Does Jos. Bank’s marketing strategy build trust and brand value?

Lurking questions: How do you make up for the "losses" from selling three items for the price of one?

I cancelled my subscription to the relentless Jos. A. Bank e-mail ads today.  This has nothing to do with the quality of their clothes (most of my business wardrobe is from there), my need for business suits and accessories, or with reducing my e-mail volume.

It has to do with trust.

Here are a few examples:

  • Same e-mail:  Buy One, Get Two Free off their entire stock of sportscoats, dress pants, and sportswear AND Buy One, Get Four Free (Buy one suit and get two dress shirts and two ties free).
  • Buy One, Get Two Free on Suits and Suit Separates.  That same e-mail also included 50% off all sportswear and dress pants and 40% off all dress shirts, ties, and accessories.
  • Today’s offer: Buy one suit, get a second suit free PLUS a sportcoat or blazer FREE!

The company’s FY 2009 earnings indicate this strategy continues to be effective (although growth from Internet sales (where pricing like this make more sense) is double that of store sales).  But as a longtime customer I’m finding it increasingly difficult to trust a company that stresses quality but undermines that position by using one huge sale after another to drive business.  Perhaps the goal is to get busy executives in the door and sell overpriced non-sales accessories (i.e., ties, shirts, belts) but I think the strategy cheapens the brand.

Some analysts say they’re the best of the best in terms of creating a sense of urgency that drives sales.  I say that knowing there will be another sale tomorrow eliminates any sense of urgency on the part of the buyer.  And maybe it doesn’t matter so long as the customer eventually lands at Jos. Bank.

The Jos. A Bank tagline is The Expert in Men’s Apparel.  But ask prospective customers what they think of when you say the company’s name and I’ll bet you the vast majority focus on the sales.  Seems like a disconnect to me, although you might argue the relentless promotions keep them at the top of the buyer’s mind.

I get Walmart:  Spend Less.  Live Better. Setting aside all the Walmart issues that some readers will quickly point out, everyday low pricing works because it’s Simple.  You wonder why a company like Jos. Bank that sells clothes that are long lasting, always appropriate, and not flashy wouldn’t embrace a similar simple pricing strategy.  As a seller of private label clothes, Bank has a pricing advantage because they’ve eliminated the middleman and one layer of price markups.  But the marketing strategy doesn’t feel simple.

Aggressive promotional pricing detracts from the quality image that Bank is trying to cultivate.  And that’s not the prescription for an enduring long-term relationship, even in the face of an existing long-term relationship.  Jos. Bank has done promotions that promise customers their money back if they bought a suit and got laid off (although that one had “potential abuse” written all over it).  That’s how long-term relationships are built.

What do you think?  Am I missing something here?  Are there other examples of companies who marketing strategy seems to be working, potentially at the cost of long-term trust?

4 thoughts on “Does Jos. Bank’s marketing strategy build trust and brand value?

  1. The “deal” at Jos. A. Banks has not and does not change much and if you like what you buy then trust may not be at issue.

    There was a neon sign in Stamford CT over the original Piney Bowes plant that was missing letters and in disrepair only during any economic slump over the 50 years I was privvy to it. In paralell and seemingly always broadening, the Jos A. Banks’ media campaign always puts me in the mind that the more vigor they convey the worse the economy is. At this time we therefore are in big trouble. There was the Crazy Eddie’s Christams sale in August (old nyc chain another example of “hard sell”. If hard sell did not work then literally billions of dollars in promotion is waste. Some people go for the hard sale. If it “woiks” then keep it on the air. Only those who went into the store would know that it is of good quality.

    More and more I am disappointed with Target, Walmart and even Costco. Prices for many commodities are competative across the board for things I want. Everything is flattening, diferentiation of any kind is essential.

  2. I think that Trust is a major factor apart from impulse buyers to make someone buy something. Especialy if it is a high ticket product

  3. Bank’s isn’t alone – too many businesses seem to think burying the customer in email is a wise move.

    Peter, since I don’t subscribe to Bank’s emails, could you share some details? Were they simply promotional “Buy 1, get 1” offers – or did they try to educate the reader on styles, how to mix-and-match so that you got more mileage out of your wardrobe, what to look for in terms of quality clothing (stitches, materials, etc.)?

    Would you have been more interested in learning about ‘how to look like $1 million without spending $1 million’? Might that approach have helped you remain a subscriber?

    Do they offer anything special such as “New Season Preview Night” where you can come to the store for a special preview of the new line?

    What could they have done with the email to have provided you with enough value to remain a subscriber?

  4. Pat,
    Thanks for the comment. There’s no education in the e-mails that I’ve received. It’s purely a percentage-off play. Keep in mind that the company does a great job of educating its salespeople and they serve the customer well and build loyalty at the point of sale. And there are periodic “preferred customers” nights.

    I have no issue with the quality of clothes…and really very little issue with their prices in general. My issue is with the idea that if I can regularly get two suits for the price of one, I have to wonder if a suit that normally sells for $400 is really worth just $200. I also wonder, given the regularity of the sales, why they don’t just move to a more consistent price point focused on everyday value that would enable them to more efficiently highlight quality at the same time.

    Your last question is a good one. The key word there is value. I suppose it would be something to convince me I NEED a new suit, since they’ve educated me that there will always be a sale at Jos. A. Bank. Perhaps something along the line of their money-back guarantee if you get laid off. How about, we’ll rebate 25% if you buy a new suit for a job interview and then get the job. You might tie it into an offer where you’d get the rebate on the previous sale and a discount on a purchase the day you come in for your rebate (since you’re most likely at that point to be thinking about buying new clothes for your new job).

    Again, thanks for the thoughtful comment.


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