The Reaction to My Essentials in Maine.

Over the last few years retailer and national brands alike have seen commentary and occasional backlash from customers as a result of brand redesigns, (Tropicana & Gap) brand consolidation and Private Brand portfolio optimization. Walmart is most commonly quoted as the example here, however I can’t help but wonder whether the backlash was to the over extension of Private Brand or to the over extension of the redesigned stark and sometimes overbearing Great Value. Read the comments below any of my posts about Walmart’s World Table and it is easy to see that Walmart customers react positively and passionately when given a quality, relevant and engaging Private Brand with products that live up to their positioning. The brand moves beyond the me too of Great Value and presents a unique option for Walmart customers.

So I suppose it should be no surprise that the reaction to the introduction of “My Essentials” by Delhaize and its US banners is meeting some less than positive reaction by loyal Private Brand shoppers. Take a look at this opinion piece from the  daily newspaper in Portland, Maine, the Portland Daily Sun written by a rather unlikely source, the circulation manager, Jeffrey S. Spofford.

I do however wonder whether Mr. Spofford’s reaction is a result of his loyalty to the Hannaford Private Brand or simply a reaction to the white design and generic naming and it’s similarity to Walmart’s Great Value. He writes:

“It (My Essentials) was cheap-looking. The font describing the product, the picture of the beans and the white background looked as though they had been focus-grouped down in some white-walled room in Arkansas. One could literally cut out a “Great Value” label from a Wal-Mart can, paste it over My Essentials and not tell the difference.”

Mr Spofford even seems to understand some of the higher level business goals of Private Brand portfolio management, optimization and consolidation:

“From a global corporate governance standpoint, the change makes sense. Delhaize will save money by only having to produce one product for all their stores. They even insist that having one brand will enable them to better leverage themselves when purchasing from suppliers. And, the increased sales they expect will certainly reap benefits for investors.”

The unspoken challenge for all retailers is to create brands that engage customers and build relationships of trust and passion. If you want your customers to love you and your brands give them something to love and remember. Use every tool at your disposal relevant consumer based brand positioning, brand personality, a differentiated – memorable and compelling name and of course a great package design and logo, etc. to create a great brand that can move beyond margin enhancement and create a true corporate asset.

Scuttling the Hannaford brand is ‘essentially’ hard to swallow

Three weeks ago my wife, son and I were enjoying dinner at a friend’s home when I noticed the latest addition to their mustard collection. My friend Drew is somewhat of a mustard connoisseur. We both believe that our mustards need to be hot — very hot. Hot enough to require the assistance of the fire department-hot. We discussed different mustard brand names when the conversation turned into a discussion of different brand names in general. Then, Drew turned to me and said “What I really don’t like is how Hannaford has replaced their Hannaford brand with something called My Essentials.”

This was news to me. I usually go grocery shopping once every two weeks. I told him that I hadn’t seen the My Essentials cans on the shelves at my Forest Ave. Hannaford and supposed that he was mistaken and the My Essentials was just an additional brand brought into the store. I couldn’t imagine that Hannaford Brothers would scuttle a long-known brand that to a lot of Mainers is considered a “name brand,” as opposed to a cheap-looking “store brand” like, say, Wal-mart’s “Great Value.”

Come to find out, Drew was right.

I was at the Forest Ave. Hannaford last Saturday morning doing my “grocery thang.” I navigated through the veggies, grabbed a couple things from the deli and rounded aisle four to grab a couple cans of Hannaford French-Style Green Beans. I looked down to the middle row where before me was a sea of canned green beans and couldn’t find it. Focusing harder, there it was. The My Essentials French Style Green Beans stacked oh so neatly with a little one inch by one inch sticker that confirmed Drew’s story. The sign read, printed in a super-small 6-point font, “This My Essentials product has replaced the Hannaford Brand.”

I picked up a can and gave it a gander. It was cheap-looking. The font describing the product, the picture of the beans and the white background looked as though they had been focus-grouped down in some white-walled room in Arkansas. One could literally cut out a “Great Value” label from a Wal-Mart can, paste it over My Essentials and not tell the difference. I put the can down, picked up a can of Green Giant, and continued shopping. As I did, I noticed the slow rotation that was gradually replacing most of the Hannaford products I had been used to buying for so many years. It was awful.

After I left the store, knowing full well that more than likely the products were the same contents with just a different label, I asked myself whether this brand change was something that was bothering just me and Drew, as we’re both a little quirky. I certainly hadn’t seen anything in the news about the change and it seems as though Hannaford is trying to quietly extinguish the Hannaford brand in the stores. After a little search, I found out we were not alone.

Read the entire article.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.