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The voice of the brand strategy consultancy, The Portnoy Group Inc.

The Brand Man Speaks is a dialogue about the consuming world in which we live and a guide to successfully navigating it. The goal is to educate people and companies about branding, the most powerful yet misunderstood business tool.

To learn more about branding and The Portnoy Group visit our website. Click on the link above, or click this link to the The Portnoy Group Blog Contact Page. 

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2 posts from February 2010

February 09, 2010

Retail brand "All Saints Spitalfields" hits US with edgy apparel and equally arrogant management and store employees

Despite the ailing US economy, a UK based retailer of edgy apparel (with some Goth overtones) has arrived in LA and Miami Beach. The brand, All Saints Spitalfields, aims to appeal to affluent twenty and thirty somethings with its euro-casual look.

The Miami Beach store, located on trendy Lincoln Road in South Beach, looks like a sewing machine factory at first glance into the cavernous space.

Based on several initial visits, it appears locals but primarily tourists are finding this new retail concern of some interest. However, there is a serious problem brewing.

The retailer is very coy about its return store policy, not providing it to buyers until after the transaction is complete in violation of state laws. It appears that the store only provides store credit or exchanges. On further inspection the store's second receipt (not the one you sign or the transactional one you get for a credit card payment) states this but also states that the consumer is entitled to a refund as per one's rights. 

Confusing huh? You bet. There's more.

On a recent trip I tried to return a T shirt purchased on American Express. After a 15 minute wait to get to the front of the one man cash register check out, I was told that "no one" is available to address my return needs for half an hour. WTF? I never heard of such nonsense. Meanwhile, I was told that they wouldn't provide a refund only store credit but again, no one in the entire huge store among the entire staff could handle a return.

Fumed, but determined to resolved the matter, I was able to "persuade" one store employee to fetch a manager after 15 minutes. The manager reiterated the store's return policy claiming two things. 1) The second receipt explains no refunds (despite not seeing this until after the transaction is complete) and 2) the disclaimer about entitlement to a refund means (to the UK management) store credit not a US understood refund. I laughed hard at this explanation. I told this manager that what she was saying is that the Kings English supersedes American English and American laws. She said yes.

I politely told her that just wouldn't fly with the AG of the State of Florida or most customers.

I contacted various state agencies and indeed ALL Saints is in violation of various retail laws and will now be investigated. 

There have always been retailers who exude a sense of arrogance to create an "image" behind whatever brand identity they think is best for their success. But this case took things to new levels in my opinion.

Will keep your informed.

Watching out for you everyday.


Speak Up

February 01, 2010

Relentless pursuit of mediocrity: Toyota including its Lexus brand no longer stand for quality

I know dear readers it has been a while since my last post. Family illness matters have taken up a large amount of my free time these past months.

I have a little more free time and figured what better subject to relaunch the blog with than the current fiasco Toyota Motor Co. is facing, especially here in the US.

Along with Honda, Toyota changed the whole notion of automotive quality and consistency teaching a lesson to both the Americans and Europeans about how to build a car Americans will buy and buy again that is a good value and highly dependable. In recent years Toyota's marketshare increased greatly especially due to its success with the Camry model.

Toyota also changed the luxury car game with the introduction of Lexus 20 years ago. That brand become the poster child for reliable dependable luxury and in short order put Mercedes and BMW on notice they were here to stay and command attention. They introduced innovation after innovation including a car that can park itself...(wouldn't want to try that given their accelerator problem).

Lexus touted its slogan, "Relentless Pursuit of Perfection" and the halo built from this brand helped the overall Toyota brand image improve and dominate car buying.

In recent weeks we have learned that the armor does indeed have a flaw and the unintended acceleration problem (going back as far as 2002 and well covered up... I now understand) got so out of hand that millions of cars (I believe more than last year's production worth) have to be recalled. Government information indicates Toyota looked for excuse after excuse (similar to Audi's nearly suicidal move in the 80s) to explain away the unintended acceleration problem. Now they have been forced to deal with the problem, its cost and the bigger issue the demise of the once quality is king image, especially with Lexus. In my opinion Lexus should drop the "Relentless Pursuit of Perfection" slogan for a while because people are just snickering these days.

Is this a case of assuming brand image can cover all ills? It can for a while but just a while, reality does set in and consumers do not like to be fooled and taken advantage of for too long. It is not easy to recover from massive quality mistakes that a car maker tries valiantly to make the fault of the "stupid" driver putting the floor mat in a bad place...and with the state of the world economy, Toyota can't really afford this image damage.

The good news or silver lining? Maybe more American's will see that Ford and GM (what's left of it) actually make pretty good cars these days, thanks to Toyota, and are worth buying again.

Watching out for you everyday.


Speak Up