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Thinking Inside the Box

Private Label vs. Store Brand?

January 2, 2014
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I have taught two of my university courses (on two different continents) in “PL Marketing, Product Development and Strategy” and was challenged from several different sources (manufacturer, retailer, marketer, publisher, analyst) about the use of the term “label,” as in “private label.” This also came up in the last couple of months in a fairly robust discussion with a retail client on a third continent.

This made me think about the topic a bit more than usual and—as usual—I have had some difficulty in coming up with a definitive view. Is there a right or wrong answer?

Using the term “label” is seen by some as old school or even derogatory. It’s also universally known from an industry standpoint—but certainly not from the consumer’s view. Some think we should only use the term “brand,” because that is what we should be all about. And then we move into a choice of “private brand” or “store brand”—which brings us to the discussion about whether or not we should be using the word “private” at all, because it means little or nothing to the consumer.

And then this week I read an analyst (who should know better) refer to a respected retailer as having a good “generic” program. So what’s to do, if anything?...

I am leaning toward  switching to the use of the “brand” word. This conjures up respect (hopefully), gravitas (hopefully) and more sustainability for the future (hopefully) as our programs grow and achieve an ever increasing share of the consumer’s wallet.

Brands are more inclusive than labels. Consumers “read” labels. They “buy” brands.

Designers “create” labels. Marketers “create” brands.

Brand development is much more encompassing of what all of us in the industry are about, whether we are retailer or manufacturer on behalf of retailer. If we sit at the retailer side of the equation, who seeks to engage the consumer with all the offerings available, and if we assume that private label (for want of a name!) is fairly high on their agenda, then how do they communicate their offerings? It’s certainly not by saying “try and buy our private label.” So if the retailers are all about building the “brand,” whether calling it “owned” or “store” or “our” or anything else that implies ownership within the confines of that retailer’s stores and online functions, then maybe it’s time we all endorse and enforce that nomenclature.

I guess it’s up to the industry to decide. Yeah, right! That’s like asking a committee to decide on white bread or brown bread, blueberry or raspberry…

I think we can all agree that we are building and manufacturing brands, whoever the owner is. So maybe that’s the answer. Over to you to think on it further and take whatever action you think appropriate.

 Till next time. 

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