By Keri Algar
SYDNEY, NSW: According to Harvey Norman Ireland CEO Blaine Callard, one of the main challenges to the Irish operation today is the same thing the retail giant credits for kicking off its brand recognition: loud and aggressive slogans.
“Whilst this [original strategy] gained us 97 per cent brand recognition, it did not establish our brand effectively as a full service, quality, value-added retailer,” said Callard. “It possibly even retarded the development of our furniture and bedding businesses, which are less about price and more about style and fashion.
“It is not unusual to meet with an Irish person who will not shop with us simply because of the tone of our past advertising.”
But Callard maintains that the concept was pivotal to effectively introducing the wider Harvey Norman brand to Ireland.
“This ‘yell and sell’ approach was a legitimate strategy for a new developing brand with a limited marketing budget. It was deemed necessary to be hyper-aggressive to get cut through, and it worked.”
However, Callard says that the marketing strategy has not evolved alongside the maturing business and this has created a strong focus on discounts and sales, rather than value and quality.
“Even today, we are well known for hyper aggressive radio and TV advertising, despite the fact that we slowly migrated away from this over a year ago. Imagine a Harvey Norman Australia radio spot with the pace, aggressiveness and volume turned up another 50 per cent.”
A brand awareness survey by Retail Excellence Ireland corroborates Callard’s comments. It demonstrates that as an electrical store, Harveys is positioned first for range of product and customer service, but lagging in the value and quality divisions.
Callard says that this brand positioning is a now a major focus for him and his team.
Tomorrow on Current.com.au we look at whether Harvey Norman Ireland is ready to withstand a market shakeout, or not.