Retailers might not have the deep pockets of a consumer-packaged-goods giant. But a little creative thinking goes a long way. Consider the following tips — in no apparent order — when marketing your store brand products:
1. Don’t just promote on price.
A quality store brand product at a low price might be appealing to many consumers, but it isn’t necessarily a strong differentiator.
“The most successful retailers use [their brands] to not only drive margin, but to provide a clear point of difference, help enhance the shopping experience, and — most importantly — provide customers with additional reason to come to your stores and buy more,” says Andres Siefken, vice president of marketing with Daymon Worldwide, Stamford, Conn.
Brad Hanna, senior vice president, consumer packaged goods, and group practice leader of Kansas City, Mo.-based Barkley, says the “quality and value” proposition is an entry point for many categories. Retailers such as Target, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Safeway have gone beyond this proposition and carried through the more “vibrant, relevant and defined personality” of their retail brands into their store brand products to better differentiate themselves in the market.
2. Consider the category.
Store brand penetration varies from category to category. Ergo, marketing strategies also must vary from category to category, says Todd Maute, a partner with New York-based CBX.
For example, an April study from Market Force Information of Boulder, Colo., found that more than 29 percent of survey participants never purchase private label cereal (citing taste as the primary reason), while only 4 percent never purchase own-brand milk.
Retailers should effectively analyze data to determine the optimal private label product mix, Maute says. The insight also should be coupled with marketing strategies that vary from category to category.
3. Use the shelf edge.
Many experts believe that at least 70 percent of purchasing decisions are made in-store. For that reason, Jeff Weidauer, vice president of marketing and strategy for Vestcom, Little Rock, Ark., calls the shelf edge a store’s “most valuable real estate” for educating customers and promoting store brand items.
“It’s the first place a shopper looks for information,” he says, “and it’s the best bet for creating that all-important connection that makes her choose the product off the shelf.”
And don’t forget about placing quick response (QR) codes on the shelf edge. By taking a picture of a QR code with a smartphone, consumers are directed to a website containing product information that might not fit on packaging or a shelf edge.
4. Get creative with displays.
The private label industry has seen a push toward creative point-of-purchase (POP) formats that feature innovative, multi-dimensional and 3D visuals that really grab consumer attention, says Kathy Calta, chief marketing officer for Baltimore-based Vertis Communications.
“Mixing textures like fabric, wood, aluminum and metal is another trend retailers are using with their displays to promote store brands,” she says.
Retailers also could use window clings and creative shades or blinds, Calta adds. And when integrating a brand’s message on POP displays, it is important to think regionally — in terms of both geography and ethnicity — so messages are versioned appropriately.
5. Be consistent.
In packaging, visual quality and consistency — in terms of both color and content — are two key attributes that impact a brand’s value and affect the way consumers view and select products, Vertis’ Calta says. Both help tie store brand products together.
“To make a store brand easily recognizable on shelves, it’s important that the colors and images on a can of soup are consistent with those on [a] bag of chips,” she says.
Vertis recently began using customer insight to develop packaging concepts for Sunflower Farmers Market’s own-brand products. The concepts — which go across a variety of product substrates — feature colors, imagery and designs that convey the attributes of the brand that resonate most with consumers.
6. Encourage exploration.
The retailer has the power to create a shopping experience that motivates clients to explore, says Greg Feinberg, president of the Los Angeles-based Aisle 9 Group.
“The retailer also has the power to place its products in optimal areas where they will be picked up,” he points out. “Remember: Once a product is picked up by a consumer, there is an 80 percent chance that they will buy it.”
Mike Taylor, executive director, brand strategy and research for Dayton, Ohio-based Interbrand, says his company’s research shows that consumers consider every shopping experience to be a journey.
To create an enjoyable journey, Taylor says retailers should let their store brands be trail markers. Retailers could place them in areas that “surprise and delight consumers” every time they walk into the store and down an aisle, with one “marker” leading to another.
7. Create a demo program.
In-store sampling not only impacts day-of sales, but also impacts sales for many weeks following. An August 2009 study from research firm Knowledge Networks-PDI, Menlo Park, Calif., found that items sampled in-store in multiple categories showed an average 475 percent cumulative sales lift on the day of the event. What’s more, over the course of a 20-week period, the sampled items saw an average cumulative sales lift of 74 percent.
The study also found that in-store sampling drives repeat purchases and sales of existing products and line extensions.
8. Promote outside the store.
Most purchase decisions are made in-store, but don’t discount the importance of engaging consumers outside those four walls. Rich Simon, managing partner with Boomerang Brands, Westmont, Ill., says every retailer has a captive audience for its store brands. But rarely does one see a retailer promoting its brands outside of the store.
“Retailers must look at the daily lives of their iconic customers and promote their store brands where they work, work out and receive their local news,” Simon adds.
He goes on to say that retailers have the opportunity to promote their store brands through targeted advertising via print (local newspapers and mailers), health-focused events (local 5K runs and amateur sports) and social media.
9. Think big picture.
A store brand represents its owner, taking on its personality and visual identity. Therefore, it is important to know the attributes consumers find most appealing about the retailer and use them during every step — from product development to marketing.
“Many retailers have vibrant and relevant retail brands, but they are missing an opportunity to push the equities of their retail brand into the equity of their private brands,” says Barkley’s Hanna.
10. Use excess space.
In the May issue of its Competitive Edge (titled “My Store Is Too Big — What Do I Do With the Extra Space?), Barrington, Ill.-based retail consultancy Willard Bishop says the most efficient store size is approximately 40,000 square feet — nearly 25 percent smaller than most grocery stores are today. That extra space could be dedicated to destination or signature categories, thus providing customers with a unique shopping experience.