Honesty’s The Best Policy

Small businesses look at the giant brands of industry as the pinnacle of success. Many resent them for using their powerful brands to sweep up such a large market share.

It’s rarely the other way around.

Waterstones are taking flak for opening “incognito” stores. Some of their newer stores weren’t given the Waterstones’ brand. Instead they were branded as “a quintessentially local bookshop”.

This caused outrage among some and sympathy among others. Critics accused them of deceiving customers, forcing independent bookshops out of the market.

Waterstones’ Managing Director James Daunt, argues that they were adapting to the locations. “We’re coming into quite sensitive High Streets, ones predominantly with independent retailers on them, and we wish to behave as they do”.

Independent bookshops have a certain allure that a chain will never be able to capture. They also fit into some towns better than a large chain would.

While the ramifications will take some time to unfold, it does act as a useful reminder.

Know your market.

This wasn’t Waterstones walking away from their well-known brand. They assessed the market, their customers and their product. They knew what they sold and who they sold to, but they saw a gap where they didn’t have a foothold. An area they couldn’t go regardless of their offering. Their brand was holding them back.

You know certain brands sell better to different markets. You know Bentley and Skoda owners were looking for very different things when they went to buy a car. Did you know, both brands belong to Volkswagen? Possibly. It’s not a big secret. They have it written on their website along with their 10 other brands.

Bentley drivers don’t care Volkswagen own Skoda, or any other brand for that matter. Their interaction is with Bentley, that’s what matters. But Waterstones hiding these “independent” shops has caused backlash. The deception has caused the damage, not the concept. So long as the new shops can provide an authentic experience, the customers will be happy.

Instead Waterstones have potentially damaged their entire brand.

Take a look at Butler & Bond and Juicemeister, 2 e-cigarette brands we’ve designed. Right off the bat you can tell one has a premium feel and the other playful. Both brands built from the start to deliver tailored messaging to appeal to a specific market.

When you want to appeal to a new market, do your research. Why don’t you appeal at the moment? Is your brand the problem? Would adapting it hurt your current market share?

If so, then look at creating a new brand. Instead of launching it in secret, announce it to the world. This new brand is coming from an established industry expert. Tailoring their new product/service to meet the needs of a new market.

Honesty and sincerity look far better than trickery. And you have the advantage of promoting your new venture with your existing brand.

Do you think Waterstones did the right thing? Have you got more than one brand to appeal to different markets? How successful are they? Let me know your thoughts.

If you need any help with branding or design, get in touch.