Marketers make promises to customers to generate demand. Delivering on those promises becomes a moment of truth in a customer relationship and can have a positive or negative impact on the perception of your brand.

If you deliver an order late, if you can't meet a rush order request or a channel partner fails to properly educate your customer, your brand invariably suffers. In an era of ever-increasing customer demands and impatience, it is your supply chain that often represents a critical opportunity for you to build or destroy your brand.

As Jan Twombly, a principal at The Rhythm of Business, states: “Supply operations are forever directly related to demand; and managers can't treat them as separate.”

However, few marketing and brand executives truly understand their company's supply chain. It is often regarded as either a nuisance or an irrelevance. That is, until something goes wrong or a promise cannot be met. Suddenly, your supply chain's shortcomings become the center of attention.

Should we blame the people who make the promise or the people who cannot fulfill it? It is critical for marketing and supply chain executives to jointly recognize where the supply chain can be leveraged to enhance a brand and where it cannot.

Supply Chain as Foundation for Building Brand Equity

Consider the different experiences of Kmart and Cisco Systems. Kmart's supply chain became a serious brand liability, while Cisco turned its capabilities into a core element of its brand image.

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Joseph Benson ( is a brand strategist with over 25 years of experience designing and implementing brand and marketing strategies for financial services, healthcare, high-tech, entertainment and retail clients.