Category Archives: Channel Management

Demystifying Omnichannel Marketing

“It’s less about creating another channel to sell product. “For us it’s pretty different. It’s about providing a really great experience.” — Andy Katz-Mayfield, Co- Chief Executive, Harry’s

Omnichannel marketing is getting a lot of buzz.

Here’s a quick way to understand the concept, from Daniel Newman writing in Forbes:

[It’s ] “a reflection of the choice that consumers have in how they engage a brand, and therefore is best represented as how brands enable their clients and consumers to use these channels to engage with them.”

Newman points to the emergence of a new breed of “marketers with a hybrid capability to not be just focused on one type of marketing whether it be direct, digital or retail, but rather a marketer that understands experience, and how consumers are seeking ubiquity. From their cell phone to the desktop to an in store visit; we are entering an omni-channel world, where consumers seek an omni-channel experience.”

Omnichannel marketing is not necessarily a new idea, though.  It’s more an evolved idea.

For example, in the pre-social media days, one marketing challenge was to integrate consumer promotion, trade marketing and advertising — plus maybe some PR events — into a cohesive marketing mix.  Today, there are more platforms than ever to engage with customers and build brands, and that’s exciting for the marketing community.

Those “hybrid marketers” also need to understand the discipline of brand management — and how to apply that expertise in today’s omni-touchpoint world.  What’s needed are smart, flexible marketers (those with strong consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand management training should thrive).

With that introduction, let’s explore three current omnichannel marketing initiatives.  See what you can take and apply to your company and team.

Credit: Jack Erwin.

Credit: Jack Erwin.

Jack Erwin

Founded in 2013, Jack Erwin is a new brand of men’s shoes.  This week, the online seller adds a special brick-and-mortar component.

Their approach is a try-on physical outlet dubbed The Fitting Room, opening in New York City on November 13th.

As The Wall Street Journal’s Lauren Sherman explained, it’s a place to get fitted, try on the shoes, and buy.  You can’t walk out the door with any product though – there’s no inventory.  So, unless you need the shoes immediately, it’s a win  — you like them on arrival and know they fit! Continue reading

Get Ready for Google Air Force. Strategy Makes Sense Even if Planes Don’t Fly.

Self-driving cars. Computer glasses. And now, solar-powered, jet-sized drones.

Photo: Titan Aerospace.

Photo: Titan Aerospace.

Last week, Google acquired two-year-old start-up Titan Aerospace, apparently outbidding Facebook for the company.  What the heck is Google doing?

For starters, Google’s management team hasn’t lost its marbles or fallen down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole.  The Titan purchase is part of a smart, sophisticated business and marketing strategy that has technology as a key enabler. Continue reading

Razor Battle is On! Challenges Dollar Shave Club and Gillette.

Photo:  800Razors Facebook.

Photo: Facebook.

At first glance, it would be easy to conclude that is just a Dollar Shave Club copycat in the nearly $2 billion razor cartridge category.

But that would be wrong.

Let’s quickly set the stage for this discussion.

Category leader Gillette built a strong business via a decades-long, continuing series of product innovations that support a premium-price strategy.  They kept some of the older models as part of a tiered product/pricing assortment for consumers.

An opening existed for a competitor to deliver a high-quality blade at much lower cost, and it came via a new business model.  Dollar Shave Club (DSC) emerged as a disruptive player in 2011/2012, getting wide notice with a wacky video featuring its founder.  Its online, recurring monthly sales model (“club”) took dead aim at the category giants selling through traditional retail channels.

Photo:  Dollar Shave Club website.

Photo: Dollar Shave Club website.

Then, in 2013, joined the fray, building off the DSC approach while incorporating significant go-to-market differences:

Photo: Facebook.

Photo: Facebook.

  1. Buy Only When You Want.  800Razors allows single purchase. Dollar Shave Club does not.  It’s an important difference because it removes a potential obstacle to trial.  For example, I’ve thought about trying DSC but didn’t want to sign-up for regular monthly deliveries. Continue reading

Creative Product Distribution Brings Hope of Clean Water: Inventor Dean Kamen Connects with Coca-Cola

First I tried the international medical companies and even the U.N., but they weren’t the right fit for the product. Then it occurred to me that there’s only one organization that can get a product to any village in the world: Coca-Cola.  Dean Kamen in Fortune interview.

Dean Kamen & Slingshot water purification machine. Photo:

Dean Kamen & Slingshot water purification machine. Photo:

Where do good ideas come from?

