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The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is out with a new study entitled “Shopper Marketing 3.0: Unleashing the Next Wave of  Value,” which suggests that “nearly half of food and beverage category shoppers and almost 60 percent of health/beauty and household goods category shoppers purchase their preferred brand even when a less-expensive alternative is available, with many shoppers using coupons and price promotions simply to justify purchasing preferred brands.”

At the same time, private brand marketer Daymon Worldwide has released a study called “The Maturing US Recession & Implications for Private Brands,” which says that “Private Brands are shaping up to be a focal point of retail strategy and a key differentiator for retailers. This is true not only from the perspective of retailer performance, but in the minds of consumers as well, with smart shoppers looking for the best Private Brands.”

While on the face of it the studies inevitably focus on different approaches to marketing to consumers at this particular moment in history - GMA on national brands, Daymon on private brands - the two approaches actually have something in common, endorsing the notion that a strong brand identity, properly marketed and communicated, can be a differential advantage in a time of continuing

“This research shows us that even in a recession, more often than not, shoppers are making purchase decisions based on factors other than price,” says Brian Lynch, director of sales and sales promotion for GMA. “This key finding reinforces the notion that there is significant opportunity to influence shopper behavior by having the right messages in place along the entire path to purchase.”

“For Private Brand retailers and manufacturers,” says Alex Miller, president of Daymon, “the challenge is to fully grasp this opportunity and deal with the recession fact-set even after the recession. There is much to be done to meet this challenge. Private Brand programs are not monolithic, and the best approaches and solutions will not be, either.”

The GMA study, which was co-sponsored by Booz & Company, suggested that enormous opportunities exist. “Most CPG manufacturers have not yet aligned shopper marketing initiatives with other marketing capabilities that influence shoppers along the entire path to purchase such as trade promotions, relationship marketing and brand advertising,” said Matthew Egol, partner in Booz’s Consumer, Media & Digital practice.  “The lack of alignment leads to disconnected marketing messages, wasted spending, and missed opportunities to drive purchase.  For shopper marketing to fulfill its potential, CPG companies must manage it as a strategic capability that is integrated throughout the marketing value chain.”

And a similar note was sounded by Daymon, which said that “for Private Brands, the prospect of a protracted recovery and a post-recession with recession-like traits presents opportunities and challenges.” Miller says that “for Private Brand retailers and manufacturers, the challenge is to fully grasp this opportunity and deal with the recession fact-set even after the recession. There is much to be done to meet this challenge. Private Brand programs are not monolithic, and the best approaches and solutions will not be, either.”
KC's View:
Both arguments are in favor of a strong brand message and a coordinated, integrated message that is relevant to shoppers. In some cases, this will mean that the national brand message will resonate. In others, the private brand will be the compelling choice.

Complacency and mediocrity will be the ultimate losers.