“When to tell & when to sell!”



Now there’s a question that has become hugely complex with the advent of the internet and social media. Indeed it could very well be argued that they are very much part of the same process, with every word told about a brand identity and proposition a step on the way to making sales, and the selling of every product a consolidation of a brand identity.

There are some fundamentals behind this question that are fairly unequivocal, and are very much transparent if we compare and go back for a second to the non-digital age.


Firstly every retailer is now a brand, and not just a place to buy other people’s brands. The proliferation of “own label” has been one area of change where the onus of marketing, selling and building a brand reputation behind an assortment has certainly changed the balance for many retailers from just “stock it and they will come.” Secondly the competition to gain customers buying exactly the same branded product is intense, again unrecognisable from the world where customers had to make the effort to go and find a supplier. The onus now is literally on the other foot. So now our retailer of choice has to compete as a retailing brand where its values, it levels of excitement, authority, service, availability and delivery are all key attributes to certain degrees in gaining business and the patronage of the customer.

It’s fair to say that there now needs to be a balance of “Telling & Selling” even for the sellers of other peoples’ brands.


It would have been fair to say once, that the only way to make money as a retailer is to sell product.  This “set in stone” bedrock of retail is no longer a total truth with website space, advertising clicks and collaborative income can supplement the revenue from sales. In deed there has always been the “selling of space” as well as the “selling of product” whether that is concession space in department stores or promotional ends in hypermarkets and general goods retailers such as Boots. In many cases the money from the gondola ends paid for the non-sellers in the aisle. Promotions subsidising authority and choice.

Having said all of this, selling stuff is still the raison d’être for all retailers, commercially and emotionally at the heart of every retail heart.


The advent of “marketing” as an industry and the “marketing department” with its shiny new desks, consoles and relaxed space, usurping the rigid desks and huddled meetings of the sales team, was the first but significant shift from “selling to telling.” The same process but from the customers perspective, the one-off sale mentality to the development of loyalty relationships was an essential precedent to marketing in the digital world. And so that sea change has continued unbridled into our modern retail world where retailers and brands merge, multi-channels become one channel and where selling and telling  have evolved into the same corporate articulation. Or have they?

Has “product” become a dirty world in our modern marketing world? Is all non-product communication truly beneficial and influential in generating sales? Has the marketing “art” sometimes become “Art for Art’s sake? Money for God’s sake”


There are some astounding retail brands that cleverly, creatively and commercially combine product and non-product communication to elevate the total brand desirability using messages about heritage and innovation, local or international, humble or ostentatious, quality or throwaway, exclusive or ubiquitous, according to their proposition.

Ted Baker, Paul Smith, Rapha, Louis Vuitton, Primark and many others tell truly engaging brand stories, but all have retail and product at the very core of the messages, in the very soul of their actions, and as the lifeblood of their businesses. Come the day when peripheral events, social statistics counting or marketing machinations for their own ends become the end-game destination not the facilitators to make the journey, then even the biggest brands and the finest retailers will find their commercial legs cut from underneath them.

“Every product should have a story!” If a product doesn’t, even one based on convenience and price, then it has no place in the assortment. The retail brand is built on the proposition strength of these amalgamated anecdotes.


So, has “product” become a dirty word in your business, distracting from the “Brand Behemoth?” As always the retail road is littered with examples of retail brands who thought their clever communication was more important than the cut of their cloth.

Make “product” a dirty word and your brand will be stained forever.

VM-unleashed works with retail businesses to create retail calendars and to mange and deliver content to build brands and drive sales.


…here are a few people that we’ve helped that you may have heard of too…

Ferrari, Luxottica, Marks & Spencer, Primark, AllSaints, Carrefour, Camper, Cortefiel, Boots, Sainsbury, Sonae, Otto Versand, BonPrix, National Geographic, Flex, Gruppo Vestebene, Alessi, Eroski, Coin, Oviesse, Bally, Adidas, Sony, Clarks, Benetton, Orange, KappAhl, Imaginarium, Porcelanosa, Trucco and Ben Sherman.

some of our clients…

client-logos-01     client-logos-02     client-logos-03     client-logos-04     client-logos-05     client-logos-06



if you would like to know more about our expertise, and how it could work for you, then please drop us a line.

+44 (0)7967 609849 tim.radley@vm-unleashed.com