Having just come out of one of the most prolonged recessions this country has seen, there has been a shift in the way we shop and what we buy. Branded products have long been associated with quality and just generally better than the alternatives. As more supermarkets are telling us that their own label products (Sainsbury’s Switch and Save promotion), are as good as, if not better than branded products, and often much cheaper, why then do we need brands anymore?

There are many reasons why we buy into a brand; in my experience it is the early association with that brand, even when as young as 4 or 5. Our parents’ generation loved Heinz baked beans, used Fairy liquid and bought Bird’s Eye fish fingers, and in our psyche we go on doing this as a comfort blanket and with a sense of familiarity. As the 2008-2013 recession hit hard people saw that actually non-branded choices were in fact an option for their shopping repertoire.

This shift in buying behaviours caused a challenge for brands – why buy us over own label? The answer is not an easy one to understand, nor is it easy as a recession lasts for only a few years, and therefore long term data on shopping behaviour is not available. Some brands have taken time to resolve this, but in fact the answer is simple: brands have to offer more added value than own label to their customers. Familiarity and what we grew up with is now no longer acceptable and brands need to work harder embracing social media, mobile and emerging technologies. Brands can now talk to and engage with their customers as never before, creating personality and theatre around the product as well as getting real time feedback.

Today brands have to fight for shelf space in order to survive and grow, the competition is tougher than ever before so brands need to fight hard. NPD and innovation are essential but not enough on their own they need to ensure they are creating a strong brand identity, building a story which engages and resonates with customers and above all stay ahead of their own label rivals. As we have seen recently with the de-listing of Kingsmill bread in Tesco stores, even what we believe to be ‘big brands’ are failing to keep up with the times and with the pace of change.

Brands will have a future; they need to fight hard, creating a strong brand identity and story, engaging customers, building loyalty and staying ahead of their own label rivals. Big brands disappear off the shelves overnight for failing to keep up with times and the pace of change.

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