Archive for the ‘Retailer Brands’ Category


Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Like me, an ever-increasing number of people are discovering the joys of Pinterest.  Since joining, I’ve pinned tons of delicious recipes to try, lots of cool DIY projects and entirely too many ideas for fun ways to use mason jars.  Outside of providing countless hours of entertainment and inspiration (and alerting me to my severe mason jar obsession), Pinterest is also proving to be a powerful tool for retailers.

Pinterest’s traffic more than quadrupled between Q3 and Q4 2011, bringing in 7.5 million unique visitors in December.  With this influx of new pinners comes a significant increase in the amount of traffic sent to retailers’ websites.  According to recent reports, among social networks, Pinterest is the fifth largest driver of referral traffic.

This post from Mashable has a cool infographic with stats about Pinterest and tips for how companies can use it to their best advantage – check it out.

And if you’ve ever got an extra mason jar lying around, I’ll gladly show you how to make it into a soap dispenser, a chandelier or a terrarium.


Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Studies by neuroresearchers in the academic field of “attachment theory,” have been picking up steam.

In a nutshell, the theory maintains that we have an “attachment mechanism” in our brains, a series of circuits that work to create the relationships we have with others, as well as the preferences we have for things.

Human attachments are broken down into compartments that include:

* Romantic

* Parents

* Kin

* Friends

* Pets

* Strangers

These compartments can be subdivided to the point that we can be more attached to a pet than a sibling or even a parent.  Or, we might feel comfortable in large groups of relatives and/or friends, but avoid strangers. Details of these compartments can be found in my book, “Battling the Inner Dummy.

It appears that the same “attachment mechanism” with modified circuitry also shapes our preferences for things; from our favorite breakfast cereal to the automobile model we desire the most.  The point is that attachment is all physical.  It may vary in strength for people or things during time intervals, but usually reverts to a base line for each, which can be measured. Any significant and permanent change in strength usually requires a traumatic event or a series of them.

MSI has now developed a proprietary research process called the “Brand Attachment Index,” which helps us measure consumer attachment to branded products on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 reflecting little or no strength and 6 reflecting passionate strength.  The stronger the attachment index among category shoppers is for a specific branded product, the more difficult it is for a retailer to replace it with something else.

Interestingly enough, the romantic attachment mechanism has been labeled by researchers in the field as the “Biosocial Romantic Attachment Mechanism.” How on target has yours been?  Don’t ask about mine.

Are ‘Real’ Celebrity Brands Ready For Their Close Up?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
Based on the strong Q4 sales results released at Macy’s recently, it would appear so.

Macy’s Net Jumps 50%, Beats Analysts’ Estimates on Celebrity Brands Sales    

And, as an agency that specializes in developing and promoting similar proprietary brands for major retailers, we’re not surprised.  Consumers continue to demonstrate a healthy acceptance of brands off the beaten national-name path, especially in certain categories where the quality of these products has risen to, or exceeds, the level of the best nationally-branded ones.  Apparel, perhaps surprisingly, being one we’ve found at MSI for two specific breeds of shoppers these days: price-conscious heads of households looking for a trusted endorsement on lower-priced items, and those confident, low-budget “fashionistas” who know a look they want and see themselves, not the name on the label, as the authors of their own style.     

For retailers, these celebrity-endorsed brands offer a sort of instant equity that a totally new name, logo or packaging can’t, as well as long-term, savings over developing a brand from the ground-up…If done properly.  Indeed, for every Martha Stewart success there are countless other ill-conceived, half-hearted or sloppily-executed efforts that wind up costing more in wasted time and money.  So identifying, integrating and supporting the right personality is key.  To that end, there are essentially two types of celebrity-endorsements to consider as we see it, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.  The first of these is the hoary traditional ‘Paid Celebrity Endorser’: a typically shorter-term tactic to bolster some specific facet of a brand (i.e. contemporize an old one, elevate a pedestrian one, etc.) by association with a popular personality who owns this attribute; the paid relationship is obvious to all, with no further connection to the brand than a paycheck and some contractual use.  For those over 40 think Susan Anton, or Steve Martin’s ‘Be somebody!’ drink umbrellas in The Jerk.    

