L.L.Bean: Holy Death of a Brand Differentiator, Batman!
Say “L.L.Bean” to just about any consumer, and they’ll say, “Those boots!” And part of the reason they’ll say so is the iconic waterproof “duck boots” stand alongside the retailer’s “100% Satisfaction Guaranteed” return policy. But the brand’s going to futz with that famous promise, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
“L.L.Bean currently offers free shipping on everything,” reads the article by David Sharp, “and its ‘satisfaction’ guarantee is so liberal that it's led to abuse of the return policy. Company officials said they will have more to say later this year about shipping and efforts to combat fraudulent returns.”
But with a brand established in 1911 by an outdoorsman who created the rubber boots after returning from a hunting trip with cold, damp feet, there’s no way the retailer hadn’t accepted fraud in order to stand apart. On Friday afternoon, Target Marketing plugged just “llbean” into Yahoo and immediately saw an autocomplete search for “llbean guarantee.”
NOOOOOO! This is legit what they stand for. If they drop the returns policy all their equity goes out the window. https://t.co/hKROJpSNVW
— E (@elizwanders) February 10, 2017
Changing the guarantee is like adding an asterisk to the ball Barry Bonds hit for his 756th home run. (Baseball fans believe the record-breaking player was using banned substances.)
With the asterisk, the ball in Cooperstown is tainted. And if the guarantee isn’t 100 percent, it’s not the same.
After altering the guarantee, what will make L.L.Bean stand out? The Maine retailer’s recent controversy about the founder’s granddaughter, Linda Bean, supporting President Donald Trump? The subsequent boycott effort by anti-Trump activists? Trump’s Jan. 12 tweet?
Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L.Bean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy L.L.Bean. @LBPerfectMaine
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017
In her article Friday in Target Marketing’s sister publication, Taylor Knight writes:
Total Retail’s Take: In this challenging retail environment, this comes as no surprise. L.L.Bean’s sales were flat in 2015, and showed slow growth in the years before that. The goal of all these proposed changes is to return L.L.Bean to the strong growth levels it enjoyed back in the 1980s and 1990s, said company CEO Steve Smith. It’s also becoming more common for companies to eliminate pensions and offer early retirements. By doing this, Smith expects to reduce his company’s workforce by 500 employees, and saving money in the process.
What do you think, marketers? Is this a good brand move for this retailer?
Please respond in the comments section below.