Branding Ideas℠

Branding by Association

Several months ago we noticed what looked like a miniature version of Staples on Madison Avenue in New York. At first we thought it just a scaled down version of the office supply superstore chain and thought it was a great idea. In a busy city like New York, nobody wants to go walk even a few blocks out of their way just to the big Staples just to pick up one small item, so why not open smaller scale convenience stores where customers can dash in and get a printer cartridge, paper clips or choose from a selection of top sellers like pre-inked stamps (“Paid,” “Copy,” “File”)–the staples of Staples, as we here at Branding Ideas like to call them.

After closer inspection, we noticed the big “Copy & Print Shop” sign above the shop and realized there was more to it. Staples has launched a spin-off chain focused on copying, printing and Internet services along with the office supply essentials. There’s really nothing new about retailers opening spin-off shops or completely new chains as separate businesses; just think of Best Buy and The Geek Squad, Abercrombie & Fitch and Holister and Ruehl, and of course The Gap and Banana Republic and Old Navy. What really got our attention was their very calculated geographic positioning where Staples offers a new twist to the age-old geographic economics concept summed up rhetorically as location, location, location, by strategically opening up one of their stores directly next door to a Kinko’s.

The store is brightly lit and adorned with not one but two signs where the words “copy” and “print” are lettered in white and pop off the red background so you can’t help but notice what this store is selling. What’s more, the Kinko’s next door has no sign outside–just the big FedEx Kinko’s words on the walls inside.

When you see the two stores side-by-side there’s no mistake that this was a calculated and ingenious way to launch a new store. It would be one thing to be located a few stores away or across the street but situated side-by-side and inviting comparison, Staples is asking us to think of the new spin-off store not as a mini-office store but a copy center just like the largest copy center chain in the world.

More than brand association, it’s Branding by Association.

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