The other more interesting (and I’d submit, sound) model is the increasingly prevalent ‘Celebrity Brand’ in which an actual, differentiated entity is established that: a) evokes a certain sensibility that imbues a product or line with new value, b) aligns with the retailer’s own brand and its core shoppers’ attitudes and c) is built upon the celebrity endorser’s personality, but ultimately stands for something in and of itself (e.g.  “style on a budget”) that can be owned and managed to over time.  Such is the actual relationship that it may even include the celebrity’s design or product input, if they have the credentials for it ideally.    

Jessica Simpson brand shoes, clothing and accessories are avilable at Macy's

Queen Latifa Fragrances are also available at Macy's


Again, there is no ‘better’ model per se, simply two different ones I hope to have made a case here for distinguishing between the two.  But from where we stand, the

latter partnerships do offer greater potential for long-term ROI, new store traffic around desirable exclusive items, and the addition of a real asset to a retailer’s portfolio—versus a catchy ad or two to cover up its deficiencies.    

Watch their star continue to rise in days ahead…We will be here.  




Home Center Shelf Presence Can Depend on More Than Consumer Awareness

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Brand leverage, of which consumer awareness is an element, remains a key for vendors who feel themselves vulnerable to the growing percentage of private label skus that home center chain retailers are putting on their shelves.  For example, longtime MSI client InSinkErator has done little consumer advertising over the years, but appears firmly ensconced on the shelves of THD and Lowe’s because, among other things, it is the overwhelming favorite of plumbing contractors.  Klein Tools, which has relatively low consumer awareness, but is a favorite of electrical contractors, has a growing position at THD.

Honeywell has both consumer awareness with its line of thermostats and is a favorite of HVAC contractors, although longtime MSI client White-Rodgers has overtaken Honeywell in the trade. Nonetheless, Honeywell remains established on retail shelves primarily because of its strong consumer awareness and the residue of its trade preference.  Pella has strong preference among trade contractors, but like Honeywell also has high consumer awareness, so it is ensconced at Lowe’s.  Consumer awareness plus trade preference is the perfect combination.

In a nutshell, vendors with brands with strong trade preferences need to nurture that preference among their trade channels, not only to strengthen their professional sales, but to create leverage with the home center chains.

P.S.  Vendor positioning at Menards is another story we’ll cover in the next blog post.

A Check-Up on Retailer Brands:

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Healthier Than Ever With Consumers.

A vital benefit of our work here is getting to be a fly-on-the-wall to one of the more interesting ongoing dialogues today: the one between Retailers and Manufacturers about who truly owns the hearts and minds of their shared Consumers; whom they really seek out and trust in purchase decisions, who truly owns their loyalty and preference, and what that’s worth in brand value and negotiating leverage between the two parties.

Not long ago people went to buy a nationally advertised brand like Tide at their local store–which then benefited from the traffic, sales and margins driven by carrying these preferred names. No need to advertise much if you were a store, just carry the right mix of stuff people want and let the manufacturers do the rest.

Today, of course, that’s shifted radically: stores are their own ‘brands’ and invest heavily in building an image, experience and loyalty with consumers around them equal to the biggest national brands. In turn, the mantra in many households has gone from “I need to pick up more Tide” to “I’m headed to Target, need anything while I’m there?”.

And if you ever needed more evidence of this phenomenon, just check out the success of those new in-store clinics populating Drug Store chains like CVS and Walgreens nationwide, offering basic services in lieu of a visit to the traditional doctor’s office.





Putting aside for a moment things like national healthcare debates and eternities wasted reading crappy magazines in waiting rooms, from a brand standpoint this is groundbreaking stuff. Whereas the old rule long held that consumer trial of a store brand was inversely proportional to its physical invasiveness or perceived risks (e.g. think paper towels versus eye drops) we’ve officially blown through that barrier to now trust retailers for injections, blood work and medical advice!

This all suggests two important things, to my mind:

1) Private Label brands have officially graduated from price-value propositions dependent on National Brands for context, to trusted and backed offerings from retailers about whom consumers have developed clear and (as beliefs and behaviors only grow more entrenched over time) lasting opinions.

2) Increased corporate transparency and consumer access to information are likely driving this (and Private Label trends generally) more than previously thought; that beautiful designs and strategies can connect consumers to PL brands in the store, but their growing consideration, relevance and esteem are primed long before through a mix of media, marketing and even word-of-mouth.

We’ll continue to watch these and other developments closely and update our perspective on them here. But for now, it certainly seems like Retailer and Private Label Brands are indeed more than just a fad or response to US belt-tightening– that we’ve entered truly new territory from which we won’t be going back again.