Consumer Brand Manufacturer Spotlight: Wüsthof

5931926553_15a17985b2_oAs a consumer brand manufacturer, would you ever consider cutting out retailers who undercut you on price and branding guidelines? How about Amazon?

That’s how Wüsthof, the 200-yr.-old German cutlery brand, does it. As Paul Demery reports in a recent Internet Retailer article, Wüsthof goes to great lengths to protect its brand integrityeven if that means severing ties with Amazon. 3 years ago, the brand got so fed up with the online retail giant for going below its minimum advertised and final selling prices that it walked away … forever.

Fast-forward to 2014, where the manufacturer reportedly shrunk its violator distribution list to about 40 clients, down from a mid-2013 count of 140 unauthorized retailers ignoring its policies. Wüsthof actively pursues compliance among authorized sellers and monitors/rejects the non-compliant after giving them a chance to right their ways. Todd Myers, vice president of sales, is quoted as saying the company has been making “dramatic efforts” to tighten distribution, protect brand integrity, and “create a fair and level playing field” for loyal retailers.

Granted, the decision to forego millions of dollars in potential sales might be easier for a well established brand like Wüsthof, but the question is relevant for any company that is concerned with sustaining its identity and business. The less appreciated point seems to be the quality of your relationship with your authorized sellers. If they’re serving you well, and you reinforce their lifeline to your business, you should be getting more of the kinds of sales (and customers) you want.

The issue of re-seller compliance presents an opportunity to take a principled stand for your business: If you’re in it for the long haul, and have loyal partners in the world who happen to not be named Amazon (or somebody else that messes with your policies), then you may need to choose between degrading your brand for short-term sales and taking a temporary revenue hit to preserve brand consistency and longevity. In other words, not all business is good business, if you’re in it for more than a quick buck. And there’s value in defining your brand’s values—and sticking to them.

No matter what your relationship may be with Amazon or other re-sellers, this question is bound to surface for a consumer brand. Think of it as an evolutionary gut-check for your business’s mission … and future.

Photo courtesy of Ben Husmann via Flickr.

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