Saturday, July 7, 2012

Brand differentiation worth a sausage

Don't you just love a citrus grower who smells like oranges? And a zany farmer in the armour? And a truck driver with the joke I cannot remember? If you don't know who I'm talking about, the latest Woolworths TVCs created by Droga5 have completely passed you by.

Woolworths has taken a significant step to ending the price war with supermarket rival Coles and steer us to making 'quality' and 'fresh' decisions.  Commercially, it's a big call for the people running Woolworths' brand - a stance against being beaten to death by the big red hand that points prices downwards for Coles.

Woolworths has chosen to get back to brand differentiation because, as we know, discounting might bring market share, but it can also deliver commercial ruin and unhappy shareholders.

It will be interesting to see what they do with the stablemate Masters big box hardware brand. So far, my only recollection is the call 'Don't you just love competition', positioning the brand in the category as a rival to Bunnings.

I made my Masters debut at Mornington outside Melbourne the other week. It's certainly very tidy and not in the mould of a traditional hardware store for blokes, with the customary bins of plumbing bits and stands of stormwater pipe to fantasise over.

White goods take pride of place, with one of the glitziest arrays of washing machines I have ever seen. Some of the Samsung machines would not look out of place in a night club - perhaps they're for laundering money, but I digress.

I would not be surprised to see Masters positioning itself for the female handyman, if that is not a contradiction in terms, or perhaps the male housemaid.

But there is a real opportunity that the brand Masters have so far failed to capitalise on - and it's right on their doorstep. It's the sausage sizzle at the front of the store.

I was amazed to see that the sausage sizzle was an exact duplicate of the Bunnings sizzle. Heavy cotton canopy, six burner BBQ, same happy combination of community minded adults and kids folding snags in bread with onions and sauce according to taste. Sorry, girls and boys, you're going to have to put more sizzle into the idea if you're going to differentiate.

How about gourmet sausages with a selection of mustards from regional growers - maybe even one of those whacky Woolworths fresh food people grows unique mustard seeds. Perhaps the guy in the armour could serve them, while a tradie from inside the store lubricated the moving parts with some motor oil off the specials stand. Nothing wrong with cross-promotion.

As it is now, Masters is failing its first brand promise by not delivering the competition we love. The sizzle thing is just trademark infringement! I know a guy who goes to Bunnings every Sunday just for a look around and a sausage. Sad though that may be, the point is that Bunnings has trademarked the car park sausage sizzle as part of the retail experience.

Clearly, I'm unimpressed. I'm not a Masters convert and will chew over my future purchase decisions at the Bunnings sizzler.

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