True Value’s marketing chief embraces simplicity
In his first market presentation to True Value retailers, the co-op’s new VP marketing and chief customer officer Blake Fohl laid out a plan for — what else? — improved marketing.
He also promised improvements to True Value Rewards (TVR).
One key to the co-op’s marketing campaign is going to be building brand awareness, one store at a time, he said during the True Value market event in Orlando, Fla., this week. To help spread the word on national television, the co-op intends to use its own retail members to tell their story in front of their own stores. In fact, one of the events on the market floor was an open casting area where retailers auditioned for the commercials.
Print advertising will also be more targeted and more local. The co-op eliminated its national print program, but it doubled the amount of co-op dollars that members have to spend on advertising. Fohl added: "So, I implore each one of you to build and create compelling offers for your stores and then use the co-op dollars available to you to advertise them."
Fohl, who replaced Carol Wentworth in December, said systems have to be simple to implement, monitor, measure and adjust, while at the same time offering retail members the flexibility they need.
"We understand the limited amount of time you have every day to dedicate to marketing, and it’s not a lot," Fohl said. "So, we understand that we have to build programs that are simple to implement."
Describing TVR — True Value Rewards loyalty and marketing program — as a disappointment, he told retail members the co-op has identified the issues with the data, which are expected to be "cleaned" by the end of the first quarter, and he promised changes.
"By the end of the second quarter, we will begin providing additional reporting, which will allow you to analyze each campaign on a net profit basis, which will allow you to better manage your program," he said.
On a positive note, Fohl said retailers staying with the TVR program in 2012 will see the cost reduced from $1,800 to $900.
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Hardware Show is building a pavilion for U.S.-made products
Richard Russo has seen more than his fair share of new products in his career with the National Hardware Show. And in recent years, he’s seeing an increasing number of made-in-the-USA products along with research indicating the trend is real.
"It came up pretty strong in our research," said Russo, director of the National Hardware Show. "Made in the USA was trending strong on the consumer side. And the retailers were clearly interested in what we at the National Hardware Show would be able to expose them to at the event."
Based on the feedback and the trends, this year’s show in Las Vegas May 1-3 will little more red, white and blue, he said. For the first time at the show, a "Made in the USA Pavilion" will showcase domestic-made products, which will also be marked throughout the exhibit floor with banners. (Sponsoring the pavilion, appropriately, is the Made in the USA Brand and Logo Certification Mark.)
Determining what companies pass the Made in the USA test is part art, part science, with some subjectivity involved. For the purposes of the National Hardware Show, Russo described a combination of criteria from various groups, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce. "We’re not the judge and jury of what is Made in the USA," Russo said. "But what we’re going to do is provide full disclosure of what that product is." In a nutshell, if 80% or more of a product is manufactured domestically, it counts.
The changes have some positive feedback from retailers and attendees, Russo said. And vendors are knocking on the door for inclusion. So far, 65 companies are in the pavilion, and the show expects about 100 will be showcased in May.
What is sparking the interest? Russo points to pocketbook patriotism. "There is definitely a correlation between the decline in the economy and consumer interest in doing whatever they can to boost the domestic economy. This pavilion has given us an opportunity to showcase our Made in the USA products to give the retailers the opportunity to make that choice."
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Former Fleeger’s employee offers epitaph for a business
A posting on a message board of the Toledo Blade on the closing of Fleeger’s PRO Hardware reflected the challenges facing a small business in a down economy. It also shows one employee’s passion for the business.
The employee’s comment on his experience at Fleeger’s PRO Hardware appeared in a long stream of comments regarding the closing of the store. Here is the note in its entirety:
"As one who has worked for Fleeger’s for the last five years, I can give some insight on the value of my employer.
"About me: I have worked in corporate America most of my life. I was mainly, and still am a Fleeger’s customer at heart. I will miss the paycheck, to be sure. But what will I really miss? Our customers who come in with the latest jokes, my fellow employees who lift me up every day I come in, who are honestly invested in each other’s well-being and that of our Fleeger Family.
"Most of all, undeniably, I will miss working for a lady who treats employees with kindness, courtesy, warmth, humanity, generosity, offers great council in both business and our personal trials. Laura Fleeger-Koenig has been up front with us about the battles we faced as a company. She spent much time with our employees listening and helping get us ready for the inevitable closing. Laura has honesty and integrity.
"Customer satisfaction was priority number one, no question. It was ingrained in her by her father and uncle who started the business. We went out of our way to buy from local vendors whenever possible, and by way of our store newsletter we even promoted other local business — at no charge — only in hopes of helping each other out. In the end analysis, this may have been what cost us the war — our uncompetitive nature. But we won many battles along the way. We never lost the battle with the big boxes. We are competitive, we had to be. We lost the war due to changes in buying habits, a throw-away society, planned obsolescence, and mostly this severe recession. How many large corporations can say the same?"
Proud Fleeger’s Employee
No one is ever going to write
No one is ever going to write in similar fashion about their time at Big Orange, Big Blue, or the Scourge of the Midwest. Nice words about a fine company that actually knew something about serving the best interests of its customers.