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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?