Mastering the Marketplace, the GE Appliances Way

GEA’s Mary Putman shared her recipe for marketplace success at last week’s Summit.

GEA’s branding expert Mary Putman leads a Summit Masterclass on winning

By Alan Wolf, YSN

One of the highlights of last week’s AVB Summit in Las Vegas, at least for this writer, was a Masterclass in marketing presented by GE Appliances’ Mary Putman.

Putman is GEA’s VP of Marketing & Brand, a past AVB Women in Business award winner, and a regular presence at BrandSource shows. This go-around, she shared her take on changing consumer and marketing trends with a packed house of Summit attendees.

Putman kicked off the session by citing a series of personal maxims embraced by GEA that could also serve BrandSource members well. They include:

  • Think positive
  • Be authentic
  • Never take things personally
  • Use humor to help ease tension
  • Embrace change

Next up, Putman spoke about a company’s brand promise, and how slogans help define and differentiate businesses. For fast food chain KFC, for example, the consumer connection is “Finger lickin’ good.” Among BrandSource members, associations include Big Sandy’s “Experience better!”; Spencer’s TV & Appliance’s “Everything You Need for Your Home”; and East Coast Appliance’s “The Discount King.”

Similarly, GEA’s six house brands carry different associations and serve varying consumer segments, namely:

  • Hotpoint = value
  • Haier = urban
  • GE = good things
  • GE Profile = technology
  • Café = design
  • Monogram = luxury

Moving along, Putman pointed out some good news for store owners. Not that long ago, during Amazon’s ascent, pundits had predicted the end of brick-and-mortar retail thanks to a concept called “showrooming.” In that scenario, consumers would supposedly begin their shopping journey at a physical store to demo a product and then ultimately purchase it online from an e-tailer.

Well, that whole process has since been turned on its head. Now, under a practice dubbed “webrooming,” consumers begin their shopping journey by researching big-ticket products online, and then make the final purchase in-store, where their selection is validated and supported by such independent dealer strengths as knowledgeable sales staffs and delivery, installation and repair services.

The customer’s affinity for in-store shopping also dovetails with another growing consumer preference: Shopping local. According to statistics cited by Putman, 67 percent of Americans favor Main Street merchants because they believe it supports the community; 50 percent do so for the superior customer service; 45 percent prefer the familiarity of a hometown business; and 26 percent simply trust their local shop more than a national retail chain.

Putman concluded her presentation with some final words of advice. Among them:

Market to a young and diverse audience. This demographic is growing quickly, is influencing trends, and is becoming the biggest buyer of homes.

Keep up on societal trends. These include changes in tech (5G, artificial intelligence and virtual reality); food (more cooking done at home); design (the home as a functional, multi-purpose hub); and wellness (air purification and the mood-altering power of scents and color).

Be digitally prepared. Think of your website as your flagship store. Have the right digital tools, mobile-optimized selling site, and dedicated web team in place, and be sure to leverage the appropriate social media platforms to reach your target audience. The latter should include TikTok, which has become a major driver of purchase decisions, although dealers should also be aware of emerging platforms like Twitter Spaces, Facebook Audio and Clubhouse.

Know thy customer. Prioritize quality over quantity by analyzing and focusing on the consumer segment that matters to you most, thereby driving the most qualified buyers to your business.

Don’t forget about your sales team. They are your front line and the living embodiment of your brand promise. Make sure they’re up to the task of providing trusted, expert advice and high-quality service before, during and after the sale.

And lastly, Putman counseled, have fun and win, even when it’s tough!

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, mattress, furniture, and CE dealers.