“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Dorothy Gale (Wizard of Oz)
Have you ever said something that you felt the immediate spotlight of interrogation upon you?
The mood in the room shifts and you’re transported to another world.
Witnessing a whirlwind of “WTFs” across the faces of the digitally entrenched.
There’s no coming back. It’ll take more than courage. You’re now an outcast.
Well, this was me. Early-stage of my career. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
Like a rookie, I had inadvertently challenged the unwritten rule of the agency I was working in at the time. I may have broken the spirit of my boss. If it was today, I would’ve been cancelled.
‘What did you say?’ I hear you cry.
What terrible, ignorant, comment did you make to create such disgust and disgruntlement?
I had been stupid enough to suggest that a website wasn’t the only way to sell online. Facebook or eBay could be used instead.
I know. You don’t have to say anything. I know…
Method in the madness
Hear me out.
There’s method in the madness. I promise.
Let me justify my comment, and then, you have my permission to judge.
Back then I was in content marketing. And the realisation set in very quickly that all we were doing was creating lots of noise and not thinking about the purpose or distribution first.
This applied to all aspects. Especially the actual selling.
After all, where are customers going to make informed decisions? Where are they going to make purchases?
The go-to-market strategy is make or break.
Building a brand takes a combination of distinctiveness, time, consistency and availability (Romaniuk, 2018). Something that doesn’t always translate well to the ‘we want it now’ style of client (it’s why I take a different approach to agency management).
But if we consider how quickly services are becoming their own eco-systems, then we start to see these opportunities differently – eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Google Shopping, Amazon Marketplace etc. are all routes-to-market (distribution).
Customers are using and shopping in these spaces, and just like a bricks n’ mortar store or an exhibition stand, they create availability for discovery and trade.
Increasing physical availability
Sharp (2010) wrote an entire book on ‘How brands grow’, and while there are many elements within this (Twitter is saturated with threads about this book), there are two elements that are specific for the route-to-market aspect:
Mental availability: “Mental availability/brand salience is the propensity for a brand to be noticed and/or thought of in buying situations.” (P.191, Sharp, 2010)
Physical availability: “…making a brand as easy to notice and buy as possible, for as many customers as possible…” ( p.196, Sharp, 2010)
The former I’ll cover later, but the idea is based around convenience – how quick and easy is the product/service to notice and access?
It’s about reducing friction. Be where the customer is. Sounds simple, but this requires channel-agnostic thinking. It’s not about our preferences, it’s maximising exposure for the market we operate in.
Taking this concept further, and to help with the pitching to others (lesson learnt) was to include digital routes-to-market as a separate entity.
Hankins advocated specifying the digital routes-to-market to support the buy-in. This did not mean excluding physical store options – it’s market and brand dependent
There isn’t just one way to your Emerald City.
Route-to-market. Better marketing.
To find Emerald City, you need to lay the yellow brick road for them. To the market. The how, where and when.
This will shape the approach – the strategy we devise, the media we buy, the tactics we use. The mental availability we need to build.
The eco-systems are getting larger. Each requiring its own native approach and speciality – paid and organic.
This is about increasing the physical availability and the appropriate wayfinding to encourage and motivate people to get to the city quicker…where we can be rewarded with knowing we had their hearts and minds all this time…( I know, a stretch too far…it’s been a long day).
The takeaway is this, there’s not just one route-to-market:
Networks (Chamber of Commerce etc.)
Bricks n’ mortar store
…these are all marketplaces. This is not a definitive list.
New technology and apps mean more routes will always become available (incoming Metaverse/Virtual Reality Shopping Centres).
As Sun Tzu, once said: ‘Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.’
We just need to ensure we have a yellow brick road ready for Dorothy and Toto to follow, and Scarecrow, Tinman and the Cowardly Lion ready to guide.
Share your thoughts
See you next time.
Hamerlinck, S. (2021), James Hankins – Share of Search [podcast] Let’s Talking Branding. Available at: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/lets-talk-branding/id1336153310?i=1000519810069
Romaniuk, J., (2018) Building Distinctive Brand Assets. 1st ed. Australia: Oxford University Press.
Sharp, B., (2010) How Brands Grow – What Marketers Don’t Know. 1st ed. Australia: Oxford University Press