Letting Consumers Control Marketing

I had written a couple of days back about P&G’s  AG Lafley’s speech at the ANA Convention. NY Times has an article on the same. Here’s what Wal-Mart’s Stephen F. Quinn Sr.VP had to say:

Stephen F. Quinn, senior vice president for marketing at Wal-Mart Stores, the nation’s largest retailer, echoed Mr. Lafley.

“Today, the customer is in charge,” Mr. Quinn said, “and whoever is best at putting the customer in charge makes all the money.”

Wal-Mart, struggling to stimulate sluggish sales growth, is “in transformation” and looking beyond its traditional base of rural, low-income customers, Mr. Quinn said. It is aiming to woo a more affluent and suburban “selective shopper” who must be convinced that Wal-Mart has merchandise “up to their quality and taste standards,” he said.

Although “it’s safe to say we have a long way to go,” Mr. Quinn said, “you’ll see a different Wal-Mart in 2007.” For instance, more stores will be customized by location, following a model store in the upscale Dallas suburb of Plano, Tex., which is “proving Wal-Mart can appeal to the Cadillac set,” he added.

“We can sell a $200 bottle of wine,” Mr. Quinn said, adding: “And by the way, the savings on that bottle of wine is $65. Just because you’re affluent doesn’t mean you want to pay more for everything.”

At Mini USA, part of BMW of North America, the fact that so many customers choose to customize their cars showed executives that “we’d never have complete control over the brand,” said James L. McDowell, managing director at Mini USA. About 60 percent of the estimated 40,000 Minis the company sells each year are customized.

For instance, Mr. McDowell said, some Mini owners dress their cars in naughty costumes for Halloween, and two investment bankers mounted mock shark fins atop the roofs of their Minis.

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