Branding is an art at retail - Strategic Brand Management

Where marketing is concerned, he who is in contact with the end-user often has a decisive edge. This is a major handicap for manufacturers who are not in control of their distribution network. It may be an illusion to consider that you can bypass supermarkets to sell significant food brands, but this is not the case for many other outlets. Selective distribution is such an example. The evolution of European Union law on selective distribution networks has substituted qualitative criteria for the old quantitative criteria linked to minimum volume quotas.

In the case of Levi’s, the brand is quite selective in its distribution. While not permitting the sale of its products to supermarkets, Levi’s expects its retailers to respect five criteria:

  • the first one has to do with the offer range: the latter must comprise quality clothing and only brands that are recognised by the customer where jeans are concerned (therefore no price-leader or anonymous jeans);
  • the environment must be as high quality as the offer;
  • product ranges that could alter the image of Levi’s must not be found close by;
  • the service must be in tune with the brand and the staff must be adequate and competent in the field of clothing;
  • last of all, the shop must be part of a fixed construction (not a market stall) with adequate space reserved for jeans and capable of attracting youths aged 15 to 25.

Through this mastery of the channel, Levi’s is, in fact, controlling its image and preserving its brand capital. A brand cannot be narrowed down to its advertising and to its products, it involves the customer in the purchasing act and even thereafter. This is also the strength of Benetton, Ikea, Häagen Dazs and Louis Vuitton.

Coca-Cola itself does indeed have to contend with competitors in supermarkets and even with copies from distributors. But the reputation of a soft drink is enhanced by its distribution in cafés, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. Moreover, the Coca-Cola company offers a wide range of non-colas that make it an exclusive distributor at the sales outlet. Hence, where there is Coca-Cola there usually is neither Pepsi Cola nor any product from Cadbury Schweppes.

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