Years ago, in a much earlier stage of the Internet, a company I worked for commissioned a survey. Even in those nascent days of the web, most recipients indicated that they visited a manufacturer’s website before going to a music store, ordering from a catalog on a toll-free number, or placing their trust with what were early incarnations of e-commerce websites. It immediately dawned on me that what the customer observed on a supplier product page didn’t always match what they saw in person at a music store, or on a retailer’s website. Something at that point clicked with me, as I was personally experiencing the phenomenon with Marshall Amplification, one of the most visible and well-known brands in the world, with an identifiable brand presence that was not necessarily being leveraged by the retailers. I realized then what kind of disconnect would likely occur in the mind of the end user if conflicting information and presentation was being made.
The Sound of Rock
I’ll never forget a visit I made to a music store in Northern Illinois with the local rep at the time. Walking towards the amplifier section, I noticed immediately how disorganized the area was, and the few Marshall amps they had on display were not clustered together (they were an authorized dealer at the time). Back then Marshall had one of the coolest POP items ever, a polystyrene rock, that of course amplified the marketing theme “The Sound of Rock.” Sadly, I noticed to the side of the department that the rock was laying on the floor, covered with dust. It was obvious how little respect this retailer had for the brand, but imagine the impression left on a customer who was interested. That scripted Marshall logo is burned into the collective consciousness of generations of musicians and music enthusiasts, and yet there it was, relegated to the retail equivalent of the gutter.
Consistency in Brand Presentation
For any manufacturer, big or small, it is imperative that resellers embrace the messaging, style guide and overall presentation of the brand. In this way, what the customer sees on the supplier website or advertising is consistent with what is observed in a store or e-commerce page. This is basic triangulation, whereby something seen once and stored in memory is then seen again, creating the semblance of consistency and the feeling of what marketers call a “safe buy.” Faced with contradiction or inconsistency, a prospective buyer is going to back away from the sale, uncertain about who is telling the truthful story. Unfortunately, in my four-decade plus career I have seen this happen on multiple occasions, when the process of synchronizing the brand presentation is usually available. This is another reason why vendors and their representatives need to have a strong channel marketing plan and insist that the materials and brand messaging be conforming across all selling platforms.
Implementing CST with Your Brand
Manufacturers and their distributors do a great disservice to themselves and their profits by not embracing Corroborative Selling Technique, or CST. Do you have and publish a style guide for your retailers to leverage and abide by? If not, it would behoove you to do so. Are you sending the same message to the public as you are to the channel, so that consistent messaging is the case? If not, you are risking confusion in the mind of the most important constituent of all, the end user. If you make the effort to align your brand message from the top to the bottom of the food chain, your chances go up to make the sale. If the consumer senses misinformation at any level, the opposite happens. The process includes vendors, distributors, rep firms and retailers. If all entities work in concert with each other, the customer will see a unified message, and is more likely to make the purchase.