Guest Column

May 14, 2009
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With the economy in a state of serious uncertainty, more consumers are searching for ways to stretch every dollar. This has created corporate brand opportunities not seen in times of greater prosperity and confidence.

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

Like the weather, business moves in cycles with unpredictable changes and consequences. Today, the forecast for corporate brands is for bright and sunny days.

With the economy in a state of serious uncertainty, more consumers are searching for ways to stretch every dollar. This has created corporate brand opportunities not seen in times of greater prosperity and confidence. Consumers are being forced to conserve and look for better values, while also looking for ways to maintain a certain quality of life. As Walmart so aptly proclaims: "Save Money, Live Better."

The real question for the corporate brand supplier community is how to respond to and manage this opportunity that lies before us. I suggest we never lose sight of the fact that this cycle, too, will change, and we’ll see a return to greater prosperity and confidence that will dampen corporate brand enthusiasm. Therefore, we must make hay while the sun shines.

First, we have an opportunity to increase our sales revenue and our margins as demand grows and capacity tightens on competitive supply.

With this accelerated success, we run the risk of getting a little too full of ourselves and a bit too short-sighted. If that happens, we might get caught up in the euphoria of these "good times" and squander the market-driven rewards that can be ours.

We should reinvest and secure these revenues and profits in these good times. Just like squirrels stash their food in fall in preparation for winter, we should prepare to ensure ROI during tougher times to come.

Smart investments now in human resources, capital equipment, technology, systems, product capabilities, etc., will pay off well into the future. As JFK once said, "The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining."

Second, we must seize the opportunity to enhance the "value proposition" of the products we supply. We should invest in new product technology and quality. Value builds sales and loyalty now and also increases the chance the surge in corporate brand trial - driven by necessity in difficult economic times - translates into sustainable satisfaction and regular usage when the economy improves.

These tough times offer an unprecedented opportunity to convert many consumers who have remained blindly loyal to national brands simply because they could afford the status quo. Now that these consumers are looking for better value options, it is our responsibility to ensure any brand switching they do is perceived to be worth it after the fact.

So my message really is quite simple. We simply can’t afford to get so complacent and enamored with these corporate brand good times that we fail to invest in that new, more effective umbrella that may be needed for the rainy days that lie ahead.

Don’t miss Steve Pankow’s moving tribute to Vern Brunner, former EVP of marketing for Walgreens drugstores, on the PL Buyer Web site under "PLB Extras"  (

Steve Pankow is executive vice president of sales and marketing at Associated Hygienic Products, Duluth, Ga.

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