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Does the Channel Design Matter When Selling a Product?

Updated on March 5, 2017
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Sandy holds a management degree and is pursuing an MBA degree. Her research focusses on business and behaviorism including diversity issues.

Competitive Differentiator – Delivering Consistency

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There are some marketers who feel that the design of a particular channel where they sell their products does not matter, the importance is that the right customers will shop there and the product is properly displayed. Other marketers maintain that the design of a channel portrays a distinctive image, as an example of a retail store, which can be critical and needs to be consistent with the image of the product.

The question is which side of this debate the pendulum will decide to swing, whether “channel images do not really affect the brand images of the products they sell” versus “channel images must be consistent with the brand image”.

To determine the viewpoint for this marketing debate of whether or not the channel image has an effect on the brand image and bring this into perspective, one must consider the definitions of each.

The brand image which is equivalent to the corporate image, is defined as the customer’s impression of the brand’s “total personality (real and imaginary qualities and shortcomings)” which “is developed over time through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme, and is authenticated through the consumers’ direct experience” (Business Dictionary, 2015).

A marketing channel also known as a distribution channel is typically a set of practices or activities that are necessary to enable the successful transfer of the ownership of goods from the production stage to the point of consumption. The organizations within the distribution channel are at the center of a value network which is “a system of partnerships and alliances that a firm creates to source, augment, and deliver its offerings” (Kotler & Keller, 2012 p.183). Therefore, the business strategy a company must adopt is “successful value creation depends on successful value delivery” (Kotler & Keller, 2012 p.182).

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Positive Customer Experience

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A company needs to preserve the integrity of the brand and choose the appropriate channel in order to preserve the customer’s experience. More importantly however, is an equally powerful competitive differentiator which is to deliver consistency. Regardless of the channel a customer chooses to interact with a company or vice versa, the value is in attaining a positive experience for the customer through every channel all the time. If a company treats each channel as a separate entity, the risk is greater of losing customers because of the failure to deliver consistency. “What value is there in a positive online experience if a customer’s in-store experience is negative?” (SAS Institute Inc., 2015).

That being said, the position taken as a result of the research is that channel images are critical and must be consistent with the brand image.

An example is the Apple brand which has gained distinction over time that anything associated with the company’s name causes interest specifically where the products are being assembled and distributed. This is a result of Apple building the “brand consistency over time with a series of products to reinforce the company’s central identity” (Donnelly, 2010). The channel image is important because “the perception covers many parts of the brand, from packaging and visual presentation to the stores in which the products are offered” (Donnelly, 2010).

The same perception is true for TAG Heuer products. A customer who wishes to purchase any high-end luxury brand would not expect the brand to be sold at a “mass-market big-box type store” says Brannon Cashion, president of the branding company Addison Whitney (Donnelly, 2010).

Sandy Ennis. C.E.T., PBDM
Author / Business Consultant

References:

Business Dictionary. (2015). What is brand image? Definition and Meaning. Retrieved from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/brand-image.html

Donnelly, T. (2010, November 18). How to Maintain Brand Consistency Across Product Lines. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/11/how-to-maintain-brand-consistency-across-product-lines.html

Kotler, P., & Keller, K.L. (2012). A Framework for Marketing Management (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., publishing by Prentice Hall.

SAS Institute Inc. (2015). Multichannel Marketing: What Is It and Why It Matters. Retrieved from http://www.sas.com/en_us/insights/marketing/multichannel-marketing.html

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