The other day I had a discussion with one of my friend who has been both a manager and later on a distributor for one of the top food companies in India, and he spoke about the concept of "Distribution Equity"(DE) which he said is as strong as Brand equity if not stronger..
The concept of DE is one which has not been studied much, though at the operational level it is a very strong concept and distribution driven companies realise it's utility. As with brand equity, this equity also provides firm with a substantial edge in the marketplace, and the strength is by virtue of its distribution channels. The difference would be that brand equity is in a consumer's mind versus distribution equity is embedded in the marketplace. Both the equities talk about the benefits both in the present as well as in the future.
The current manifestation of the concept of DE in the field can be seen in the ease of launch of new products, because companies which have a very strong distribution channel find it much easier to launch new products,as they can piggy ride the existing well established products. It is logical for products in the same category, like a soft drink company leveraging its existing distribution to launch a new flavor of variant or pushing a new variant. But some companies have used their channel strength to even enter into totally new categories , like ITC which has leveraged its channels strength and equity to enter new markets like snacks, and even FMCG.
Companies like AMUL have been leveraging this strength for quite long to test launch new products , and based on the acceptance they decide to launch the product nationally with adequate marketing support. If not , the product is given a quiet burial. So their channel strength provides them a low risk option for trying out new products.
I think this concept of DE is more significant in markets like India, where the complexity in distribution channels is very high and your channel strength might be as critical for your success as your other marketing elements. And the concept deserves more attention than it has been receiving till now..