retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to our story earlier this week about how many consumers have a “muddled” view of what private brands are, and often do not even know that they are buying an own-label item when they do so, MNB user Craig Espelien wrote:

I am both encouraged and disheartened by this study – encouraged because the entire goal of private brands is to get the consumer to look past the price only focus and see the products as a brand in their own right.  Disheartened because there is still so much to be done to create a “reason to believe” for consumers for too many private brand products.

The folks who only want to see the store’s name on the product are simply looking for a way to identify price focused value – they will know that the item with the store’s name will be cheaper.  This is lazy marketing in my opinion.  For the entire consumer base to embrace the overall concept of private brands, these brands need to be elevated to “real brands’ with “real meaning” for the consumer.  This requires a Brand Portfolio Strategy for each retailer and their associates – so everyone knows what each brand stands for (and this needs to be simple, scalable and transportable to make sure EVERY new associate quickly learns it) and why the consumer should buy it.

The marketing program needs to be completely systemic – infiltrating the store’s overall marketing program and occupying a position of authority (the largest brand that most retailers sell is their own – and they pay it the least amount of attention).  One retailer has educated their team like this – our brands are our children and they need lover, attention and nurturing just like children.  No one would just thrust their kids into the world and wish them “good luck” against the harsh realities of the competitive space.  I am not sure I can put it much better – private brands need to have the retailer’s love and attention every day – with the marketing program nurturing the brand equity and brand resonance.  Only in this way can retailer’s truly deliver superior value to the consumer in the form of private brand.

I have helped several retailers see this “Ah Ha” moment (and a few manufacturers as well) – but the process needs to be sustained over time and through all of the leadership changes the industry has experienced.

MNB user Ben Ball chimed in:

This report simply reinforces the fact that most of the people involved in researching, marketing and competing against private brands still don’t understand them. A good private brand should NOT carry the store name necessarily – and in most cases shouldn’t. That’s what genericizes the product to begin with, simply re-invoking the quality horror show of private label in the 70’s – 90’s. Distinct brands that can only be found in one chain (Dave Nichol’s “proprietary” concept) are what make the brands differentiating to that chain – not having “Safeway” plastered all over it. The fact that consumers are “muddled” in their association of private brands with the chain identity means we are heading in the RIGHT direction.

On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

Thought you might enjoy this real life story.  I've always been fascinated with trying to understand what makes a customer take a "drastic" action in regard to the shopping experience.  Never thought I would be the subject of my own fascination.

I have been, unfortunately, saddled with a few significant health issues for quite awhile.  As such, I'm a frequent customer at the local Walgreen's.  I like their systems because it's pretty seamlessly integrated with my health insurance, my "cafeteria" plan that pays for out of pocket medical expenses, and my payment cards.  I show up, they hand me my prescriptions, press a few buttons, and I go home.  Over the past nearly 20 years I have developed some good relationships with some of the folks that work there and I admit that it is nice to be called by name, despite understanding that it means that I am there far too much.  The last prescription that I tried to fill proved to be too much for the staff, though.

One of the medications that I take is very tightly controlled.  The prescription cannot be called in or faxed in.  It must be a real, written prescription and it must be filled within 21 days of the date on prescription.  It's also pretty darn expensive.  Recently, my insurance company decided that they knew far more about my treatment than my doctors did and decided to not cover it at all.  The doctor could not persuade the insurance company to change their minds, so he came up with a generic version of a drug that was substantially similar to the "name brand" pills we had started with.  I went to fill the order and was told by the pharmacist that there was no such thing.  I was dumbfounded.  I explained the situation and also clearly communicated that I understood that this was a slightly different medication, but that $50 a month out of pocket versus nearly $400 a month was nothing to sneeze at.  She told me that it had nothing to do with money, the drug that the physician had ordered did not exist.  "Are you sure?"  "Yes, I am.  I'm a licensed pharmacist."  At that point, I knew that I would have to call the doctor for yet another written prescription, so I went home with the no_such_thing prescription in hand.  And before I called the doctor, I hit Google.

