Thursday, September 9, 2010

Be Cautious When Positioning Your Brand

If you have ever read or listened to financial news then there I'm sure you have heard the following words roll off the pundits' tongue: retailers were down as cautious consumers are worried about the future.

We all know that these last few years, a statement like that has been total understatement. The recession ultimately resulted in massive sums of wealth to simply dissolve. Meanwhile, consumers are and will remain extra cautious with their discretionary income until their personal fortunes are rebuilt. So, it's easy to see that retailers are hurting because, as a whole, "the consumer" is.

So, given that grave reminder of financial hardship, don't you feel like going shopping?

I'm guessing not.

But that's not what Kohl's may be banking on. According to Ad Age, they're pumping $20 million to their advertising spend to position itself as "the smartest choice for the cautious consumer."

First of all, that's a slogan and not a unique marketing position. Its true position is Kohl's has low prices. Which happens to be the same position that most retailers try to stake claim to but is dominated by Wal-Mart.

Fortunately, Kohl's has always taken a price position. They're not trying to make a fundamental change to respond to the change in the economic climate.

But a slogan's purpose is to reinforce its position in the mind of consumers. If "the smartest choice for the cautious consumer" turns up in its next round of advertising (like it has it news articles) then their plan will backfire.

The reason is the word cautious. It's a strong word with a lot of power. Obviously spun from the word "caution," so it makes people stop. The word completely overshadows and overpowers "the smartest choice" from the slogan. "Caution" is what we will remember. Further, as the slogan's most emotional word, it demonstrates how the consumer should feel.

Do they want their customers feeling cautious? Of course not.

That feeling only makes the consumer question if they truly need that new shirt or pair of pants, especially with less discretionary dollars to play with.

I would rewrite the slogan to get rid of the word "cautious." Possibly something like:

Kohl's is the best choice for the consumers' conscience.
Kohl's is the wisest choice the consumer conscience can make.

That said, any changes to their marketing is curious speculation at this point. According to a transcript of Kohl's 2010 second quarter financial report conference call, which took place on August 12, executives said "Our marketing efforts remain unchanged. We continue to utilize the highly effective 'The More You Know, The More You Kohl's' platform."
We will have to wait to find our final answer. But, as a marketer, I would be very cautious about making a change like that.

Feel free to comment and send in your Kohl's slogan ideas using the link below. As always, I look forward to reading them.

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