I was asked recently why Trader Joe's is so successful when it doesn't do much marketing. If you view marketing by the amount of dollars spent on traditional advertising and promotion, then you could ask the same question of Whole Foods, Starbucks or indeed Apple.
But marketing in today’s connected world is so much more than this. It's everything the brand does. The effort put into the hand-drawn signs in-store, the Hawaiian shirts, the playful Trader Joe's brand packaging is as much marketing as the radio ads or the Fearless Flyer. So too the obsession with every detail that went into the design of the Apple stores, or the integration of mobile payment with Starbuck's loyalty program.
A brand is now defined by the experience customers have interacting with it, and the sharing of that experience with their social networks. So rather than trying to create an image through advertising, marketing needs to focus on creating a coherent and positive customer experience.
This means getting three major elements aligned:
1. Being clear what the brand stands for, and why customers should care. If you're not clear, then you can't expect your customers or employees to be.
2. Flowing that through everything the brand produces. The products, the store environment, the online properties, and all the brand communication should feel a part of the same story.
3. Engaging the employees in living and breathing the brand, so that the way the brand behaves also reflects what the brand stands for, and why customers should care.
In this way, wherever or whenever customers experience the brand, it feels part of a coherent whole.
Simple to say of course, but difficult to do. What it really means is that marketing is not just a department, but also a company-wide endeavor. And that the dollars spent on traditional advertising and promotion is a misleading guide to a brand's overall marketing effort...
A version of this post first appeared in Supermarket News