Inventor Dean Kamen wanted to bring his water purification system to the people who need it the most in the developing world.

He found that a traditional analysis of product distribution partners did not generate the solution he desired.  Only when he turned the challenge on its head and looked at it differently, did the right outcome emerge.

Kamen needed an entity that already operated in the remote geographies he wanted to reach, and he wasn’t deterred that such a company didn’t neatly fit the definition of a small machine distributor.

By broadening the process by which he assessed his options – to think about capabilities instead of company description – Kamen and his team came up with an unlikely answer: soft drinks giant Coca-Cola!

“In a partnership with Coca-Cola, Kamen’s firm DEKA Research and Development will bring Slingshot to communities in need of clean water in rural parts of Latin America and Africa.”


There are no easy answers to difficult business problems.  But sometimes, if you start with the end-game in mind, you might discover a clever, if not crazy, solution.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success. Contact him at hchimoff at gmail dot com.

The Brand Management-Retail Management Battle at Sears

Photo: Craftsman.

Did you ever think you’d buy Craftsman tools at Costco?

Sears has been the exclusive home for Craftsman since 1927, with the highly regarded brand and Sears distribution channel forming a self-contained sales and marketing system.  No more. Continue reading

New Strategies Bring Change at Cisco and Best Buy

Cisco and Best Buy made important strategic announcements last week that caught my attention.

Each decision provides a good opportunity for a mini-case study discussion.  After you read my take, post a comment and tell me what you think.

Photo: Cisco.

In an April 12th press release, Cisco announced that it would be shutting down its consumer Flip video recorder business. Continue reading

OfficeMax Takes Expertise to New Channels

Pete Townshend wasn’t thinking about business strategy when he wrote the famous lyrics for “Who Are You,” the rousing track in the 1978 album of the same name from rock legends The Who.

In a fun and ironic way, though, “Who Are You” is one of the all-time great strategic opening lines.

These three questions – What business are you in?  Who’s your competition?  What are your core competencies? – are certainly in the strategy definition workshop hall of fame.  Although there may be a tendency to sometimes pooh-pooh this type of corporate soul-searching, that doesn’t diminish the power that can be unleashed by illuminating answers and skillfully executed actions.

Consider school and office supply retailer OfficeMax.

You may be surprised to learn how OfficeMax has creatively modified its go-to-market strategy.  Office Max unlocked growth potential because it avoided defining itself as purely an office supply store retailer (i.e., Staples and Office Depot).

Basically, the company decided to leverage its school and office supply category expertise across retail channels, primarily in existing geographies, with a focus on being an “insightful customer advocate.”  OfficeMax describes its new channel strategy as a “transformational platform.”  It’s an intriguing example of thinking differently to compete by leveraging core capabilities and strengths in a unique way.

OfficeMax Presentation – 6/29/2010

A key customer insight underpins the new approach.  According to OfficeMax, approximately 90% of office supplies sold in the U.S. are sold outside the office supply channel; and it’s convenience that drives these purchases in other retail channels per information the company provided to Store Brands Decisions.

The company now bundles its product development, branding and retail merchandising expertise as a proprietary package and sells turn-key solutions to retailers in other channels.  This expanded service offering includes access to OfficeMax’s stable of private brands, extensive office supply category management expertise, and full-service management of the back-to-school marketing season.

New customers include food retailers Food Lion and Safeway; and the University of Arkansas book store.  “A partnership with a specialty retailer like OfficeMax provides a grocer with the category expertise and merchandise-promotional support necessary to make a statement,” explained William Zeuch, Office Max SVP New Business, in a Supermarket News interview.

OfficeMax touts that it is now able to “distribute products and services where customers prefer to buy them.”  CEO Sam Duncan told investors that this new capability has been achieved cost effectively because OfficeMax has been able to “open new doors and reach additional customers without investing in brick and mortar.”

OfficeMax also benefits from a double leveraging of its store brand innovation program in its own stores and at indirect competitive retailers.  Providing category management services to other retailers is innovative in its own right, yet Store Brands Decisions notes that “store brand product innovation is what is catching the attention of retailers looking to build more excitement in their office and school supply departments.”  The retailer has also become the supplier.

Headline For Marketers:  Don’t dismiss your old business school case study questions about how you define your business, competitive advantages and competition.  Be willing to dig beneath the surface.  No doubt significant work and skepticism abounded in Office Max’s deliberations.  Identify what you do great and figure out how to do it profitably in as many channels as possible.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success. Contact him at hchimoff at gmail dot com.