Without doubt, well-known brand name products are a strategic advantage to retailers as well. Why? The answer is really quite simple. Consumers make purchasing decisions based on the psychological and social images of the goods they buy. The key for retailers and suppliers is in understanding that statement. To capitalize on the brand names we are selling, we need to move beyond the physical aspects of our products and study the emotional and psychological reactions of consumers to those products.
Harley-Davidson motorcycles are an excellent example. Motorcyclists choose Harley-Davidson bikes because beyond being just a motor vehicle they represent a lifestyle and an attitude.
So how does a retailer take full advantage of a brand name that consumers desire and pursue? In response to that question, I would like to introduce another brandŽone that's not quite as recognizable as Harley-Davidson and one that's more relevant hereŽas an example of how even an emerging brand can be successfully merchandised.
That brand is Gail Pittman. Pittman is a Mississippi ceramic artist who turned a cottage industry into a multi-million-dollar corporation. Pittman's colorful ceramic dinnerware patterns first gained popularity when college co-eds chose them as wedding china. Today, Pittman's ceramic pottery line includes more than 200 pieces from dinnerware to doorknobs and from ceramic-framed mirrors to ceramic-inlaid tables in 38 different patterns. Product line expansion that Pittman has underway includes hand-painted glassware and glass cake domes, paper products and other home accessories.
Distribution of these products are through service-oriented, specialty gift and home accessories stores throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, her Annabella dinnerware pattern has been featured in the March 1999 Horchow Collection catalog.
Most relevant to retailers, perhaps, are the two wall covering and fabric collections Pittman has designed to match her ceramic pieces. Distributed exclusively by Seabrook, Memphis, TN, the two Sandpiper Studios collections are named Gail Pittman: An American Artist, Volume I and II.
So, if you're carrying or plan to carry the Pittman wall covering collections, a key factor to keep in mind is that there is a captive audience that has already psychologically bought into the mystique of Pittman's art. Those brides-to-be who registered for Gail Pittman dinnerware are emotionally attached to the designs they have chosen. Likewise, collectors of all ages have chosen Pittman's charming, joyful patterns to decorate their homes.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Quickly, here are just 10 effective ways to merchandise the Gail Pittman name (or any brand name, for that matter), starting with the wall coverings and fabrics.
1. First and most importantly, communicate that you carry the Gail Pittman wall covering collections. If people don't know you have the products, they can't buy them.
2. Study the collection books. Look at the room-setting photography to see how the products all work together. Learn everything you can about the products' benefits. Learn the pattern names as Pittman's fans typically collect a particular pattern. You'll then be speaking the customer's language. Teach your store personnel what you've learned. After that, don't sell the product, romance it.
3. Find out the names of the specialty stores near you that carry Pittman's dinnerware and other lines. Share the names of those stores with your customers. Then ask the specialty stores to refer their customers to you.
4. Contact the specialty retailers near you who carry Pittman's products and discuss ways to jointly market the brand, sharing the costs and the results.
5. Ask those retailers if they maintain a list of Gail Pittman collectors. If so, negotiate with the retailer to obtain that list and use telemarketing or direct mail to let them know about the wall coverings and fabrics.
6. Display the product using several of the Pittman dinnerware and tabletop accessories. Customers will find it a convenient way to achieve a complete look in their home.
7. Change the display often so that customers can see the vast range of looks and patterns available in the Pittman portfolio.
8. Provide the gift and decorative accessories retailer with wall coverings and fabrics to display with their products. Make sure your business cards or a small display sign with your store's name and address is part of the exhibit.
9. Talk to your local newspaper editor to get publicity for the Gail Pittman line. One story line for the home section could be how to achieve a completely coordinated room quickly and easily.
10. Purchase a few of the Pittman ceramic pieces and hold a drawing to win the items. Customers must come to your store to enter, of course. (You may be able to obtain the items free from the specialty store in exchange for publicity for them.)
These are just 10 possible ways to promote a brand name. The key is to let those people who love the brand know you have the brand. It's the fastest way to sales results.
James Allen is corporate sales director for Seabrook Wallcoverings, Inc., Memphis, TN; (800) 238-9152.