How to establish a 'branded supply chain'

How often do your marketing people talk to your supply chain people? I’m betting not as often as they should.

And yet, world-class supply chains embody world-class brands, delivering to the homes and business of their customers the promises made by their marketing departments.

The 'branded supply chain' describes the concept and process of ensuring that your brand is more than just a collection of ideas, logos and guidelines. Branding your supply chain is about delivering on the promises of your brand with a supply chain that inspires customer and partner loyalty in the long term.

Intel’s 'Just Say Yes' campaign shows what can be achieved when supply chain and marketing teams work together. Intel’s customers were frustrated with the speed and quality of service. Just Say Yes signalled a new approach to customer relations, with a focus on responding quickly and accommodating requests and change-orders.

Supply chains that inspire brand loyalty in consumers do more than simply give the customer what they want, when they want it. They do so in a way that reinforces the brand - or else all marketing has been in vain.

Nike gets new products on the shelves faster than its competitors – what more would you expect from a brand associated with lightning-fast reflexes and response times? And Whirlpool’s supply chain embodies its brand value of innovation with Six Sigma accuracy and cutting-edge manufacturing processes.

On the other hand, you have to wait two years for your new Aston Martin DBS. That’s the price of luxury. If you could get it tomorrow, you might not want it quite as much.  

Meanwhile, brands like H&M are making a virtue of supply chain transparency, and building loyalty as a result. For the consumer, affordable fashion has often been synonymous with exploitative labour practices. H&M is positioning itself as the ethical choice for the price-conscious consumer.

Modern consumers have come to expect big brands to build supply chains that respect sustainability in terms of fuel consumption, the environment, natural resources, and so on. Again, what’s in vogue now may be mandatory in the future. Smarter brands are taking advantage of being seen to lead the way in this regard. The thinking is that it’s better to do it now, while you can benefit from it. And to be prepared for when it’s no longer optional.

It’s in your interests to build a supply chain that will sustain your brand (and profits) in the long term. Smart brands are future proofing by leveraging on more accurate forecasting tools, scenario planning, supply chain redesign, and so on. By preparing for supply chain challenges or marketing shifts in the future, you ensure the sustainability of your brand.

One area where these two converge is waste management. Waste is a cost that’s only going to increase in the future – in cost and brand reputation. Tariffs, the cost of offsetting, and even fines are increasing, if not in your market then certainly in the markets of your suppliers, partners and customers, which will have a knock-on effect on your business.

The Campbell Soup Company’s aggressive waste reduction initiatives are doing as much for the brand as they are for Campbell’s bottom line. Campbell saved $4.5 million just by reducing packaging sizes. The company recycles up to 85 per cent of its waste. Meanwhile, the irresistible story is that Campbell’s production plants are powered by waste from its soup, sauce and beverage production.

That’s a win for those responsible for reducing supply chain costs, and a win for the marketing team.

☛ Siew Mee Yong is vice president of global marketing at Quintiq.

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