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Brands Should Be Accessible
By: Janet Kalandranis
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Shouldn’t they? Companies want to be able to get products and services in the “hands” of customers, so the more accessible the better. More locations should equal more customers, which should produce more sales. But what happens when there are too many locations with not enough customers and sales aren’t creating a profitable business? Maybe "accessible" is a fine line between creating a product that is available and attainable but a little farther out of reach so it creates demand.

There’s something to be said for those companies that can create a distribution method that, although on paper seems scarce, is able to generate demand for a product or service. TOMS Shoes is a great example with a model that was originally created to support a cause, yet was able to build a brand that was sought after even when the product could not be purchased in every expected store. By limiting access to the product, TOMS was able to focus on creating a product that excelled and a brand concept that forced customers to rethink "accessible." By choosing limited distribution in physical stores like Nordstrom, customers were forced to seek out the product, creating a premier-like status for early adopters. If TOMS distributed its original shoes through multiple physical locations, would they have experienced the fast growth of the brand and the demand for a basic type shoe?

The strategy around distribution relies on various factors: type of product, cost of product and ultimately brand strength. If a company has created a strong brand that can sustain limited distribution, the hope is that this will force demand amongst followers. The famous Apple example; with each release of its iProducts there is limited circulation and customers hope to be one of the first for each new product. Eventually the products are available in mass quantities, but there’s something to be said for being one of the first with the newest pieces of technology. The question lies in whether this same strategy would work for products considered to be commodities. Companies selling shampoo or toilet paper might not experience the same lines of people waiting overnight...unless, of course, they’ve used up the last roll.

It’s important for each company to realistically outline accessibility of its products and create a strategy that enhances brand strength instead of causing customer angst. Limiting locations and products may work for TOMS and Apple since these brands were built on specific distribution models. However, many companies will need to go back to basics and understand where the customers are to create a strategy that enhances brand strength, whether it’s toilet paper or the next new piece of technology.

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About the Author
Janet Kalandranis is here to give you all the little brand thoughts that run through her head with a little dash of spice. Find her online here.
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