Toning it Down: The End of Discount Marketing in Retail and The Return of The Brand

Victoria-Peppiatt-Phrasee-COO_Image-1 Toning it Down: The End of Discount Marketing in Retail and The Return of The Brand
Victoria Peppiatt, Co-Founder and COO, Phrasee

The retail marketing landscape is ancient, filled with peaks and valleys, and in a state of constant flux. New forms of media, new technologies, and changes in consumer behavior keep retail brands on their toes, racing to keep ahead of the trends. The trouble is, with our eyes constantly scanning the horizon for the next exciting market share plateau, we sometimes fail to notice the ground shifting beneath our very feet.

The past decade has brought with it a rapid, massive shift in consumer attention and media consumption. “Traditional” marketing channels like radio and print have fallen by the wayside. The ways consumers interact with brands and their marketing are in upheaval.

In the scramble to catch up, many established retail brands fell back on high-pressure discount marketing tactics in an effort to hold onto their market share, even as more digitally savvy upstarts began to claw it away.

The folly of short-termism

There was a time not too long ago that an email from one’s favorite retailer offering a hefty discount for a limited period of time piqued audience interest and drove robust digital engagement. Those days, however, are now behind us.

Global inboxes are now filled to bursting with such messages, and the short-term revenue gains they once offered have dwindled. This has produced an unsustainable digital discount marketing race to the bottom that has seen some of the biggest names in retail forced to close their doors forever.

Worse still, those who have managed to weather the discount marketing storm have fallen victim to a form of collateral damage many failed to anticipate: the devaluing of the brands they spent years building.

Offer your wares at a discount loudly and frequently enough, many retailers have found, and few consumers will ever be willing to pay full price for them again.

The return of brand messaging

Chasing short-term performance metrics with high-pressure discount marketing has had its day. Consumers have caught on, and so have retail brands. Adidas, Old Navy, and Gap have all recently announced course corrections away from overindulgence on short-term marketing objectives and back toward brand building, consumer loyalty, and customer lifetime value.

This is significant news for the retail sector, where brand messaging on digital channels has sometimes been managed more effectively by smaller companies and direct-to-consumer brands. Retail marketing, it seems, may be returning to its branding roots.

With brand value and branded messaging moving back to the forefront of the marketing conversation, there is much work to be done. Retailers which have leant upon discount-driven digital marketing will need to tread carefully as they strive to rebuild the positive consumer-brand perception equity they’ve lost along the way.

Reinventing the marketing wheel

The blueprint for effective brand messaging is no mystery. The art and science of building a successful retail brand and marketing it to consumers have been widely understood since the heyday of Madison Avenue.

The challenge marketers face in 2020 is learning how to replicate that art and science at scale. Retail brands now have dozens of digital marketing channels to service. New and emerging consumer interfaces like voice technology and push notifications are beginning to stake their claim. The scale and scope of branded messaging required to meet the growing needs of today’s fast-moving digital marketing channels is a problem every retail brand will need to contend with, sooner or later