Same, Same, Same, Different!

“Whatever you do, don’t play it safe.
Don’t do things the way they’ve always been done.
Don’t try to fit the system. If you do what’s expected of you,
you’ll never accomplish more than others expect.”

Much has been said over the last few years about the evolution of retailer owned brands from generic to private label to brand. However, the reality of that evolution is much exaggerated. The vast majority of retailers in the world are still trapped somewhere on the continuum between generic and private label. They are followers who fluctuate between mimicking national brands and other retailers.

The evidence is all around us – walk the aisles of any grocer in the United Kingdom, France or the United States, take a look at their private brand portfolio and look for strategic differentiation. Look for design differentiation. Look for product differentiation. You will quickly discover that despite the beautiful modern package design, there is a strategic uniformity and dull sameness that has invaded the retailers and ultimately destroyed differentiation.

Stop playing it safe
Differentiation is not simply a buzzword; it’s a very difficult business decision. Make the hard decision.

Stop doing what you have always done
Re-evaluate your brands and brand portfolio strategy. If your current strategy focuses on price tiers, mimicry and sourcing, it’s not a strategy. It is a collection of tactics. Your brand portfolio strategy must be a long-term plan for the development of a successful portfolio of brand assets that achieves specific goals and speaks to specific customers. A well-defined brand portfolio strategy impacts all aspects of your business and is directly connected to your business needs, competitive environment and ultimately enhances existing customer relationships while creating the potential for engaging new customers.

Don’t conform to the system
This is simple to say and very difficult to apply. The world of private label loves to copy anyone and anything. STOP. Develop your own strategy and the tactics needed to bring it to life. Just because everyone else is doing it does not mean it’s right for your business or your customer.

Accomplish more than others expect.
It is time for retailers to assert their own unique brand and to build brand portfolios that bring that uniqueness to life. It is time for retailers to lead with confidence and clarity of vision, leveraging every tool at their disposal to WIN customers’ hearts, minds and wallets.

The poet Robert Frost said it best:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This story originally ran in the November issue of Global Retail Brands magazine.

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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.