21 January 2008

Masstardization

If you get a chance, have a look at the yellow pages from any city at about 1992 and compare the retail listings... you will find one very obvious change... an operator (or two or three) that did not exist in the market, moved in and took over. Seriously, look at the pet food sector, home improvement, book stores or even pharmaceuticals.

In retail, most of these sectors were made up of small businesses or a family business with a number of locations. Easy targets if you ask me. All it took was one person to map out the best business model (usually a great brand experience mixed with a great location) and repeat it (through corporate expansion, buy-outs / take overs or through franchising) - large scale advertising, unique decor and professionalism were different from what consumers were used to seeing from the old operators and enough for them to change their buying habits.

Drive through any power centre and all you will see are nothing but national chains and franchise operations, if you see a small local business, chances are the strip mall is still owned locally as well. This 'globalization' or 'masstardization' of retail is only the beginning. I could go on in greater detail... but, you get the point.

What was my point. Oh yes, this changing of the guard isn't over.

A prediction, one that I made 5 years ago, is starting to come to fruition. Service companies will be the next to fall into massterdization.

As business people become more marketing saavy, and realize the benefits of properly branding themselves (and that's more than a cute logo, folks) the less small time operators there will be. There are also a number of outside influences that will help to change this, like new legislation... there are new building codes, safety requirements and environmental protection laws that affect many businesses bottom line. For instance, a body shop in Alberta will have to incur some heavy costs over the next two years in order to comply with new environmental standards...(I'm not blaming the standards, I'm all for strict environmental standards, it's just an example that will affect the small operators) small shops will sell or close, medium shops will have to either find a niche to fill or eventually sell to the large national shops (which have started to blossom in the last 3-5 years) and the consumer will be left with little by the way of choices. Another example of this are increased errors and omissions insurance costs affect many trades and professions (plumbers, electricians, inspectors, doctors, dentists etc.) and with rises in litigation each year, only the large companies or corporate entities will be able to afford this mandated coverage.

So, the days of being a consumer where you have a multitude of choice in what you want to buy are slowly coming to an end. There is no need to worry though, what you'll miss with genuine personal care will be replaced with corporately mandated greetings and an 'opt in' for regular engagement with their marketing speak.

There is one shining light, however. The trend in marketing is to provide customers with the ultimate experience... few companies will actually pull this off, but there is hope. And, a price tag for it, I'm sure. Watch for the companies that are genuine in this regard, transparent in their operations and serve a higher ideal: the customer.

The personal experience is dead. Long live the personal brand experience.

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