Times are tough. We all know that. And as brand experts, one of the best pieces of advice we give is the need to find and occupy a distinctive positioning in your market. Get this right, communicate your point of difference creatively, usually with the help of your own brand personality, and the rest should sort itself out. Right? Well, that's the theory.
This week Oddbins, one of my favourite brands, went into administration. Well, the brand didn't, but the company that owns it did. They have struggled against the supermarkets for years, and when the companies they owed money to decided not to accept 21p in the £ and a voluntary settlement (who can blame them), the administrators were called in. My hope in these situations is that the staff continue to be paid, which the guy in Street Lane said he has been. On Sunday night at least.
Established in 1963, the Oddbins brand has been built around a very distinctive personality. It stands out from the usual crowd of offies (as we used to call them) with its tone of voice. Great messages in the windows, knowledgeable staff with their welcome and sense of humour, Oddbins has always served me very well. Their recommendations have very rarely been anything other than great, and for someone that knows little about wine, its a great help.
So what went wrong? Well the obvious factor has been the power of the supermarkets. Stack it high and the masses will buy. We all love a good deal after all. Everyone moans about supermarket shopping and the convenience of buying everything in one go, but very few manage to avoid it. Oddbins has also made some mistakes too. It has concentrated on a very narrow slice of the market, selling wines of between about £8 and £15 a bottle. Nothing here to really compete in the mass market, which is looking for decent plonk for 6 quid or that ever popular brand of 3for. At the top end, Oddbins also used to look after the connoisseurs, with an excellent range of finer wines for the finer palette. But that went too, as the money men pushed too hard in too narrow a niche. And for all the efforts to create individuality and avoid generic POS, their game has noticeably slipped over the last couple of years, and their performance with it.
In the end, with the familiar tale of strangling debt, the brand has not been able to compete in our evermore competitive markets. So one of the most distinctive brands out there has gone the way of so many. I personally hope the brand lives on and can still be true to the itself. It sounds as if a number of buyers are in the frame, so the name at least will rise from the ashes. For me, there is definitely still room for specialist advice from a trusted advisor, which is what Oddbins is all about, and I for one will be supporting it as much as this moderate drinker can.