Sure enough, there were bajillions of hits on the drug that my doctor had prescribed.  And I called up CVS, the one that was all of a mile away from my Walgreens, to ask if they knew of the drug.  "Yes, and we keep it in stock."  I went over and proffered my doctor's note and was greeted with a cheerful smile and a "it will be ready in about 10 minutes".  And I started stewing.  Walgreens had made a significant mistake.  And if a "licensed pharmacist" could make that kind of mistake like that, my health could be in jeopardy if other mistakes got made.  I explained the whole dramatic chain of events to the CVS pharmacist and asked how difficult it would be to transfer all of my prescriptions to them.  Turns out, not hard at all.  And I got a nifty little discount for doing so.  CVS gained a customer.

And Walgreens lost one forever.

Responding to yesterday’s castigation of Barry Bonds, one MNB user wrote:

I believe 99.9% (if not more) of professional athletes take a performance enhancing drug (PED) of some sort.  If you have the desire to dig into any one of their lives, you can find a similar story like that of Bonds, Sosa or McGwire.  PED’s reach much further down the chain from Olympic curlers (yes, curlers…are you getting a feel for the magnitude yet?) to bodybuilding (Governor Schwarzenegger) to that group of meatheads grunting and screaming at your local gym.  I bet you know someone on the intramural or City League (any sport) team that looks a bit different than six months ago and looks the part of “athlete” now and didn’t before. 

Now for the part that hits home to those with children.  What do you think is happening to those kids trying to win roster spots at ten years old, or teenagers trying to keep up with those kids who made varsity?  From the Book of Hodge, “Peer pressure is a greater force than gravity.”  The kids want to compete and be better than their friends, who are all looking for an edge to be better.  And what kid doesn’t like to hear their parents do some bragging on their behalf to their friend’s parents?

So stop hating on these “athletes” and face the facts that PED’s are everywhere.  The before and after pictures don’t lie.  And God forbid that anybody even looks twice at all the football players in the world and attempt to give Brady or Manning an asterisk.

Fist of all, I don;t share your pessimism about the numbers. I am absolutely sure, for example, that nobody on the NY Mets is taking steroids, because they all suck.

(Okay, I’m kidding. A little bit.)

Your larger point about young people is precisely the reason that we need to shine a harsh spotlight on any athlete who takes PEDs. Shame them in the town square. Take away their medals and their endorsement contracts. Make them feel the disappointment that so many of their fans feel about them.

Another MNB user wrote:

In no way do I disagree with you on your comments about Barry Bonds, but something to chew on is the #1 homerun hitter will not go into the Hall of Fame.  In fact the top 2 HR hitters will be at the scrutiny of steroids (Alex Rodriguez to most likely be #2), and 6 of the top 15 will probably not make the Hall of Fame for the same reason.  Not to mention the greatest pitcher of the last 30 year (Roger Clemens) will not be inducted either.  Now a shadow is cast for others still playing including Albert Pujols, and what to say of future players.  There is plenty of blame to go around for what might be one of the worst sports issues to be swept under the rug for too long, and with the slap on the wrist to Bonds the baseball purists face a dilemma that will continue for years.  It is too bad how quickly the American public forgets, as all I have heard in the last 3 weeks is “who cares about Barry Bonds anymore”.  That is just plain sad in my opinion.  The man broke the law, tried to cover it up, and was one of many the destroyed America’s past time.  Just wait until the NFL cracks down on HGH…

This reminds me too much of Fortune 500 CEOs (“super stars” if you will) that walk away from companies in complete chaos with huge bail out bonuses and sold stock options without a care in the world.  Worse yet the ones that lied, cheated, and stole from their companies to push the stock up only to run at the last seconds as the stock plummeted and the works were left in ruin.  All while they faced slaps on the wrist from the government with house arrest/probation in their multimillion dollar mansions.  Does anyone remember Enron still?  Like you say, I know there had to be a business lesson in here somewhere.

And, from MNB user Tom Devlin:

Since Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire did get medicinal help in reaching their record breaking home run milestones I say let the fans vote to throw out all the records they personally achieved. Obviously you can not take away team or World Series victories but you can take away personal achievements. So we can now say the Home Run King is still Hank Aaron and the most home runs for a year is the 61 that Maris hit...

In the light of day, the achievements of Hank Aaron and Roger Maris look all that more remarkable.
KC's View: