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The Rebranding of Staples

Staples_cmoYesterday I received my November issue of CMO magazine. I read it cover to cover last night and was impressed with its smart writing and keen marketing insight. If you’re a marketer in need of new ideas, new perspectives, or just want to maximize your current understanding of marketing … read this magazine.

From the November issue, I highly recommend you read the CMO Case Study article on STAPLES. The article highlights how Staples stopped trying to be all things to all customers and began listening and providing more of what their customers wanted and needed from Staples.

As part of their rebranding efforts, Staples asked customers to list their 10 most important criteria for shopping at Staples. And, “…to management’s surprise, price was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t that price was insignificant to customers. But thanks to Staples’ influence throughout the segment, shoppers had come to assume they were going to get a good price. What they wanted was for stores to stock all the basics. They also wanted courteous and helpful sales associates. And they wanted a faster, less-troublesome experience. In other words, customers wanted stores that didn’t just have what they wanted, but had it where it could be found quickly and easily.”

So Staples focused its marketing and merchandising efforts on ‘making it easy’ for customers to shop its stores. For example, a typical store merchandise layout will place the most purchased goods in the back of the store hoping shoppers will buy stuff they didn’t intend to buy. To ‘make it easy’ for shoppers, Staples placed their most purchased items (print cartridges and paper) in the front of the store so shoppers could get in and get out fast.

The article goes on to mention how Staples made ‘making it easy’ an internal mantra to inspire their nearly 30,000 employees. To more meaningfully connect with its employees, Staples began to use “… the same kind of wit and polish that marked its advertising and other materials” on its internal marketing pieces.

Ahh yes … too many marketers forget that marketing to internal customers (employees) is just as important, or maybe more important, than to external customers.


Hey … while you are on the CMO website, spend a few moments reading the Context is King article to get a well-written primer on ethnographic customer research. Good stuff.

One Comment

  • Thanks for the pointer to Context is King – there is always (as you know) Yet Another Article About Ethnography – and they are all so damn similar. Here’s one that profiled a bunch of providers you never see written about, that was gratifying to read. I was amused by the inclusion of “usability testing” as a synonym, but otherwise, the articles (including sidebars) read very well and included good examples with some provocative details.