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Business Insider reports that Kroger plans a major rebranding effort, having concluded that its customers do not have a firm enough grasp of what the nation's largest traditional supermarket chain stands for.

"Today, customers don't know what to make of the Kroger brand," an internal memo obtained by Business InsiderA says. "We're trying to be everything to everyone — saying too many things in a fragmented way. And it shows."

The memo goes on to say that Kroger's "old approaches aren't working … It's been long proven that strong brands drive business," but "we're a Fortune #17 company that doesn't break the top 100 in brand value ranking."

Kroger is said to be planning an unveiling of its rebranding effort next week.

Business Insider writes that "the nation's largest traditional grocer appears to be rebranding as it faces heightened competition from rivals including Walmart, Amazon-owned Whole Foods, discount grocers Aldi and Lidl, and dollar stores. Walmart and Whole Foods are rapidly growing their online grocery services, while discount and dollar stores are driving down prices. 

"Kroger's memo concedes that the company is losing to some of those competitors when it comes to branding."

The goal of a rebranded Kroger will be to take "a clear stand that fresh shouldn't just be for some, it should be for all," and that it "has a standout look that is instantly identifiable and ownable and will linger in the hearts and minds of our customers … Kroger expects the new brand to 'drive repeat trips and very firmly solidify our leadership position in the industry,' the memo states."
KC's View:
It is possible that Kroger's greater willingness to try a variety of initiatives has unintentionally diluted its brand identity, and I give the company credit for recognizing the problem and addressing it. It may be that while it is making major investments in things like Ocado-powered robotic warehouses, that message - and its relevance to shoppers - is not making it through to the consuming public.

It seems to me that it will be critical for Kroger to define itself not in terms of the competition - it cannot and should not be Walmart or Amazon or Whole Foods or Lidl or Aldi - but in terms of defined strengths and advantages.

None of this is easy - Kroger has a dozen or so banners, more than 2,700 stores and 450,000 employees, and it already has been engaged in a expensive "Restock Kroger" transformation effort.

But there are things that Kroger may need to do in order to compete with an enhanced brand image.

One thing I'd be thinking about is bringing all Kroger's delivery options in-house, and part of a centralized approach to logistics that does not farm any of it out to third-party delivery services like Instacart (which really only wants to take shopper data and compete with its client chains). I'd make the delivery of high-quality products and services a core brand value … and begin the transition to in-house systems.

I'd also think about developing a replenishment option that could compete with Amazon's Subscribe & Save (itself a $10 billion business), but might have even greater relevance when combined with an effective bricks-and-mortar option.

These are just some ideas. The folks at Kroger are a lot smarter than I am, and really don't need my help. I do, however, agree with the idea of enhancing and strengthening its brand image and value proposition. It may be that it is seen as being too middle of the road, and the middle of the road is where you find roadkill.