brasher’s Sales Director, Steve Fowler, has been with the company for 13 years and few people know the brand the way he does. He explained to SGB exactly what their online trading agreement means in real terms.
SGB: What sort of response have you had from it so far?
Steve Fowler: A very positive response and the vast majority of people are signing and returning their documents without the need for lots of explanation which is great. I think there’s a general understanding in the outdoor market that brands need to manage themselves otherwise the retailer will be left with nothing of much worth really to sell.
The response overall has been very positive, most people understand what we’re trying to do.
SGB: So in real terms for the retailer what does it really mean?
SF: What we’re looking to do is really manage the brand going forwards from our perspective and actually retaining the value within the brand for the retailers going forwards. In terms of direct impact on the retailer we have taken control of our brand name on Google so people cannot simply use our brand name within the sponsored links, for example, without having approval from ourselves.
SGB: So somebody selling your gear has to get permission from you before they can use your identity in their marketing?
SF: That would go normally without saying in the sense that we own the trademarks, but in terms of specific online retailing and online trading, one of the big drivers in business is the Google sponsored link.
The problem with sponsored links – unless you control your brand name – is that anybody can use it so at the moment, if you search on brasher or some other brand names all sorts of things come up, so you’ll find somebody giving 75 per cent off brasher or whoever and they don’t even actually stock brasher. Anybody clicking through on that link, who’s gone on a search for brasher is incredibly frustrated.
As a brand, we’re even more frustrated because we’re trying to be a high quality brand delivering high quality products; having a marketing campaign based around a 75 per cent discount really doesn’t fit comfortably with the brand or what we want to achieve in the long term.
SGB: So how do you manage that, from your side?
SF: We’ve registered all our trade marks with Google and once that is set up within Google nobody can use any of our trademarks in sponsored links without our permission.
That doesn’t stop them obviously using them within their sites and being found by natural search selection though. So they can still use it in a key word, but they can’t use it in a sponsored link which is where quite an explosion has been in terms of online trading.
And in theory even if they’re using it as a key word, if they’re putting our trademarks into the general public’s view, in theory they should be asking us first because it is our registered trademark. There is a very fine level of detail we could go to if we wanted to to manage it at a micro level; that’s not our objective, we actually want to help people grow their businesses rather than shrink their businesses.
SGB: So this is like an online extension of your identity in-store, where you provide display materials to make sure your product is presented in the right way.
SF: We actually started that process probably five years ago when we developed the comfort centres, because the main asset Brasher has is out-of-the-box comfort with its perfomance. Now in terms of technical performance, we can match the best product in the world and the best manufacturers in other brands in the world can match our product in terms of out and out simple technical specification. One of the huge secrets brasher has delivered is you take it out of the box, put it on your foot and you go walking in the hills, which I did this weekend with a brand new pair of boots, we only did 12 kilometres but they were a fairly hefty pair of boots and, no problems at all – that’s one of the things we always try and deliver, the out-of-the-box comfort. So we created what we call comfort centres five years ago, they were supported with training of how to fit them, the next logical step was how we then actually promoted those so, say, if you go on to our website and you do a stockists search for our product and our stockists search is product specific or it can be, it will give you a list, and it will first list premier stockists which is the next level up in terms of comfort centres which we started up last year. It will then list comfort centres, then our ‘ordinary’ stockists.
In terms of driving people to comfort centres to make a purchase, the obvious step was actually, when they walk in a store, how easy is it to recognise and see the brand of this product? So now we use a full metal system which uses magnetic point of sale, like fridge magnets but bigger and more striking. That can be updated easily, and in terms of environmental impact we’ve gone for a steel which is recyclable, and it’s a system that should endure for certainly three or four years, but can be very very easily updated with information which is product specific and also brand specific. Nearly all of our comfort centres and premier stockists have reported an increase in their total footwear sales, not just their brasher sales. So in actually lifting the level of quality being presented for the consumer, it’s actually lifted their total footwear sales as well.
We’ve gone one more step this year with a little roller blind effect where we have key products launching or product range statements, or for our performance category. You pull down on a little tab and it comes down like a roller blind and you can read the information. It just retracts out of the way when you let go – we’re trying to make the most of space for the retailer.