Shine a light on your supply chain

13 February 2014 | George Smart

George SmartThanks to the horse meat scandal, the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh and the revelations about big corporations’ tax avoidance and staff mistreatment, 2013 could be seen as the year that damaged consumer confidence. It’s no wonder provenance has become more important than ever. And where 
better to find positive stories about provenance than in the supply chain?

Supply chains reflect the essence of 
a brand by showing how the product comes together. When seen in this light, they can be used as a surprisingly rich source of inspiration for marketers who want to communicate a brand to its customers. The problem is that many people on the marketing side yawn at the mention of ‘supply chain’. But look at the success of The Great British Bake-Off and Grand Designs. What are they, if not supply chain stories?

If a supply chain is managed conscientiously, it’s worth shouting about. The food and drink sector is particularly fertile for supply chain exhibitionism. With cider, for example, the journey from apple to bottle is often ‘hyper local’, something that feeds into the current consumer hunger for farmers’ markets.

Many food and drink products are made regionally and, with consumers so concerned about provenance, this is something to be celebrated and turned into a strong ethical brand stance. Such a ‘brand value’ approach helps to turn consumers into advocates and they end up buying into the brand as much as the product; surely the zenith for marketers.

In an age when children think potatoes grow on trees and fish fingers are made out of chicken, it’s clear the supply chain has been kept in the dark for too long. By demystifying it and showing how a product reaches us, it’s more likely that product will end up in a person’s hand.

This relay of brand information is 
a perfect fit for the new marketing landscape where, thanks to social media, consumers are rebalancing 
the power relationship between themselves and brands. They expect – perhaps even demand – that brands act transparently and give out as much information as possible. The irony is although many brands have richly positive supply chain stories, the brands are too close to the subject to recognise their potential.

So please take this as a rallying cry: it’s time to tell your marketers that supply chains should come out of the dark and be celebrated.

☛ George Smart is the founder of integrated creative agency Theobald Fox

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