Monday, March 30, 2009

Branding Disconnect Makes Tote Garbage

Last week I attended an event where I got another tote bag from a well-meaning sponsor. Aside from the fact that we now suffer from an influx of coffee mugs, water bottles, and toe bags (much like we did five years ago with frisbees and mousepads), I was struck by the incredible poor positioning by the company.

REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc) has a longstanding reputation in the Pacific Northwest as being a purveyor of contemporary outdoor equipment and merchandise. From your high-tech sleeping bag, nordic-rated tent, to even a campfire espresso machine, REI regularly impresses customers with the latest and greatest for the outdoor enthusiast. So WHY, please tell me WHY, did they choose to put their orginating date on their bag. AND WHY did they choose a tote bag to convey that message?

Marketers -- we have to stop being stupid and stop choosing the easy way. How does a generic tote-bag further the brand or position of REI? How does putting the only message on the bag your company's origination date reinforcing the image of contemporary -- and even high-tech -- equipment?

The next time your company has the privilege to reach out to a group of people when you sponsor their event, make that thing you give them useful and relevant to your brand. As well, ensure that it reinforces your position in the market as not only the best choice, but the ONLY REASONABLE choice.

-- David Kinard, PCM


Danielle said...

I agree with your conclusion that a tote bag is not the best method of furthering their brand, but I disagree with your understanding of the brand as well as your position regarding the choice to use their originating date on a marketing piece.

REI is not only known for high-tech, contemporary products, but I think they place themselves as a company that provides out-door gear that LASTS. From their co-op system to using members (with their year of membership) for their advertisements, REI wants you to know that they will be here, provide quality products that please for years to come and have a history of satisfying customers.

The tote bag is way overdone, but the originating date is a badge that I think REI uses well.

Thanks for your blog! I really enjoy your posts!

David Kinard, PCM said...

Thanks for your comment Danielle. I agree with the attributes and messages that you listed. And how much more powerful it could have been if REI used those words instead of their inception date.

I truly believe that we marketers assume too much in our messaging and we need to be much more overt and obvious in what we want to convey.

Glad you like the blog...keep commenting!!

David said...

the problem is that some low level procurement type had responsibility to 'get bags'. Probably shopping on price, no clue re design, and last minute which reflected limited copy area. Premium items can be garbage, or great - typically last minute purchase - not based on demos with little thought. Coming from someone selling this stuff.