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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Growing Retail: Branding Is Never Easy

The Trader Joe’s in my hometown is having growing pains. They have closed down one of their stores in a kind of nondescript strip mall and opening another with a lot of pizzazz. And they’re hoping that we won’t notice too much. Ahem.

The LA Times business page explains this: “…after decades cultivating an image as the cozy neighborhood grocer, the 14,670 square-foot store …highlights the conundrum facing the Monrovia company: how to maintain the eclectic, friendly vibe that has garnered it legions of faithful shoppers, while expanding at a brisk pace.”

Mmm. This sounds like a problem facing retailers and other business people in the 90s. But it happens now, too. In fact, I’d bet that most anyone in business will face it at some time. I remember when my husband and I moved one of our retail stores from one end of the mall to another because we were out of space. Some of our customers thought we were getting too fancy.

I remember the day I decided to write a little e-book for my UCLA students that turned out to be The Frugal Book Promoter ( ), now in its second edition. That’s a far cry from novelist and poet.

I remember when, after the success of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers, I decided to do a HowToDoItFrugally series of books for retailers ( because I had started speaking at national retail tradeshows and, heck, I needed handouts anyway, right?

As you can tell, I believe in taking opportunity when it steps up and plops itself in our laps. Having said that, once we’ve made the momentous decision to veer from our intended path or to grow, we need to immediately think about branding.

Here are some of the things that I think can help people or business in situations like this. Mind you, these are not the result of huge marketing studies. They’re all just seat-of-the-pants lessons learned from trial and error—though some are based on tried-and-true marketing principles.

  1. Drag out your mission statement and paste it to your bulletin board (or make computer wallpaper out of it). You do have a mission statement don’t you? If not, write down the goals you’ve had since you started in your career path and use it instead (until you get your mission statement written.)

2.      Look at your idea for your new project. Write down the reasons you want to do it. Then write down the pluses and minuses—and weight them. This list will help you make better decisions for the entire project as well as the marketing of it.

3.      Now make a list of how you think your present customers (yes, readers, too!) will view these changes.

4.      Using the benefits you found for your present customers in the above list, plan a marketing/promotion campaign.

5.      Now make a list of the benefits you see for new customers your upcoming project will attract. Draw up a marketing campaign for these folks, too. I know it looks like double work but…

6.      Now see if you can find similarities between the two. That’s where you start. You can branch out to target the fringes of the two groups later.

These are general planning aids, but here is a Web site specific for you. Think very hard before you open a completely new Web site for your new project. Consider instead using one site with different sections for your projects. Think how there might be crossover between customers. Keep your branding similar (maybe colors from a similar palette), but not necessarily identical. Don’t expect too much in crossover sales, but don’t discard the possibility. New efforts need support from whatever quarter we can find them. If you decide against that, at least make links from one site to the other plentiful and obvious and give benefits (reasons) why customers on one site should click to another.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson's FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques launched at the National Stationery Show at Javits Center. Because she is the author of the multi award-winning how-to books for writers,The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success, retailers will also find essentials of writing for blogs, Web sites, and newsletters on this blog. She is the author of an award-winning novel, This Is the Place; and other fiction and poetry. She blogs on better writing at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog. Find her tweeting for retailers at @frugalretailing . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use this little green widget to let them know about it:


  1. Interesting post and thanks for sharing.
    Neeti Biz
    Brand Building

  2. Retail sector has seen huge growth in last few years. retail is one of the top choice for investment, big companies looking retail sector as huge business opportunity.
    shop display


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