Apple, Google, Amazon…Kobalt! Landor Breakaway Brands of 2012


The yearly round of brand rankings has kicked into full swing with various philosophies and schemes for rankings come from all over the world including stalwarts: Interbrand, Landor, Millward Brown and Harris Interactive. This year’s edition of San Francisco based branding agency Landor’s Breakaway Brands published by Forbes, which measures sustained growth in brand strength over a three-year period includes a who’s who of the worlds greatest brands including: Facebook, Keurig, Skype, Amazon.com, Vizio, Samsung, YouTube, Netflix, USMC and Apple. In addition to the Breakaway Brands Landor has created an extra list of three “Brands to Watch:” Kobalt, Foster Farms and Norton. The brands in this list exhibited significant upward momentum but did not make it into the top 10. Landor is watching them as potential future Breakaways.

That’s right Kobalt – the Private Brand from my former employer Lowe’s  in a list of the worlds Breakaway Brands with the likes of Apple and Amazon…It’s about time! What’s even more impressive at no point does Landor or Forbes call Kobalt a private label or talk about value – Kobalt is simply and powerfully a BRAND.

Forbes describes Kobalt’s emergence in this way

Sometimes a brand has to connect to consumers through one person. Kobalt, one of our brands to watch, has been able to involve its community with the strategic sponsorship of NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson. As Johnson accumulated victories, and was voted Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year in 2009, Kobalt gained increased visibility and positive associations. From sponsoring races to working with Johnson’s team to design a line of tools, Kobalt’s decisive partnership has allowed the brand to carve out a distinct identity.

Congratulations to Greg Palese the former Kobalt Brand Manager and my co worker, he has moved onto to other things at Lowe’s but he spent the last five years building the Kobalt brand.

Still Kobalt is not the only Private Brand mentioned in the article:

Amazon’s marketplace is an extensive, yet intuitive one. With over 40 product categories from used books to gourmet food, it manages to offer customers selection and simplicity. In 2007, Amazon launched its MP3 store and released the first (Private Brand) Kindle. In 2010, it was second only to iTunes (tied with Walmart) as the top U.S. music retailer, and its ebooks were outselling paperbacks in America. By extending its straightforward design and markedly low price point, Amazon has been able to seamlessly add digital offerings for a holistic shopping experience.

This year’s Breakaway Brands list reveals the potential for Private Brands to become BRANDS as well as the simple but powerful truth: To flourish in today’s environment, brands must excel at being trustworthy and helpful.

Connect people. Make their lives simpler. Give them a sense of confidence. More than ever, to demand brand loyalty requires that a brand is loyal to its own values and its customers.

So do you know your Brand values or perhaps the better question is does your brand have values? It is time for retailers to stop apologizing for their brands, stop creating things that are by their very nature second best “at a value” at simply create great brands, create “Breakaway Brands.”

Does your Private Brand portfolio contain any brands that can truly become BRANDS or are you simply perpetuating the clichéd “compare & save” strategy of private label.



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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.