No, I’m not going to write about branding cattle or branding people, my topic today is merchandise branding.
When I was a kid, I was raised in a family that did not have a lot of money to spare. I am not complaining; my sister and I had plenty of love and everything we needed to be happy. My Dad was a hard working milkman and my Mom worked part time in different retail stores. Due to our financial situation, we simply did without extra goodies we didn’t need.
When it came to clothes, shoes and that kind of stuff, my folks couldn’t afford to buy us the big name “branded” products. You know; the stuff that was and is always being pushed down kid’s throats on TV and in every other form of media. All of the big brand names a lot of kids thought they “had to have” were way out of reach for us.
Actually, it was only an issue once and a while because I knew in my heart I was not going to get the stuff anyway. I wasn’t going to get those PF Flyer sneakers that would make me run faster, jump higher and stop quicker. I was going to get the no-name brand from the other store across the tracks. Somehow I managed to run and keep up with, and sometimes even beat the guys wearing the PF Flyers. To cut to the chase, I never had name brand anything and I never really missed it. My parents taught me to become “value conscious” and look for value in what I purchase.
It’s funny that to this day, I am not a big name labels guy. Now, I am not saying that I don’t buy good stuff because for some things, the famous brand might just be the best value. What I am saying is that I don’t buy stuff just because of the brand name that’s slapped on it. That brand name comes at a price and the price we pay includes a lot more than what is in the product.
Any major brand has gone through a great deal of growing pains. Every big company starts out small and grows bigger. At least, that is the plan. As the business grows, so do the associated expenses. Therefore, the business must constantly expand to survive. Outside forces and responsibilities begin to mount up such as rent, payroll, insurance, legal fees, trade show expenses, union issues, advertising, marketing, distribution, supply-chain issues, warranty claims, equipment purchasing, repairs, testing, and on and on.
Each and every one of the liabilities mentioned above must be paid for. How, you ask? Well, the costs are built into the sale price of their product. You, the consumer, pay a premium for that “brand name” and what you are paying for is the whole enchilada, not just the materials, design, construction and packaging of the product but everything it takes to bring the product to market and keep it in the forefront. And, as the operating pressures build, so does the pressure to streamline production, reduce manufacturing costs and maximize profits.
So why am I flapping my gums and writing all about this business 101 stuff on a hunting blog? Well, I’m glad you asked (even if you didn’t, I telling you the story anyway). It is a true story of human nature, peer pressure and the result of being pounded by professional marketing organizations for 63-years since the inception of television.
RedHunterLLC is in the information and merchandise business. However, I have the same attitude I have always had. When I purchase something for RedHunterLLC, it had better be a good value. The product has to offer my customers value and performance that will meet or exceed the comparable “name” brand products out there. This actually really gets me excited. When I find a product or a product line that kicks butt and will not cost my customers an arm and a leg, I get all juiced up. When I find such a product or a product line, I am thrilled to offer it to our customers. However, before putting our good name on the line, we test the products ourselves under actual hunting and range conditions. We don’t just sell the stuff, we use it. If it passes actual field testing to our satisfaction, then we offer it to our customer base. We want to grow a good reputation as well as a business.
The reason I started this topic is to comment on branding, human nature and peer pressure. A perfect example is the HAWKE line of optics we offer. HAWKE has been doing business in England for about 25-years but they have only been marketing in the U.S. for about 4-years; so they are not exactly a household word in hunting and shooting circles. They run ads in the shooting magazines but they don’t pump out the full page color ads like the big optical companies do. That also helps to keep the selling prices down.
In 2008, the giant wholesale Shot Show exhibition was in Orlando, Florida. John and I attended hoping to find some new and interesting products. We were also looking for an optics line that we liked. After running the gauntlet of a zillion exhibitor booths we came upon the Hawke booth. At this point, we had already looked over at least 15 or so other brands and we were getting a bit burned out. But, upon examining the Hawke optics and looking at their pricing structure, we got really excited. This was truly great stuff with terrific optical quality, feature packed and backed by a strong warranty. Hoo Rah! Eureka! Our hunt was successful.
We looked at many other brands at that show and I am sure many of you would recognize all of the names. Some we examined offered lots of profit margin but we thought they were either junk or way overpriced for the level of quality. The bottom line is that after all was said and done, we chose Hawke.
After the show we purchased an assortment of Hawke optics and began field testing. We were very pleased with the results and performance and I can honestly say that I have removed many of the existing scopes (Bushnell Elite 4200, Elite 3200, Millett Tactical, Mueller, Nikon) and replaced them with Hawke glass. I am quite satisfied. However, I digress…..again.
What inspired me to write this entry is the reaction of the average person that visits and perhaps joins internet hunting forums. Many are new to shooting and hunting, many have some experience and then you have the old timers that have been shooters and hunters all their lives.
I advertise RedHunterLLC on several Predator hunting forums but I frequent one more than the others because I find the members to be a bit more interactive. It’s just a personal preference thing and is no reflection on the other forums. I’m just more comfortable there.
Every so often, a new member or an existing member will ask a general question about what scope brand he should buy for his new rifle. As you can well imagine, the opinions are varied and the usual “branded” names are typically put forward. Then, I chime in and attempt to introduce the member to what I believe to be an excellent product and a killer value. Well, some respond positively and ask for additional info, some flat out ignore me and others simply want to follow the crowd and pay more for a product that may not be as good as what I am offering. At least I tried.
I have to admit that at times it is frustrating to operate an internet business. If I had a brick & mortar storefront and a customer walked into my store, I could put several “branded” scopes on the counter alongside my Hawke scope and simply say, “Compare them.” I can’t do that on the net though so I attempt to appeal to reason and use my company reputation to influence the customer.
The simple fact is that we, RedHunterLLC, are in business and selling products via the internet to the general public and to members of various interest forums. We know full well that our products had better perform or our reputation is toast. The success of our business is assured only by offering quality products at reasonable prices that out-perform the competition, responsive customer service and the ability to offer real value to our customers.
Another example of incredible value is the tactical flashlight we sell. They feature CREE Diodes and truly out-perform the major brand that is way overpriced. I’m telling you, these lights kick major butt. And, we sell our tactical flashlights for one-third the price of the big name “branded” ****Fire light.
I can honestly say that I have not had one customer that was not completely satisfied with a product we have sold. Perhaps because we hand pick each and every product we sell. We also test each and every product. And, we hand make many of our own calls and coyote howlers.
So, how can I get some guys to try something new? How can I convince a customer that I have an excellent product that will save them money, give them more features and provide them with a higher level of quality and value than the brand name scope he is about to spend 30% more for? It beats the hell out of me but if you have any suggestions drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'll see ya later.....I’m heading over to Old Navy now to buy some no-name jeans.