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Simon Mainwaring challenges brands, retailers: Why do you exist?

Retailers must define their reason for existence, embrace technology and engage with consumers if they want to flourish, according to advertising and omnichannel marketing guru Simon Mainwaring.

Urging companies not to neglect the need for constant change in today’s world, Mainwaring quotes a serial entrepreneur: “Any company designed for the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st”.

Mainwaring spoke at two exclusive seminars run by SAP Hybris in Hong Kong on Thursday, with another two scheduled in Bangkok and Jakarta this week.

With two decades of experience in the advertising industry working on clients including Toyota, Nike and Adidas, Australian-born Mainwaring now heads his own Venice beach-headquartered consulting business We First. His business card carries the slogan “Be the celebrant, not celebrity, of your customer community”.

“Every company, brand, marketer and salesperson is facing new challenges to reach, engage and sell to hyper-connected, media-savvy and always-on consumers living in a challenging world,” he told more than 100 people at the two exclusive SAP Hybris events at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Eric Gorney - SAP HK COO - Welcome Speech at Omnichannel Master Class 1

Demonstrating humanity in your business is just as important as adopting new technology.

“It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the jar.”

Stand back, take a look at yourself and define your reason for existence, he explains.

“Your purpose should be a simple, consistent and scalable story that motivates customer engagement, sales and advocacy.”

Airbnb, for example, is selling “a sense of belonging”. Now the company is expanding beyond its founding base of room or home rentals into concerts, tours and unique travel experiences. “They will create an emotional proposition. They are going to own ‘belonging’ anywhere in the world.”

He advocates bringing brand purpose to life “through a seamless consumer decision journey that is relevant and meaningful to their lives”.

At the core of that is transparency. He points to a raft of businesses who are positioning themselves as transparent, by their very brand name or positioning statement. Brands like Honest Tea, Just Water, smoothie chain Innocent. Positioning statements like Chipotle’s “Food with integrity”; Subway’s “Share the love”.

Brands need to identify their enemy, which might not be another brand. For Toms, the shoe retailer which donates one pair of shoes to the world’s poorest people for every pair sold, its enemy wasn’t other shoe retailers, it was apathy: people didn’t think they can make a difference.

“Blake Mycoskie didn’t want to start a shoe company. He wanted to put shoes on children’s feet. And he found a business model to do that.”

Tom’s logo is “One, Another”. At first it looks like a grammatical error, a misplaced comma. But it speaks about not only the one-for-one shoes program at the core of its business but about teamwork between brand and customer; about helping one another.

CVS controversially discontinued cigarette sales in their US-wide store network in 2016. Shareholders were aghast that the company would walk away from a $1.5 billion turnover business category. It followed that move by subtly changing its name from CVS to CVS Health. Group sales subsequently rose 10 per cent.  The company, a drug store selling medicine and health products, decided it wanted to ‘own’ the healthcare retail space. By axing tobacco sales it proved its health credentials. “They said: We don’t want people pointing to us as part of the problem – we want to be seen as part of the solution.”

Mainwaring also believes the era of conspicuous ownership has passed. “In the past it was all about ‘I wear Prada or Gucci’. Now it is about what your values are. So many luxury brands are re-engineering themselves around values.” Like Gucci’s new positioning as Time for Change.

“The challenge for brands is to connect.”

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