Thursday, April 30, 2009

Walgreens needs to re-brand

A frequent topic of conversation amongst the branding nerd herd is brands we'd love to work on. Typically a bunch of sexy brands - like Apple and Mini are noted - but for me, it's Walgreens. I started thinking about Walgreens a lot after moving to San Francisco where, unlike in Minneapolis, making a "Target run" isn't an easy task- especially when you're car-less, like me. Running to Walgreens, however is simple. I find that I'm rarely more than 5 blocks from a Walgreens store at any given spot in the city.

It occurred to me that while my shopping objectives for both stores are typically very similar, my experiences (and total at the checkout) are very different. Even when I walk into Target, armed with a shopping list with 5 items on it, I generally walk out with anywhere from 7 to 10 items. If my Walgreens list is 5 items long, chances are good I walk out with exactly 5 items. Herein lies the opportunity for Walgreens.

Initially, I thought that maybe the need 5, buy 10 vs. need 5, buy 5 situation was simply the result of Target offering more items that I'm interested in. Then I started thinking about my in-store experience and concluded that Target offers a more enjoyable retail environment thus making it more likely for me to stroll around the store and pick up "just a few more things". So Target wins in selection and environment, but they lose in convenience. The opportunity that I see is for Walgreens to leverage their convenience and simply take the time to up their selection and environment game and potentially get closer to the 5:10 ratio that Target enjoys. Ultimately, Walgreens needs to re-brand themselves from the top down.

The future Walgreens is less corner pharmacy and more Target-lite. This approach feels appropriate especially given the fact that so many Walgreens are smack dab in the middle of urban areas. Oh, and let's not forget that in this current economy consumers are looking to brands that they know and trust, something I have to imagine is true of Walgreens. I think Walgreens is primed to take advantage of their position and take a bite out of Target, Walmart and if they play their cards right, maybe even stores like Macy's and Kohl's. And if they don't seize this moment, I suggest Target start thinking about a plan for their brand extension into an urban store... Target Express??

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