CVS, one of the nation’s largest drug store chains, announced that starting October 1, it would no longer sell tobacco products. The official reason given for the change is that selling cigarettes is fundamentally incompatible with CVS’s mission to promote health and wellness among its customers, but retail experts say that the fact that Walgreens, one of CVS’s largest competitors, is continuing to sell smokes is attributed to another reason. The decision to not deal in tobacco products could cost CVS upwards of $2 billion, but for that price, they’re gaining a valuable differentiator in a crowded, competitive marketplace.
In other words, an operational choice can have a tremendous marketing benefit. That’s not something discussed often enough, especially in small business circles. We should be talking about how what we decide NOT to do can play an important role in defining our brand identity.
Let’s start with an example from Technology Therapy Group’s own history. We know there are lots of marketing companies out there. Chances are that you’ve called one or two of them in your time. A significant portion of the time, those calls are going to be answered by an automated system, directing you to press 1 for this person, 2 for that one – I’m sure you’re familiar. But you’re not going to get that when you call us during the day. We decided long ago not to invest in the tech-heavy approach in favor of a more personal touch. When you call, you’re going to talk to Theresa, Courtney, Nina, or Brianna – not a machine. It’s part of who we are; it’s the way we do things.
Will that single decision convince a business owner who needs a website design or social media management to choose us rather than one of our competitors? Maybe not in and of itself – but it is a factor that illustrates what we’re like to work with, a critical consideration in choosing any marketing agency. In much the same way, the fact that you can’t buy cigarettes at CVS may not be enough to convince someone to shop there – but it could be the critical consideration that, when added to other factors, sways someone’s loyalty away from a drug store that doesn’t support healthy choices to one that does.
Take a look at your operation with this in mind. Is there something you’re doing because all of your competitors are also doing it, even though it doesn’t align with your core values? What can you opt out of that will reinforce your brand identity, strengthen your bond with your customers, and make you stand out in a crowded marketplace?