotherms on Weather and how it will affect her travels tomorrow; a feature on Kenya on the Travel Channel searching for her vacation spot this year; "The Big Show" on MSNBC; a quick look at CNN HEADLINE; a peak at which war is being covered on The History Channel; a little Garth Brooks on TNN; and "Interviews of a Lifetime" on Lifetime.
It's not about putting "no...no...no" in front of her with all of these reach possibilities. It is about romancing her...bringing her into the feeling you have about your store. It's all about exciting her about the possibilities of shopping in your store and really enjoying it. And if you don't believe that you can do that in furniture, take a visit to Robb & Stucky's fantastic new store in Scottsdale, AZ. That is all you will need. Over 150,000 women will enjoy that branding this year.
And why? Because they built their entire reputation upon THEIR BRAND. And now they are into the "eve-olution" understanding period of their existence. In other words, they are a generation ahead of you.
Is it too late for you? Probably!
But you may have a month or two to change your ways. But it will take a huge effort on your part. First, understand that television, not newspaper, is your salvation in the future. Sure you can use it to make you feel better (this is called the "Lynas Theory". Lynas always carries his blanket with him to make him feel safe and secure.). You can still touch and feel your precious little newspaper just like some cling to piano rolls.
Last month we suggested that this month would be about the unifying cry for difference. It was to talk about how branding could make it happen for you. That is what this is all about. It is about having you understand that your brand is the most important brand to the customer today. It is about you understanding that she wants to feel good about your establishment, the products you carry; how you help your customers; how you stand behind what you sell; how you contribute to the community she lives in; how you operate your business.
That is what today is all about. It's about "eve-olving"...understanding her needs...not your needs.
No more NO NO NOs. She's smart. She's fearful of being taken. She's building the best home she can. She's interested in what you are doing about being a better citizen. She's looking at you and your practices before she makes an investment in you. IT'S YOU SHE'S EXAMINING...NOT YOUR PRODUCT.
It's time to stop selling used cars. Start selling home furnishings. We're in the home furnishings business.
It is a TERRIFIC TIME TO SELL HOME FURNISHINGS. Make sure you do it right this year.
Lance G. Hanish is the President of Lance Benefield & Co., Inc. Worldwide, a leading marketing communications firm serving home furnishings retailers. Questions on any aspect of television media management or production can be direct to Mr. Hanish care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at firstname.lastname@example.org.