Said we: "It would be much easier for Albertson's to execute a clear, focused company strategy when it doesn't have to be filtered through four different brands." So, according to our plan, Albertson's would replace Jewel, Acme and Lucky as the unified name of all 6,000 outlets.
Easier for Albertson's maybe, but how about the consumer in this equation? There is nothing more intimate and important to a shopper than her local supermarket, where her trust is earned almost on a daily basis.
To make her reestablish that trust and confidence by requiring her to pledge allegiance to a different store name, a different check cashing or discount card, different store brands, even different layout of products, is certainly ignoring what's in her best interests. Beyond that, however, it makes it very easy for the shopper to go across the street to another store she likes almost as much.
What's happening with all these mega-mergers is that marketing is being conducted for the convenience of marketers, not for consumers. When Disney buys ABC-TV and packs the schedule with Disney-produced shows, is that really in the best interests of viewers? Or does ABC provide a ready access for Disney's TV production, at a higher profit margin? Duh.
Or, to cite my favorite example, in whose best interests was it that NationsBank dropped the Barnett name when it bought that long-established Florida banking chain?
I note that when Barnett's archrival, SunTrust, bought Creststar recently it announced it was keeping the Creststar name in its marketing area of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Why throw all that good will into the trash can? And why confuse and annoy your customers unnecessarily?
Marketers who do the best fit into their customers' natural way of doing things rather than force consumers to adapt to what marketers want to give them.
As Pam Murtagh wrote in a Forum piece last week, "Just as every shard of a broken Coke bottle telegraphs Coca-Cola, brands built from a point of core esteem reinforce the consumer's experience with every interaction . . . To get there, though, companies need to shift the mindset of marketing -- and deviate from `best practices.'
"For starters, we need to accept that our brand core isn't anything we decide to make it: It's the physical/emotional need satisfaction our best customers actually experience."
Tell me that the need satisfaction a shopper in Chicago gets from shopping at Jewel can be transferred to Alberston's. Especially when the back-office part of the merger inevitably causes massive screwups. Is that really the time you want to go into the marketplace with a new untried brand name that's replaced Tried and True? I don't think so.
Nobody listens to consumers anymore. Well, maybe they listen, but marketers ignore what consumers really want in favor of common platforms for look-alike automobiles and advertising designed to win awards and the approval of colleagues.
There is brewing a major reaction to marketing for the convenience of marketers.
As Simon Anholt put it the other month at a conference in London, "the 20th century brands were the shouting brands. They had it easy. The 21st century brands are the listening brands, and sensitivity to culture is the new holy grail of global marketing."
And the same can be said about local marketing culture where Jewel food stores and Barnett bank end up as pawns to be sacrificed in the name of efficiency and uniformity.