From any perspective it’s a triumph. The Bunnings’ success story rolls on… and why not? It’s brilliant! They’ve found the formula and it’s simple in strategic terms but very complex in its implementation.
In 1988 the World Advertising Congress was held at The Opera House in Sydney. During this five day extravaganza I remember listening to CEO Brian Quinn describing the Coles empire as, “Getting the hardware perfect but never being able to get the software right”. By software he was of course referring to the company’s personnel. The strategy and the store components represented the hardware but Quinn and his cronies just could not work the magic with the people at the coalface.
Ironically Wesfarmers, who are now the proud owners of Coles, created Bunnings and the model which can arguably be described as ‘almost perfect’. If they can replicate the same brilliance into Coles, watch out Woolies and the others because the giant will no longer sleep.
It all began with the predaceous idea that periodic ‘Discount Sales’ were unnecessary. If you simply created a perception of being the cheapest all of the time that would be convincing enough and “We’ll give you 10% off if you can beat our prices”, was born. Having won that battle they moved into a top class branding campaign with warehouse type stores that could have been unfriendly. They made them warm with reds and greens, they empowered their people with a never say ‘No’ culture and they made those people feel like they owned the store. They delivered on their promises and then came the ‘coupe de gracia’. To reinforce store ownership they created a marketing campaign with the stars of the show being their ‘coal face’ personnel.
They didn’t script it, they just let them talk, and what came out was pure magic. It was their opinion, not some half baked celebrity with gushing advertising twaddle but a real ‘Sheila’ and a fairdinkum ‘Bloke’ telling other ‘Shelias’ and their ‘Mates’ the ‘good oil’. Framed by boxes, like something resembling Blankety Blanks, each of these ‘stand out’ employees are stars and make no mistake – they deliver. They mean it and if you don’t believe it walk into any store and check out the red and green befrocked talisman and women who guard the service ethic of every Bunnings store.
It’s a stroke of brilliance and I’m full of admiration for the initiator. Not because of his genius but because the first time he waltzed into the boardroom he must surely have been classified as part of the lunatic fringe. He obviously persisted and it paid off because today Bunnings is a market leader and miles ahead of the rest of its competition. Think hardware and you think Bunnings!
It’s a lesson hard learned for some because if an organisation as big as Bunnings, with a huge staff, can get it so very right, how come small businesses, selling niche products with a staff of two, can get it so wrong? The secret is to understand how Bunnings, merged marketing and the right culture to crystalise and create this most effective offering.
Brilliant as it is, it’s nothing more than giving the consumer what they want and using the right people with the right attitude to deliver value in the product; value in the experience; value in the service and back it up with a campaign that allows those people to wallow in its success. Given half a chance the same mob will turn up the heat in the grocery market and Coles will become clever too.
Here’s the test. When you next think about buying hardware will you question who is the least expensive or will you just know that’s a given and move onto the next question. Who’ll have it? And we all know who that will be. That’s transition marketing. Brilliant Bunnings!