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Nothing Good Happens When a Brand Loses Its Way; Is QVC Next?

WhenBrandLosesItsWaySears, once the largest retailer in the U.S., has shrunk to about 1,000 Sears and Kmart stores, compared with about 3,500 in 2005; and plans to close more, according to CNN.

Sears, in my opinion, failed to understand that younger consumers wanted trendier merchandise. It became viewed as stodgy and old fashioned. Sears also added unrelated businesses to its stores: insurance, optical, and others. It also sold off two of its most trusted brands—Kenmore and Craftsman. Customers became confused by Sears’ merchandising strategies and went elsewhere.

There are lots of reasons given why such iconic brands as Sears, Lord & Taylor and JCPenney, all more than 100-years old, have hit the skids and are closing stores.

Online competition is, of course, one reason. However, a fundamental cause: each lost its most important asset—its brand.

Whether Business-to-Consumer (B2C) or Business-to-Business (B2B), brand differentiates a company from competitors. Brand is how a company wants to be seen. It’s also how customers view them.

Could QVC, the popular home shopping network, be next? I think, maybe.

In just hours, thousands of shoppers may buy just one item. Then, thousands of others may buy another.

I have always marveled at the marketing savvy of QVC. Take, for example, clothing. QVC promised viewers well-known brands and designers at prices average consumers could afford. Hosts and brand reps keep viewers up on trends. Shoppers can see an item from every angle, and how clothing looks on different body types.

Such famous clothing designers, as Isaac Mizrachi, Dennis Basso and Bob Mackie would explain to viewers how to style their clothing, help them imagine where and when to wear them, creating an experience with top designers previously rarely available to everyday consumers.

Jewelry designers, such as Judith Ripka, create affordable jewelry using simulated stones, matching diamond necklace styles affordable only to a small group. Shown side-by-side, few people can tell the difference.

Canon and Apple offer products with value-added accessories at good prices, with the opportunity to pay over time.

Programs are educational, informative, brilliant.

Now, I’m wondering if QVC is repeating some of the brand mistakes as Sears, Lord & Taylor and JCPenney.

What’s happening at QVC

Mizrachi, Basso, Mackie and Ripka are still on QVC, but gone are such popular brands such as Oryany, Mark Zunino, Rachel Zoe, and Marc Bower (now on Evine, another shopping network).

Some of their places have been taken by well-known celebrities, showcasing their clothing lines. But they do not have the design expertise of the Mizrachis and Bassos, cannot provide the same insights to viewers, and cannot fulfill QVC’s brand promise.

QVC also continues to launch its own fashion clothing brands such as Cuddli Duds and Du Jour (along with its long-standing Denim + Company line), presenting its own designers as if they are on the same plane as Mizrachi and Mackie.

No offense, but they are not.

Confusing the QVC brand

QVC always had an ownership stake in another televised shopping channel, Home Shopping Network (HSN), and purchased it outright in 2017.

QVC and HSN marketing, promotions and brands had always been unique because they appeal to different audiences. The image, from my viewing, was that QVC served a more upscale audience than HSN. Brands sold on HSN tend to be less popular and less well known, also reflected in its promotions.

HSN’s motto: “It’s fun here”. Colors and promotions were a little louder and, in my opinion, a little less classy and more in your face. Most recently QVC hosts have adopted the word “fun” in their presentations and mention how much “fun” they are and how much “fun” it is to watch QVC, using HSN’s playbook.

Not long after its acquisition of HSN, QVC began introducing HSN brands, and HSN started marketing QVC brands. Viewers flipping from one channel to another might see the same product on each shopping network.
It also seems that QVC and HSN have now combined their marketing and promotions.

QVC buyers used to receive a simple , “Thanks for your order” after purchasing a product. HSN sent “Start getting excited…your order has shipped.” QVC buyers now receive an email with large italicized bright orange script proclaiming “Hooray. Your order is confirmed,” or, “Exciting! Your order has shipped,” very similar to HSN.

In the past, QVC programming (including its popular PM Style), were intended to reach fashionistas, with higher-end fashions. During events such as fashion week, consumers would be glued to their TVs, mobile device in hand to order items before they were sold out.

Today, PM Style still includes some well-known brands, but also items that are anything but high-end such as Quacker Factory, wearers of which are encouraged to say “Quack Quack” to other “Quackers”, they see wearing the line.

Not exactly high end. I have nothing against Quackers, but marketing them with higher-end products on fashion shows confuses viewers.

And, QVC is now including its own brands more and more in the higher end fashion shows, once reserved for higher-end fashion designers. Introducing a product from QVC’s clothing lines on a higher end fashion show is ok. When QVC starts including more than one or two of these items in the same show, that’s not. The brand promise begins to weaken, and loyal viewers lose interest.

After adding a second channel to both HSN and QVC after the HSN buyout, program planning got less interesting. Shows started mixing various items from gadgets to pajamas, to fashion to beauty items in one show. And often shows that aired on the first QVC channel also aired on the second channel.

In the words of one QVC viewer from a recent chat room, “I am hoping they stop showing the same item on both (QVC) channels at the same time. What a waste of air space.”

So limited number of designers, mixing and matching audiences and brands, and then airing shows more than once either on the same QVC channel or on an HSN channel—just plain boring.

Qurate Retail, Inc’s stock fell nearly 27 percent after the company announced a decrease in revenue across its brands (including the combined QVC and HSN. “ The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 21, 2019.

I think QVC has some work to do to find its way back.

Lois Kaufman, Ph.D., President of Integrated Marketing Services, has over 40 years experience creating brand strategies, launching products and building brands for companies, services and products.

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Lois Kaufman, Ph.D.
President, Integrated Marketing Services

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