Category Archives: Channel Management

Turn Customer Listening into Learning and Go-To-Market Action

Good things can happen when you listen to customers.

Consider Hostess Brands,  which “has nurtured retail sales of its products nearly back to their pre-liquidation level of more than $1.3 billion in 2012” as reported by Julie Jargon in The Wall Street Journal.

Credit: Captain Cupcake1 Flickr

Credit: Captain Cupcake1 Flickr

This summer, the company expanded the Hostess brand product range with white and wheat bread along with hamburger and hot dog buns.

Why is Hostess getting into bread?  They listened carefully to customers and realized there was a business opportunity. Continue reading

Marketing is Fun, Differentiation is Hard. Part 3 of 3.

This is the final post in a three-part series this week on marketing differentiation.

Part 1 highlighted New York City wine retailer Taste Wine Company (User Experience Innovation Creates New Kind of Wine Store). The innovative idea propelling this new venture: shoppers can taste every bottle before buying!

Part 2 featured European hotel brand Mama Shelter, and their USA launch in Los Angeles (Redefining the Boutique Hotel Experience for an American Audience).

In this final installment, we’ll take a look at the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Why did a nonprofit best-known for planting trees in Israel participate at this year’s South by Southwest® (SXSW®) festival?

Kosher Carne - JNF at SXSW 2015

“Meet Me at My Place” or Create Experiences Where Your Customers Are

It’s a common marketing desire:  How can we broaden our reach and attract new customers? Continue reading

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