Brand managers and retailers constantly are exhorted to "establish an emotional connection with the consumer." But is that really happening? I found a brand experience recently related to me by License! Global Senior Associate Editor Regina Molaro to be particularly disturbing.
A loyal fan of Clinique lipstick, Regina tried to replenish her stock a few months ago at Macy's in Staten Island. But the color was discontinued (a common occurrence, she says), and employees at the Clinique counter couldn't help her find a replacement color. So she went to Lord & Taylor, where employees did discover an alternative, but that, too, was discontinued shortly thereafter. En route to London to visit her fiancé, she stopped at the Clinique shop in JFK Airport, where she was told they couldn't find anything for her at all. Once in London and desperate, she went to Chanel and showed the employee her Clinique lipstick. The employee quickly found her a Chanel substitute. When that $25 Chanel lipstick ran out, Regina went to Macy's to get a new one. Employees at the Chanel counter—brand ambassadors, in effect—dismissed her, saying the lipstick was from a different numbering system and color palette. To add insult to injury, they told her to try Bobbi Brown. She did and found something else. The Bobbi Brown employees, to their credit, also gave her samples and tried hard to keep her with their brand.
However, she really preferred the Chanel lipstick, so she decided to try Bloomingdale's. Employees there said they didn't have anything, but one offered, "My friend works at Dior, but she used to work at Chanel, so come with me and let's ask her." Frustrated but willing to try anything, Regina went to the Dior counter. After a brief conversation, though, the Dior employee huffed, "If you keep up this attitude, no one will help you."
A few days later, Regina's sister went to Macy's in New Jersey, and told one of the Chanel employees Regina's tale of lipstick woe. Someone there actually called Regina and said she would like to help.
Meanwhile, Regina's London-based fiancé rode to the rescue and brought her two tubes of Chanel lipstick when he came to visit. Today, this former Clinique fan says she wouldn't go back to the brand. She plans to stick with Chanel—despite her experiences—but says she might switch again if finding her color in the U.S. continues to be an exercise in futility.
After experiences like that, it's no wonder consumers are "fickle" these days.
As a guide through the brand minefield, our "Focus on Brands" section offers strategies to connect with consumers and expand at retail, a look at marketing brands on the Web, survey results on the impact of celebrity brand endorsements, and details of the latest brand licensing deals. One brand strategy that seems to be on the rise is utilizing fewer licensees and longer-term deals. Some 60 percent of respondents to our Web survey see this trend continuing in 2007. Next month's Web survey question: How important do you believe retail exclusives are when it comes to launching a property or brand? Visit www.licensemag.com and let us know.
On a sad note, we bid a fond farewell to Steven J. Seidman, founder and chairman of InGroup Licensing, who died February 16 at the age of 56. With more than 25 years' experience in the trademark licensing industry (including stints at Guess, Inc.; BUM Equipment; and Jordache Jean Company), Seidman was a leader in the domestic and international licensing arenas. A true gentleman and friend to License! Global since its inception, he will be missed. Steve is survived by Judi, his wife of 34 years; his children, Sari and Jonathan; and his daughter-in-law, Effie. The family asks that donations in memorial be made to the American Cancer Society: 1 Executive Blvd., Suite 206, Suffern, NY 10901-4167.