Monday, April 9, 2007

Avoid The Fate Of The Milkman - A Marketing Lesson

Consumers Are Embracing New Ways To Consume

Many years ago, unless you owned a cow, the only way one could buy milk was through the reliable milkman. If you were tracking milk sales, you just added up all the milk sold by the nation's milkmen. Over the years, if you were a milk delivery company, you may have become alarmed as milk sales, as measured by the milkman channel, began to dramatically erode year after year. As a milk delivery company, you may have been forced to lay off milkmen. You might have come to the conclusion that milk was rapidly becoming unpopular with the American consumer. It may have indicated its high time to get out of the milk production business.

We all know this is not what happened. The milkman distribution channel was to milk what the airplane was to the train. Milk, simply found different and better distribution channels - the corner convenience store, grocery chains, gas stations, WalMart, etc. In fact, there is more milk sold today than ever before. Great for milk, bad for milkmen.

The same can be said today in a number of industries. Take, movies, for example, were once only distributed at studio-owned single screen theaters. Enter the multi-plex, VCR, DVR, CD player, Blockbuster, Netflix, the Internet, HBO, and mobile devices. The single screen, studio-owned theater is long gone but the distribution of movie content today continues to expand exponentially across many platforms.

Another example is travel. Not long ago if you wanted to book travel you would call your local travel agent. Now travel agents are going the way of the milkman with more and more consumers utilizing the Internet. More travel is sold today than ever before, but less and less through travel agents.

There are many more examples of businesses and institutions vulnerable to the fate of the milkman including classified ads, yellow pages, journalism, politics, retailing, and real estate just to name a few.

Here is the lesson learned - avoid the fate of the milkman with your brand. Marketing and distribution channels are morphing as are media consumption patterns among consumers. Marketers must understand the need to extend their brands to emerging media and channels or suffer the fate of the milkman.