Each month I’m going to do a Gruen Transfer approach to marketing – looking at a particular category and how they market it, and where they go wrong. This month, I’ve decided I’ll kick off with the electrical goods category. I’m talking about some of the biggest advertisers in Australia – Harvey Norman, Retravision, Good Guys, Rick Hart etc. In my opinion, they all seem to be missing the mark.

Harvey Norman is consistently one of the biggest spenders of media in Australia, and I don’t think their media mix would have changed for the last 10 years – TV, catalogues, radio, press. And they certainly don’t do things in halves – their catalogues are like novels and the press ads take up 2-3 double page spreads. Gerry Harvey has even become an advocate for Free TV, boasting how successful it has been for his business. Sure, I bet it has. But I wonder what would happen if they took some money away from media and invested it in production. Their ads are full of screaming capital letters, star bursts (see example of a recent catalogue below), hoarse voice overs, bad jingles and just about every other out-dated approach there is. I guess I have to give them points for being consistently bad.

Retravision and the others don’t spend anywhere near as much as Harvey Norman, but they are just as bad – screaming at you about their latest sale or interest free offering. One thing that they all seem to miss is the power of subtlety in advertising – a proven direct draw card for females. I consistently ask myself why the electrical retailers seem to completely ignore the female buyer. I don’t know many males that would be game enough to invest a fair wack of their family income into a heap of electrical gear without the female’s stamp of approval. These days electrical goods are becoming more of a fashion statement than anything else – I certainly wouldn’t buy a fridge or toaster or TV if I weren’t confident it matched with the overall colour scheme and decor of my home. So why do they continue to yell at me with big flashing capital letters and bright colours? This deters me every time.

These guys really need to be more innovative in their media planning. They seem to have completely ignored the internet and mobile technology categories. Which is quite ironic considering they sell the most up to date electrical equipment yet can’t get out of the same old ‘big 3’ media rut.

They also seemed to have completely skipped the stage of building brand loyalty and gone straight to selling product. This industry is immensely price sensitive for this reason, especially with the Good Guys reminding you that you can ‘pay less for cash’. There is absolutely no loyalty and certainly no differential or unique offering. Why would you chose Harvey Norman over Retravision? A better price. That’s it.

No doubt they are doing something right as they seem to be making hoards of money. But I wonder how much more they could make if they embraced the female a little more and looked as some more innovative approaches
to marketing.

Next month I’ll be looking at the Hardware retailer category – can anyone beat Mr Bunnings?