To the Editor
Every morning I walk for an hour before getting ready for work and, to get myself pumped up for my full day of retail, I listen to Pandora Current Hits radio. I had a big “aha” moment the other day, as I noted to myself that artists such as Pitbull, Jason Derulo, Taio, Nicki Minaj, Ariana and others are all doing something that I don’t think has been done before – they brand themselves in their songs by identifying themselves, and promoting their names.
They usually do it at the beginning of the song (“This is Mr. International Wordwide – Pitbull”). Sometimes it’s in the middle of the song, and often it’s both. It’s really a brilliant strategy, and one, I’m sorry to say, that I don’t do well. I listen to a song and hear the artist brand his/her name. It makes me cognizant of who the artist is and, if I like the artist, I’m more likely to listen to and (in Pandora terms) give a thumbs up to the song. If I like the song and hear Pitbull brand himself, I may seek out other Pitbull songs.
Either way it’s a win for the artist. The artist knows he/she is facing very tough competition, and DJs don’t announce their names – so they do it themselves. It’s young and hip to brand yourself. They’re saying, “This is me, and I’m a big deal.”
So why don’t we do that?
But “I do,” you say. “I have my logo on everything in print; I say my name in my TV/Radio ad; I have my name on my e-Blast that I hope they notice before they click delete.” But that’s not really branding, and it’s quite often attached to a generic statement about having a sale! Branding is telling your customers how to think about you, it’s not just a logo on a page or a tagline in an ad.
It’s certainly not the same as enthusiastically screaming your name for the world to hear, and telling them what makes you special. Let’s face it, our logos and names are, more often than not, afterthoughts to our customers.
In this day of vocal collaboration, not only do these artists brand their name, but they give a nod to their cohorts as well. It’s pure bravado, and it works. These people are a huge deal to their fans, partly because they tell their fans they’re a big deal.
Do we tell our customers we’re a big deal? I don’t think so.
Currently, I’m sorry to say, my brand is “SALE.” As I look in the paper or listen to the radio, everyone else’s brand is also “SALE.” The furniture industry is sick, and if you ask why customers come in less than excited, prepared to haggle and ready to walk back out the door, it’s because we don’t give them what they want.
They want something Special – Pitbull is a badass and lets you know it in no uncertain terms. Taio is sexy and explains how he is “gonna make you feel.” Meghan Trainor says, “You really think I can be replaced, Nah, I come from outer space.”
What’s their message? It’s, “I am special.” This is my brand; this is who I am, and liking me makes you part of it.
In our industry, and the furniture industry in general, we tell people we’re not valuable because we deserve to be discounted. We tell them we’re nothing special, and that we only provide a good price, nothing else. The reason to buy from us is because we’re cheap and, sadly, we believe it.
Today, sale prices are not enough. The hagglers circle our bones, and we let them. Why don’t we know our value as an industry?
What we do is important, and not necessarily easy, so why don’t we value ourselves the way Nicki Minaj does, or Iggy Azalea? Those ladies basically tell you “how it’s gonna be,” or you can move along. In retail furniture, we are on our knees a lot.
I’m sending this letter to my ad agency and telling them to help me with my addiction. Every time I want to have a blip in sales, I run some sort of sale or promotion but, sadly, I don’t promote what’s special about us. Meghan is right – I can’t be replaced – but I need to tell my prospective customers why that is so.
The problem for all of us is making that break. Once on the crackwagon of sale, sale, sale, it’s difficult to break the addiction. If only we, as an industry, could go on the wagon, what would that be like?
I’m going to do some soul searching about our store and figure out what really matters to my customers, and let them know why they need me and what is special about me. If I can believe it, maybe they will, too. I hope we all do it; there’s not a discount low enough to entice customers if we don’t have self-worth as an industry.
I may not be Miss International Worldwide, but I can be Miss Outside in Style and let my customers know what that means. Please join me!
— Karen Galindo, Owner
Outside in Style
Austin & San Antonio,Texas