To brand or not to brand

The topic of branding is a common one. What brand performs the best? Should I change brands? Should I brand at all?

There is a lot of discussion on this topic. I aim to delve into this topic in a bit of detail, but before I go on, let me declare I am a true independent party. I have no alliances to any brand or any wholesaler.

So now we have that declaration out of the way, let’s get into it.

Should I brand at all?

The decision of whether to brand or not can only be answered properly by considering the location and the ownership style of the proprietor. The personality of the owner is quite important here. For some of the more entrepreneurial owners the freedom to control marketing, control stock, promotions and pricing is of great importance. Some owners are brilliant at running a pharmacy business, when they have the freedom to control their business and run it the way they want to. These types of owners do not easily conform to the systems and methodologies of a brand. And for some the results are clear. They often outperform many others. But to go it alone is hard work and it takes a special type of owner to be able to pull this off effectively.

This is a rare breed of pharmacy owner. It takes a strong entrepreneurial spirit with a very clear vision and path they want to take. There are some owners have gone down this path and tried to be independent with some not so good, let us say below average results. For most pharmacy owners though, the benefits of more guidance and support, being part of a brand and complying with systems, procedures, pricing strategies etc is a better alignment. The support of a larger system does have it benefits, but you will pay for it.

What brand will suit this location?

When looking at a location, you must consider the demographics and competition of that area. Some brands will suit a particular site and others won’t. For example, if in your area you have a competitor who is a strong discounter, then you branding as another discounter means your road to success may be harder and potentially won’t be as financially rewording. Perhaps your area needs a different service offering. Do a thorough analysis of your competitors and the demographics of the residents in your area and determine what service offering may do best. Also consider whether the brand suits the premises you are located in. A brand that suits a shopping centre location that has a strong retail presence, may not work in a small tenancy next to a medical centre.

What brand performs the best?

This is a very subjective topic. As any franchisor will tell you, the success of the brand is largely determined by the success of the franchisees. In any brand, you will have examples of those who do very well, and those who don’t. A successful operator may only be successful because of his or her actions. It may not have anything to do with the brand itself. Then again, it may be because it’s the best brand in that location. Of course, a bad performing pharmacy may not have anything to do with the brand at all. It just may be a bad owner. So, when doing your research here be careful you separate out the ownership style of the owner versus the advantages and disadvantages of the brand itself. But…. dare I say it…. it’s never our own fault it is? It must be someone else’s fault. Let’s blame the brand and not ourselves.

Does a brand really matter?

Maybe is perhaps the best answer here. The cynics will say the strength of a brand only matters for the franchisor and the franchisee. The customers themselves don’t really care. Maybe its only price and convenience that really matter to them. In fact, most customers probably can’t really tell the difference between some brands.

Some brands really do stand out though. Chemist Warehouse for example stands out as it is clearly known for its cheap pricing. Priceline Pharmacy stands out as it is clearly aimed at a certain female demographic.

There are two main points here you need to consider:

What does the brand provide you as a business owner?

What does the brand mean for your customers?

Is it harder not aligning to a brand and going it alone?

Yes. But for some owners they thrive in that environment of being in total control. They control the marketing, the message, they create the brand, the product and service offering, they do everything. Some owners are just really good owners and have a very clear vision for their pharmacy that a brand cannot provide. But it is a lot harder creating all this from scratch on your own. You need to have a solid vision, determination, alignment from your team and lots of hard work. But they get total creative control and don’t pay and franchise fees.

Not all of us can operate like that. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we aren’t all good at marketing, we aren’t all good merchandising, we aren’t good at creating a brand. Sometimes we need help. The assistance from a brand’s systems, for a lot of pharmacy owners is very valuable and subsidises our own lack of knowledge and experience in certain areas.

Above all though, the one thing all owners must know. It’s your business. If your business is under performing, it is your responsibility to fix it. You must take control and make your pharmacy performance to its best. It’s no one else’s fault. Only your own.