A brand is a promise to consumers, building an image of one's organisation of credibility, quality and satisfaction. As the world moves further away from traditional bricks-and-mortar retail and more towards digitised transactions, in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales, the reality is that more often than not, an organisations supply chain is the only tangible brand experience a client has. Despite this, marketers and supply chain professionals do not seem to realise how closely intertwined their functions are.
Marketing’s core function is to generate demand, and brand promises drive demand. Delivering on such promises is however firmly within the realm of the supply chain, and can, therefore, have a marked impact on the perception the end customer has of the brand as a whole. As customers become ever more impatient and service orientated a late delivery, missed collection or damaged product can fundamentally damage an organisations brand image.
The concept of a “Branded Supply Chain” embodies the notion that a brand is more than imagery and words. A supply chain is an integral part of your customer experience, brand message and organisational values and as such it is imperative that from raw material through to end consumer these elements are considered to be as important as they are to the marketing team.
To be able to support your organisational brand, and indeed for the brand to not promise something the supply chain cannot deliver, it is essential that these two seemingly separate functions work closely together, both when crafting organisational messages to market, and when designing key points along a supply chain. For example, Nike gets new products to consumers either in traditional retailers or via e-commerce, quicker than their competitors – which is to be expected from a brand associated with lightning-fast reflexes and response times. Whirlpool’s supply chain embodies its brand value of innovation with Six Sigma accuracy and cutting-edge manufacturing processes. On the other hand, you have to wait two years for your new Aston Martin DBS. That’s the price of luxury. If you could get it tomorrow, you might not want it quite as much.
The above are examples of how some organisational supply chains have been crafted to be far more than a simple delivery and storage mechanism, but an embodiment of a brand message. The challenge lies not only in internal collaboration between marketing and supply chain but in holding service providers to brand standards. This adds a level of complexity to the process, highlighting the importance of business fit when selecting providers. By aligning with supply chain experts that can deliver the expected service is obvious, but perhaps it is time that partners are evaluated in terms of their congruence with an organisations brand and values, and not simply their ability to move goods.