HMV is in trouble.
And their marketers are making it worse.
Here are the three mistakes they’re making, and what other marketing professionals can learn from them…
And that this activity comes on the back of their “The Big Sale” activity post Christmas which, at least in my local store, sees up to 70% off products, multiple purchase deals and so on.
This is probably the worst move that the retailer could make – and here are the reasons why.
One – All HMV seem to do these days are sales. And they’re even failing at that.
They’re competing in a price-driven race to the bottom where they deep discount items to try and woo cost-conscious consumers through the doors.
However, in every single HMV store that I’ve been to, the pricing structure is completely shot to pieces. You can find the same DVD at three different prices. You can purchase all of the James Bond films more cheaply that you can a boxset with a few of them omitted.
The listening posts, such as they are, rarely work nor do they hold the store’s inventory. I’ve been to several HMVs where I’ve been thinking about purchasing an album, tried to find it on the listening post (bear in mind that I’m holding the disc in my hand) and found that it’s “Out Of Stock” or “Not Available”. Invariably, I put the disc back. Sale lost.
What’s even better is that (so I’m very reliably informed) you can pay MORE for products through their website than you can on the shop floor – perhaps this is their strategy to get people into the physical estate… Ridiculous.
Go to their website and you’re greeted by a red page with “the big sale” splattered across it. This does NOTHING for the brand’s catalogue, aside from accelerating the race to the bottom.
How this Blue Cross Sale will actually be any different to the inconsistently applied regular sales is unclear.
Two – there’s no added value.
Yes, customers come through the door on price, but they’ll stay on added value and a decent instore experience.
I’ve written before about how HMV love stacking their DVDs in piles on the floor. I’ve heard reports of staff going to restock the shelves and just chucking the products onto the floor – remember, these are things that people are going to BUY and pay money for. A little care to avoid cracking cases would be appreciated.
The instore experience is generally awful. Happy shoppers browse and buy, but in HMV, all I see are people wanting to get out or hunting from sale rack to sale rack like demented hyenas after a sniff of blood.
There’s no instore narrative to guide you around. There’s often no space to move either – aisles are rarely more than two people wide.
And don’t expect any real music, film or technology lovers to work there either. In my experience, all you get are sales people who know where the products are, but not WHAT the products are nor why I might wish to purchase them.
Stressful places don’t make for financially lucrative shopping experiences. Adding value with a decent instore layout, knowledgeable staff and excellent customer assistance would transform the business.
Three – this is the REAL KICKER – the Blue Cross Sale.
“A spokesman for the brand says the activity is will “freshen up” its promotional activity and make HMV “stand out on a high street already crowded with sales”.” (Source: Marketing Week’s story)
Where do HMV find their marketers? Do they EVER go outside of their special little HMV branded bubble and into the real world?
No, they don’t.
I’m going to prove this in three ways:
A) What are these images for?
You’re right. Of course.
The first one is for Debenhams, who have run their Blue Cross Sale events for as long as I can remember.
The second is for the Blue Cross pet charity.
Both have substantial brand recognition and contribute to the crowded marketplace that HMV wants (need) to avoid).
B) Google “Blue Cross Sale”. I dare you.
Oh look, Debenhams. House of Fraser. Pontins. Superdrug. Lifestyle Ford. Park Holidays (caravan vacations). West Orchards. The Frame.
Do I need to go on?
Both points one and two run mind-buggeringly contrary to helping “HMV stand out on a high street”.
If you’re going to “stand out” don’t do what your competition does. Do something DIFFERENT.
C) And here, I’m sorry to say, my rage finally boils over.
Think of HMV’s brand. What do you get?
Not blue. Nowhere in their entire brand palette, is the colour blue. Not instore, not on their till receipts, not on their website.
So why in all seven levels of branding hell are HMV holding a BLUE cross sales event?
Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.
This is brand suicide.
In fact, I predict that HMV will be off the UK high street by October this year if they don’t kick their marketers hard where the sun doesn’t shine and get them thinking sensibly.
(Or, better still, fire the lot of them and draft in someone who knows what they’re doing.)
So, what can we learn from HMV’s mind-blowingly terrible business and marketing plans?
Firstly – if you’re in trouble and have to deep discount, make sure that you apply this consistently throughout your entire estate.
Don’t let you customers find things priced differently in the same rack. Because all they’ll do is pick up the cheapest one and leave the more expensive ones for the next consumer (who will go somewhere else).
And don’t, for goodness sake, let your customer buy something in one store which they later find even cheaper in another.
Be completely consistent and look to maximise the value of the customer as they enter your estate.
Secondly – look at what the rest of the marketplace is up to. And by marketplace, I don’t mean your category rivals.
Look at everywhere else that the consumer might go and spend some money.
And then differentiate your offer.
Don’t, for god’s sake, run a Blue Cross Sale because everyone else is doing it. That won’t help you stand out.
Thirdly, and finally, understand your brand. Whatever you do should run in accordance with your brand principles, ethics and identity. HMV had proven that they don’t know anything about their brand by using ‘blue’ as their sale colour.
Hell. I’d be over-joyed if they had the ‘Dog’s Bollocks’ sale. At least that would be somewhat contiguous…
So, there we have it.
Faced with staggering incompetence at every promotional level, I give HMV 10 months before they collapse into themselves.
But we can learn from their mistakes. We can see what shouldn’t have been done, and what must be done.
Sadly for the brand, it’s an expensive lesson they’re providing for the rest of us…
Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
You can follow Neil on Twitter, circle him (like an escaped bull) on Google+ or track him down in any number of other ways.
Featured image is copyright Leo Reynolds and found on Flickr.
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also want to read some follow-up thinking from Hilton Barbour on Challenger Branding and why if you’re marketing to the middle, you may end up as roadkill…