Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Food Retail Differentiation doesn’t Mean Different it means Familiar

When was the last time you went to a grocery store, C-store, Liquor store, Drug store or Restaurant and were surprised by a fresh food offering, menu item, Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat product? Corporate marketers with legacy chains strive to keep up with their competitors.

Back in the day when a foodservice chain would lose market share someone would lose their job! Not in today’s world, they simply copy what the industry niche sector leader is doing, quieting disgruntled franchises or shareholders. When was the last time your company made a difference in the marketplace? When did you last gain Share of Stomach?

Innovation be Dammed,  today highly paid marketers, Coo’s and CEO’s play it safe they tell their teams take no risks copy what is working to survive. When this occurs success is based on unique points of distribution, price, not product. Then everyone loses; stakeholders, shareholders, franchisees, and most importantly consumers according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru®.

Management complacency and mediocrity seem to be the status quo.  Back in the day branded food retail operators were consumer focused, product driven O’ and they were growing.   The new mantra for branded chain C-level executives appears to be, don’t risk innovation, follow the leader, and maintain niche equilibrium, and the stock options and paychecks keep rolling in.  Are your customer counts up?

The loser may not just be the consumer from lack of true innovation, brand values drop, consumer brand apathy increases, and market share capitulation is a direct result.  How many of you have closed units this past year? How many of you have not posted year over year customers count increases for the last three years?

In reality when differentiation becomes product, price, and points of distribution rather innovative new products, or service.   When price and location become a more important value than the brand, the undercurrents of brand disequilibrium are already underway. Yes, you location will lose value over time if this continues much longer.

Consider looking from the consumers perspective, there is very little overall difference between  A&P, Marsh, Safeway, Rite Adie, Walgreens, TGI Fridays, Houlihan's, Bennigan’s or between McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King.  Within the Pizza sector, a similar set of problems from the consumer perspective exist between Pizza Hut, Dominos; Papa John’s Godfathers they all having the same number one selling pizza pepperoni. Familiar does work.
Legacy brands capitulate market share as an unintended consequence of over controlling the brand protectionism within the four walls and executive compliancy. It’s just that simple.

More and more consistent niche equilibrium can be the seductress of compliancy and mediocrity for CEO’s & COO’s of major retail brands and chains.  When C-level officers and brand marketers are more focused on the controlling the brand; staying within their niche and within their four walls rather than paying attention to the consumer, a loss of market share is sure to follow.  Consumers are dynamic, brand must be as well.

Steven Johnson is the Grocerant Guru at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®, with extensive experience as a public speaker, multi-unit operator, consultant and brand/product positioning expert. Outside Eyes can provide inside results.  Interested in a product, or brand scorecard? Contact: 253-759-7869 or

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