Monday, June 22, 2009

Some Brands are Just a Blur

What’s the difference between Petco and PetSmart? As far as I’m concerned, these two retailers are guilty of a little thing I like to call “brand blur.” If you stripped the name off of both retailers and walked both stores, I think you’d find little difference. The color schemes are the same. The stores feel the same. Unless I’m missing something, they carry essentially the same product mix. Maybe PetCo has saltwater fish and PetSmart doesn’t. So what?

Brand blur is the resulting effect when the developers of a brand go out to the market and ask “whatdya want?” When you do that, you’re getting the exact same information that the competitors get. So you and the competition both end up with the same approach. To add insult to injury, the research is typically flawed because all it gets at is surface logic. The good, deep, meaty emotional stuff is nowhere to be found in average research. Furthermore, this approach of only asking the prospects and customers what they think neglects to honor the vision and authentic essence of the company that can add a strong competitive advantage.

Another category where I see brand blur is office supply stores. Tell me, do you really see a difference between Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples? If I separate any of them at any level, it might be Staples. Honestly, I think I’ve been sucked in by their advertising which I feel successfully uses humor to connect with me personally. Yet, inside the store, I feel the same old, same old. And again, these competitors are essentially the same right down to the color palette they use.

In both cases - the pet stores and the office supply stores - as the consumer, I’m reduced to deciding the difference based on location or worse yet, price. As a brand strategist, it makes me a little sad for the brands.

Where do you see brand blur?

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