Private Label Buyer

Walgreens Changing the Face of Private Label Marketing, Experts Agree

February 11, 2011

Walgreens planned national marketing campaign for its private label health and wellness lines signals a new phase in the evolution of private label and private label marketing, industry observers tell PLBuyer.


Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens will emphasis the affordability and quality of its products in marketing that will span TV, print and the digital media, exactly as would a campaign for competing national brands.


“If retailers truly want to compete as brands, against brands, they will need to use some of the same tactics that the branded manufacturers use, which include all of the tools of modern media,” says Neil Stern, senior partner at the Chicago-based research firm McMillianDoolittle, LLP. “While retailers have a significant advantage in-store and on price, that only gets you so far from a penetration standpoint. Developing and marketing outstanding products is what is needed to reach higher share levels.”  


“This seems like a natural evolution of the maturation of private label from a margin-builder and/or promotional vehicle to a full-blown brand on its own merits,” says Bill Emerson, president of the West Palm Beach County, Fla.-based retail consulting firm Emerson Advisors. “I've always thought that a central element of a successful private label was that it was treated with respect by the retailer. Respect is defined as quality that is equivalent to the national brands, stylish packaging, prominent placement, and price points that position it with national brands (assuming the quality warrants it). With these elements in place, it makes sense to market the brand publicly. It will be interesting to see who follows Walgreens’ lead.”


The marketing campaign represents a game changer for the private label industry. “I think this is a sign of the times,” says Natalie Berg, global research director for London-based retail consulting firm Planet Retail. “Walgreens is trying to capture the wave of private label sales and keep the momentum growing. People are starting to think about going back to national brands and Walgreens wants to keep their marketing targeted on private label products.”