What Makes a “Best Seller” in Private Brands?

Doug BakerThis guest post comes from Doug Baker, Vice President, Private Brands of the Food Marketing Institute.

What Makes a “Best Seller” in Private Brands?

The moniker “best seller” is often used to tout and elevate a brand’s status on the shelf, and for many shoppers, it is a purchase motivator. For private brands, the “best seller” category is something to aspire to, but if you’re a brand owner, you often find yourself competing with your own shelf space. What’s a private brand owner to do – or at least that’s a question I often ask of my private brand community. Here are some questions that you can use as thought-starters in your own company:

Who does the best job placing private label in the sections? I can’t play favorites, but companies that utilize private brands to drive loyalty and focus on meeting consumer’s needs seem to be winning.

Why are these companies the best? If you go with the idea that private brands are one of the key tools to build customer loyalty, then everything you do with merchandising and marketing is focused on that private brand. Far too often small, non-critical brands are set on the shelf at the expense of the private brand. We often ask ourselves: Is it really variety or duplication?

What is the best way to merchandise private brands? This varies by category and store size, but when categories hold a large or leading market share, creating a strong presence on the shelf, or ‘brand block,’ is often successful. My peers would agree that brand-blocking sometimes helps consumers from a convenience standpoint. An alternative to a brand block method that I used early in my career within center store was called a “west-coast modified brand block.” This marketing tactic would position like-products together in a block by brand, such as all the crackers together or all the cookies together.

What other methods of shelf merchandising have been tested? Throughout my career I have witnessed private-brand-dedicated aisles employing eye–level placement tactics. A successful example of a test I participated in within the pickles/relish category employed a vertical block and included only the leading national brand and the store brand.  We built a promotional plan that ensured the consumer did not lose “feature only” weeks and tested complimentary brand features. In this test, we not only garnered an increase in the store brand sales, but we also saw double-digit increases within the category.

Should private brands be placed to the left or right of the national or leading brand? In every instance where the set was integrated, the private brand equivalent was placed to the right of the leading brand in that category. The other merchandising option to consider relates to when the private brand ranks third in a category. In this case, the private brand is placed to the right of the leading brand and to the left of the second-leading brand in the category – similar to reading a sentence. This is what motivated the decision to put the private brand to the right of the leading category brand.

As private brands continue to mature both with consumers and within retailer strategies, what other notable moments have you had as a brand owner or as a trading partner?

Comment here or Email Doug with your thoughts.


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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.