Banner Brands: Blah or Brilliant? Take Two from the Private Brand Movement Conference

Carol's second take from the Private Brand Movement conference ran on Retail Wire this week. In the article, Carol ties together insights from several presenters on the use of banner brands and puts a spotlight on the differences between European and U.S. retailers' banner brand perspectives. 

BrainTrust Query: Let Your Banner Wave?

Should retailers align their private brands with their banners or build their brands separately? Based on presentations at the Private Brand Movement conference, it depends on whom you ask. 

In his presentation, "Creating Value Together: How European Retailers and Manufacturers Collaborate to Innovate," Koen de Jong, founding director at IPLC, noted that, for most European private brands, store banners "drive the offer." He cited Carrefour as an example of a retailer whose good, better and best private brands each bear the Carrefour name. 

In a co-presentation on the following day, Maggie Hodgetts, head of design for U.K.-based Waitrose and Jonathan Ford, creative partner for Waitrose's design firm, Pearlfisher, detailed the painstaking process that led up to the creation of Waitrose's mid-tier, health-oriented banner brand: Waitrose LOVE Life. 

The launch was portrayed as an expression of Waitrose's personality, its existing values around health and its reputation for care, consideration and quality. According to Mr. Ford, the Waitrose brand values were already a "great starting point," so the overarching opportunity was to be more "explicit" about those values and, in the process, express the positive side of health and well-being. The brand essentially became Waitrose writ large. 

Stateside retailer presentations told a different story. Alex Petrov, Safeway's VP of consumer brands spoke to the need for private brand quality to "ladder up" to the banner and vice versa. Interestingly, he confessed that, in some cases, Safeway's private brands seemed to "fall behind" and out of alignment as they upgraded store environments. With Safeway's private brand portfolio, including its new launches, heavily weighted toward non-banner brands, the company obviously believes that achieving alignment doesn't have to be an exercise in literalism. In fact, Safeway's non-banner O Organics brand led the way in its retailer-to-retailer brand model just as Craftsman and DieHard did for Sears. Clearly, major brand equity can be built separately. 

In her presentation, "Branding with Southern Style," Lisa Edwards, Belk's packaging design manager, indicated that the re-working of Belk's private brand has focused on modernizing its existing non-banner legacy brands, such as Kim Rogers and Red Camel, and creating a few more, such as accessory brand, Via Neroli, and the soon-to-be-launched cosmetics brand, Parisian, rather than attaching the Belk name to these products. According to Ms. Edwards, Belk customers perceive and receive the retailer's private brands as national brands, particularly in rural areas where Belk is the only game in town. Belk has encouraged individual store teams to use their imaginations to interpret the brands in their particular store's environment, enabling a form of localization-on-a-shoestring, and driving even more passion for the brand portfolio. Belk would seem to serve as a great example of how non-banner brands can more easily take on national brand characteristics. 

More than once during the conference, Trader Joe's was cited as a rare U.S. retailer that effectively leverages banner brands to drive differentiation. Does the fact that Trader Joe's is owned by German retail icon, Aldi, take them out of the running? 

Read what the Retail Wire Brain Trust had to say.