When Supply Chain Gets Really Sexy.

What happens when Supply Chain Management serves the Brand?

Supply Chain Management is a means to translate the brand purpose into a physical reality in business operations.  It makes operationally possible what the brand stands for.  It is a way to delight customers with an unparalleled experience, differentiate, “walk the talk” by doing good, all whilst increasing stakeholder financial returns.  Getting all these components right, increases the monetary value of the brand.

Take Nespresso – a premium brand that demands a premium service to delight and exceed its club members’ expectations, offering not only coffee but also a great experience. The exclusive service combined with a superior product differentiates the brand to drive top line growth.  The challenge for the supply chain is to offer high-quality services, to continually innovate these and delights is club members, thereby standing head & shoulder above the competition.

Or consider Innocent drinks – a sustainable B Corp whose objective is to do good for people by selling healthy drinks, but also to do good for the planet. This differentiates it from other supermarket brands.  The challenge for the supply chain is to serve its customers in a very sustainable way, without damaging the planet (E.g., by using sustainable packaging, building a carbon neutral factory and carbon neutral supply chain around it).

A third example is Snag Tights (recently renamed Snag) – a quality product, available in absolutely all sizes, at an affordable price.  Nowhere else can you get such good quality tights at that price and in all those sizes. The challenge for the supply chain is to provide agility, low inventory levels, preserving high volumes for economies of scale, and top-notch quality products, all whilst maintaining a variable cost base and fair, democratic margins.

In each example, the art of a supply chain leader is to design the supply chain to deliver the right balance between financial levers and the brand values.   None of the three supply chains described have the same priorities, because they are driven by different financial and value levers.

Supply Chain Financial Levers –

  1. Cost-to-serve
  2. Inventory
  3. Asset utilisation

Brand Value Levers –

  1. Brand Differentiator – what makes us unique?
  2. Purpose – The “Why” reflects into how we do things
  3. Service

Ultimately it is the presence of a strong purpose and a clear differentiator behind the brand that embeds its values into the supply chain.  A clear brand tone and voice is the starting place for any supply chain vision, roadmap and implementation tactics.

Brand architect and founder of Firestarter, Mickey Wilson, explains further:

“Every part of your business should be designed with your unique value in mind. Like a peppermint stick, if your business is cut at any point then your brand promise should be imprinted right down the middle. And it should certainly be evident to your customers at every single touchpoint – from finance to customer service, and very definitely supply chain.

In fact, I love how supply chain, even more than the other areas can help you to differentiate. This is the most exciting part of the whole transaction for your customers – it’s when and how they get their stuff! It’s at this critical point that you have the potential to make your business look outrageously impressive or you could lose all credibility in an instant. We expect to receive our goods on time. We expect them to be packaged appropriately. We almost don’t notice when that’s the case. But when a company has gone out of their way to surprise us and create an amazing experience then we love it! We get this warm, happy feeling and think ‘wow, great company!’. And if it’s really remarkable then we share.

Your brand should be expressed through every single area of your business. It’s not just the ‘gloss’ that’s applied for marketing and point-of-sale. It’s the GLUE – holding every part of your business together. Your purpose, your values, and most of all, your unique brand promise should flow through all areas – like that peppermint stick. How you do anything is how you do everything. And when it truly becomes the life-blood of your organisation that’s when the magic happens! Business gets easier. Needles start moving. Leads turn into customers. Customers turn into adoring advocates. Then by sharing their remarkable experiences they turn into the best marketeers your brand could have. It’s a beautiful thing! And that’s when supply chain gets really sexy.”

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