Talbots and Branding: Building Customer Loyalty

» Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Business Strategy, Facebook, Marketing | 0 comments

I hate to shop.  My credit cards may belie the fact, but really, I do not like to shop for entertainment.  On the other hand, I love to feel beautifully dressed, fashionable, expensive, and appropriate.

That’s why I’m such a loyal Talbot’s customer.

I am, in marketing terms, the holy grail of quality clothing consumers.  I’m the right age, the right income bracket, the desirable demographic in every way.  The intersection of all circles on the marketing team’s Venn diagram, that’s me.  I get catalogs and offers from every retailer known to man.  So how does Talbot’s win my loyalty over their competitors?

Answer: great social media branding.

A Repeatable Marketing Plan for Branding

Recently we reviewed Jim Joseph’s branding seminar.  One of the useful things about watching presentations is that they can help organize what you already know about an amorphous subject (like marketing, or branding) into an outline form.  The outline not only makes it easier to communicate ideas about the topic, but it helps form the backbone of a repeatable plan.  Repeatable plans are a good thing for any business – tweaking for the industry and the audience, you can replicate success; by tracking results on each point you can institute policies of continuous improvement.  A repeatable plan makes sure you don’t forget something, and keeps you on track to achieve the “big picture.”

Today I’m going to take a look at one of my favorite retailers and see how they stack up against the outline Harry took away from Jim Joseph’s seminar on branding to achieve a great emotional connection with their customer.  We’ll leave the competitive elements of the plan for now and focus on the following sampling:

1)       Know your customer

2)       Give your customer emotional benefits

3)       Position your product or service

4)       Maximize touch points for your message

Know Your Customer

Talbot’s has clearly put a lot of effort into this one, and it shows throughout their marketing media.  Open a Talbot’s catalogue and you’ll notice something different right away: real women.  At least some of them.  Talbot’s knows that their average customer is not 20 years old, six feet tall, and a size 0.  Their average customer is closer to someone like me: 40-ish, 5’4”, and size…ahem.  Mixed in with the usual gorgeous models (who are six feet tall but not 20 years old) you find plus size models, older models, and “real women” models (pictures of Talbot’s staffers and customers.)   Their theme of “Real Women,” featuring photos accompanied by mini-biographies, is brilliant.  Immediately the customer feels that they can achieve the look presented, and more importantly, that Talbot’s knows who they are.

Not only do they know who they are, but they know what they worry about.

Emotional Benefits

Knowing your customer is important for marketing, but how do you build brand loyalty?  You provide an emotional benefit.  And to provide that benefit, you have to know your customer well enough to know what they worry about.

When I think about clothes I worry about looking good: but most of all (I admit this in the interests of science) I think about being appropriate, about getting it right.  Let’s face it, most versions of skinny jeans are just not a good look for me.  Belts may be in but what if I end up looking like a sausage pinched in the middle?  I consider the issues of looking old fashioned, or of looking too young.

Talbot’s doesn’t stop at offering clothes, they offer expertise.  Talbot’s Facebook page gives links to short videos on how to  choose coats best suited for your figure, how to wear a belt, how to put a look together.  They offer a personalized shopping service, with a phone consultation followed by an in-store shopping session with clothing selections pre-chosen for you.  They offer advice on particular size issues, figure issues, or shopping for events.  Their scarves come with a manual!

Talbot’s isn’t just a store; it’s a team of friends who will do their best to make you look good.  Better than friends, because they’ll tell you the truth about what suits you and won’t try to make sure you don’t upstage them.  It’s your fantasy of being on a TV makeover show, without the humiliation part.  They make their customer feel that they have a personal staff of stylists.

Who wouldn’t want that kind of pampering?

Positioning of Product and Service

And here’s where they’ve positioned their product.  Not as an inexpensive option, not as a place where you can shop for the family.  You can’t buy your kids clothes at Talbot’s; after a short experiment with a men’s line, you cannot pick up something for your husband there.  You go there just for you.  The clothing is high quality, the service is high touch, and the stores are quiet and relaxing.  The product is positioned as a high quality, pampering purchase for women in a fairly narrow age range.

By positioning their product clearly and narrowly, it makes it easier for them to know their customer – and they can play on their strengths.  Throughout their media, you see repeated code words: Elegance. Imported Linen.  Yarn dyed. Pintucked.

Words that don’t usually appear: “discount,” “bargain,” or even “family.”

Talbot’s positioning is clear, and, importantly: consistent across their channels.

Maximize “Touch Points”

In his blog post on the subject,  Jim Joseph described touch points as just another way of saying “media plan.” While there are quite a few different categories of touch points, “the best ones are arm’s length from consumer, so that you can literally reach out and “touch” them,” Jim says.

And here’s how Talbot’s stays front of mind when I decide I need a new outfit for the wedding coming up next month: they communicate with me every day.   Which says more about my Facebook addiction than anything else, probably, but that’s just another reason I’m an ideal consumer.  By gathering my email address as part of the “Preferred Customer” program (yes, I have a little red swipe tag on my key ring, too!) they can send me emails of sales and promotions, with smart links into their website.  I have reasons to be a part of their Facebook community because they offer special deals, promotions, and more interestingly, access to professionals, on their page. (They feature meet and greets, Q and A sessions with stylists, and invitations to in-store events on their FB page frequently.)

Talbot’s is a great example of how a good branding plan can achieve the ultimate goal for a consumer product company: customer loyalty.  The time they’ve spent in studying their customers has paid dividends: it has provided clarity to their messaging, and allowed them to link with an emotional bond.  Never assume that your particular product doesn’t lend itself to emotional attachment – just work harder to figure out what your clients worry about, and follow a repeatable plan to brand your product accordingly.

To learn more about Spalding Barker Strategies, visit our homepage or Contact Us to see how we can help your business.

 

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