The Co-Op Conundrum
by Angie Ash, Executive Vice President
As a fine jewelry retailer, you may have invested some significant dollars in high-performing brands. Those brands may have also demanded some high-dollar buy-ins, so it’s important to utilize the benefits these brands offer. Co-op can be a conundrum, though, and if you’re anything like me, you prefer the wine blend to the baffling complexity of planning out effective co-op. Here’s a look at what you should be paying attention to — and taking advantage of — to make things a little easier.
1. The first thing to consider is what the brand offers in co-op. Most brands today offer 50% of the advertising cost in advertising credit instead of a merchandise credit. You’ll want to see what is available and if it’s of any use to you. Look for a wide variety of offerings so you’re not held to participate in an endeavor like print ads or billboards if they’re not in your budget. Don’t sign up for something just because it’s offered. For example, if you have a competitor that dominates outdoor, your co-op strategy will be better served elsewhere and with a different advertising medium.
2. Stay on task. Keep the brand’s co-op plan deadline in mind. If you feel like you need more time to submit your plan, ask for it early. Some brands will allow for later submissions if you are upfront with your reasons to ask for an extension.
3. Rules of submission apply to most brands. Sophisticated brands will want to see advertising proof of performance. It can be time-consuming to gather this, so make sure you carefully read what you need to supply – everything from paperwork to snapshots, tear sheets and notarized radio scripts could be in order. You’ll want to check their guidelines on how often you will have to submit your co-op, too. Some brands will want monthly or quarterly submission. Others will only request it once a year. Make sure you note when this is due and appoint a very organized employee on your staff to be in charge of this endeavor. Make sure you review everything with that employee so there is a clear understanding of what needs to be done, and when.
4. Speaking of rules, adhering to a brand’s standards is very important. Most brands have a point person you can go to for questions and the submission of your plan for approval. Most also want to have creative pre-approved. Make sure you submit creative in a timely fashion, again paying careful attention to deadlines. Many brands also now mandate their creative to be done in-house by them, or they will request specific placement within a publication. Some have a strict number of days needed on their end to fulfill your request, so pay attention. Don’t be afraid to ask for your logo to be a little larger on the creative if you feel it gets lost. You can get turned down on the request, but at least you voiced it. Remember, you’re investing in the brand, too!
5. Plan, plan, plan. Once you have your brands in place and know what’s available, now is the time to plan it out. Get all of your contracts in front of you along with the various brands’ rules, regulations and guidelines. This is the most time-consuming part of the co-op process. Make sure everyone on your team is aware of what advertisements will run where and what type by plotting everything on a calendar you share. Be sure you keep printed documentation and samples of everything. As you get plans in place for each brand, submit them for approval and get ready to make adjustments if necessary if and when a plan gets dinged. Again, this can be tedious so be prepared!
6. It’s not your mother’s co-op plan. In years past, print, radio and TV were the dominating forces for co-op. Although still important, advertising in these mediums has become more complex. Some brands will only approve certain programming. They also sometimes mandate premium placement in magazines that may not be available. Be ready to stay flexible and make revisions to your plan to get the most bang for your co-op buck. The upside to all this complexity in advertising is the shift in brands to allow for more digital strategies like social media advertising, YouTube advertising, even paid search. Many will even allow you to approach them on digital ideas or will give you co-op dollars to apply toward your trunk show invitation. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Just be aware that more choices available means more time needed to choose what makes the most sense and fits within your plan.
In summary, utilizing the co-op that’s available to you can be a great way to put your investment brands front and center with your customers. It will take time and patience to do it right, and you may decide to leave some money on the table instead of using every cent available. The important thing is to make sure your efforts pay off in your advertising and make sound sense financially and with your brand. Great planning means co-op no longer needs to be a conundrum.
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