It seems the UK retailer Argos is showing us all how its done with their new re-brand, but the most striking thing about Argos’ new look is it hasn’t involved redesigning their logo which they last revised in 2010. I hope this will finally bury the assumption of those design-shops-that-think-they-are-branding-agencies that branding is about logos!

They have also gone about this thing in the right sequence – something that most businesses I come across could do with taking note of. I’m pretty fed up with companies who want to just tell the world they have changed and make only cosmetic improvements. Branding is about culture change and usually business transformation and Argos have been making back-office changes for the past two years to ensure they can deliver their new brand promise. Good for them! Now they are ready to make their new promise to the world without fear of disappointing the customers they attract, which, as we all know is probably the most costly mistake any brand can make.

There’s an interesting dynamic at play here of course. A few years ago I was getting frustrated because so many retailers I spoke to didn’t understand the need to re-model their businesses. I was doing presentations highlighting the shift in the direction the sector was moving, to boards of big concerns and coming away amazed that in the light of the evidence they still didn’t see the urgency of the situation and preferred to hold back investment until change was absolutely essential. Now many of these same retailers are struggling, the process has become more expensive and costs are amplified by the need to move more quickly than had been the case at the time. In some cases, the bill is going to be more than they can afford. Are we going to see casualties – undoubtedly! Will we see the pattern of young, small, tech-driven retailers buying up big name retail brands , such as we are seeing in other sectors – absolutely!

On an advertising note, Argos’ new thinking is probably summed up best (as it should be) by their TV commercial which promotes the line “Get set, Go Argos” against a back-drop of The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” (which I personally find to be a neat detail in the overall creative solution). This looks like a campaign with legs, which is just as it should be and I think their agency CHI can rightfully pat themselves on the back for what they have done so far to support the re-brand. It will be interesting to see how the theme is developed tactically, but Argos haven’t disappointed on this score in the past, they just need to turn up the volume this time.

Central to Argos’ new strategy is an increased focus on digital, which cements the relationship they already have with younger consumers and opens up opportunities for growth that their previous high street focus had denied them. However, while physical-store-based Argos are making moves to claim real estate in the on-line world the seemingly ubiquitous Amazon are heading in the opposite direction with their new physical store in Manhattan and a pop-up experiment that includes kiosks in Sacramento and San Francisco. Things are getting exciting in the retail world!

If nothing else I hope this emerging omni-channel approach will underline to some of the slow-to- get-it retailers out there that they can’t ignore the wider delivery routes any longer. There are a lot of retailers out there with a load of catching up to do and if they don’t get on to it pretty quickly they’ll just become more flotsam and jetsam in the wake of the omni-channel tsunami. I just hope , after so much procrastination, that their pockets are deep enough.

Its not even just about the obvious digital channels. There are more traditional channels that retailers have been ignoring for years and which they need to get involved in now that the retail battle is hotting up. I’ve just spent two-and-a-half years working with a retailer to piece together an multi-channel model that included direct marketing and telesales using data acquired by a very successful loyalty programme that we set up. It wouldn’t have been so effective without the e-commerce, social and mobile elements of course, but every channel was delivering viable business, which is a hint to latecomers to omni-channel retailing, of a possible route to gaining a foothold in the new retail marketplace.

As usual, the retail marketplace is proving to be the microcosm of the wider marketing world. The merging of disciplines, not just within marketing but across business generally, the blurring of boundaries are all indicative of the new, broader-thinking marketer and a reminder that successful businesses are now driven by marketing and marketing people. Business structures have to change to facilitate marketers who, in turn have to broaden their thinking still further and explore every opportunity to innovate. We’ve not seen the end of this coming-together of disciplines, it’s the only route to ultimate efficiency and that is the primary difference between a successful and unsuccessful organisation in the new world order.

Phil Darby
October 16, 2014

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