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Brand Management

Enlisting Suppliers To Strengthen Your Brand

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Enlisting Suppliers To Strengthen Your Brand

The mandate of prioritizing customer needs is well known, but of course customers are not the only participants in your organization’s ecosystem and not the only ones that can influence the success of your brand.

By forging new interpretations of old relationships you can find over-looked opportunities for brand differentiation. When you rethink the way your industry approaches suppliers and other members in the value chain a stronger brand can emerge. Start by taking a look at other partners in your supply chain—the ones that are less often catered to, such as suppliers, manufacturers, and deliverers. Like customers, these partners have jobs to be done, and helping them solve their own business problems can be a win-win situation for all.

Very few companies even remotely consider these possibilities. This is best illustrated through an example. In this case, let’s select bread. For decades, bread arrived at stores prepared and ready to sell. Grocers would take the bread straight from the loading dock to their bakery shelves, and that would be the end of the bread journey. Midway through the 20th century, savvy bread manufacturers created a new kind of bread technique called parbaking. Parbaked loaves are half-baked and frozen. They travel hundreds of miles in their half-formed state in refrigerated trucks before grocery-store employees finish baking and packaging the loaves.

On the surface, it seems counterintuitive that grocery stores would agree to take on this new work, not to mention investing in ovens and hiring special bakery staff. But what made parbaked bread stand out is that it offered a unique value proposition for grocers thirsting for ways to differentiate themselves: freshly baked bread in their stores, all throughout the day, and without the labor costs of artisan bakers. Sometimes the bread-baking would create delectable smells that would waft throughout the bakery. Parbaked bread spoke to deeper customer preferences by demonstrating freshness in the store, making the bakery look visually interesting, and creating a welcoming experience.

It turned out to be a great proposition for the grocers. Bread manufacturers won as well, since longer shelf life allows for less frequent deliveries and produces less waste. This symbiotic new partnership between bread manufacturers and their retail customers was a brilliant brand differentiator that came about because of a willingness to rethink traditional vendor partnerships.

Try This For Your Brand:

1. Identify the major types of players in your value chain. This may include suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, warehouses, retailers, and brokers.

2. For each type, think through the dynamics of their business. What are the jobs they try to get done? What pain points hinder their progress?

3. Brainstorm ideas that could help the other members of your value chain—for example, making them more efficient, helping them carry less working capital, or becoming faster to respond.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Steve Wunker with the permission of Harper Collins. Excerpted and adapted from his new book Costovation.

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