Ben Wise on Branding

Watching the world through the lens of the brand

Posts Tagged ‘Walmart

Leading Brands Must Lead

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Earlier this week I posted about the power of underdog brands. Conversely there is great power in being the leader as well. Big brands that are managed well have been able to dominate their markets for years. Think of Coors Light, Tide, Google – all big brands that are dominant in their industry and who continue to set the trend.

Unfortunately, in the face of a strong underdog, leading brands can sometimes forget that they are in fact the leader and start taking their cues from the follower.

A great example of this in Canada is with Loblaws and Walmart. In Canada, Loblaws has a much bigger market share, yet it seems that the market is increasingly being led by Walmart. The way that Loblaws merchandises, their range of products, the introduction of the ‘Joe Fresh’ clothing line in response to Walmart’s ‘George’, are a few examples.

Leading brands must remember what made them the leader in the first place. What are the key benefits that helped you get to your current position and are those benefits still relevant in today’s marketplace? If they aren’t, how can you adapt to better meet the needs of your consumers?

This is where leading brands run into trouble. The logic is as follows: if Walmart is growing they must be doing something right so Loblaws should do those things too. This logic will quickly turn you into the permanent follower without anything unique to offer.

Leading brands must make sure they are continuing to innovate in ways that are meaningful to consumers, regardless of what others are doing.

What do you think? Are other leading brands following their smaller competitors?

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Written by benwisebranding

April 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm

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Are CPGs Fighting Back?

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Walmart. Target. Costco. Retailing companies have grown to immense sizes in the past decade, and with their size has come power. CPG firms, who sell most of their product through these retailers, have suffered. P&G, the biggest CPG company, had revenues in 2009 of about $80 billion compared to Wal-Mart who topped $400 billion.

With the balance of power squarely with retailers, CPG firms have been forced to accommodate their every whim – higher listing fees, payments towards flyers, changes in shelf space – and haven’t been able to do much about it. The results have been a steady squeezing of margins among the big CPGs.

Additionally, most retailers now offer a private label option that the CPG firms are forced to compete with.

What can be done?

A recent article on eMarketer would suggest that some CPG firms are starting to take matters into their own hands. The title of the article says is all: “CPG Marketers Ramp Up Direct Sales”. After decades of selling products through retailers, they are finally trying to cut out the middle man.

While they may say they are doing this to reach consumers more easily and improve margin, the truth is that most consumers are going to go to the retailers for most of the regular shopping for years to come. But having an alternative sales channel, even a small one, may improve the bargaining position of CPGs.

This is the real benefit. If CPG companies can credibly claim another option then they should be able to push back to retailers on some of their demands. Retailers will remain the dominant force in the industry, but any improvement to the CPG’s is a step in the right direction for them. So buying some Tide online may scare Walmart into giving P&G slightly more favourable terms to them.

What do you think? Will CPGs gain any bargaining power with retailers from direct sales?

Written by benwisebranding

April 9, 2010 at 9:01 pm

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Are Brand Valuations Worthwhile?

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I get skeptical when I read about brand valuations. They seem to reward the companies with the most revenue and rarely reflect consumer sentiment.

Interbrand just published their top 10 retail brand values. The top three were Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. I don’t know the exact figures, but they are also among the top retailers in total revenue.

Obviously, the revenue generating potential of a brand must be the biggest determining factor in the value of a brand. However, their existing revenue is not always a result of their brand and separating the drivers of revenue can be difficult.

Certainly, Walmart will generate billions of dollars of revenue for the next several years. But how much of this revenue comes from their existing size? The power they have over suppliers? Their huge distribution capabilities?

Brand valuations often rank Rogers as one of the most valuable in Canada, but if you were to ask Canadians for their impression of the brand, they would almost unanimously reply with negative feedback.

At its essence, a brand is a promise made to consumers. Some promises are stronger than others. I’d love to see a brand valuation that placed a bigger emphasis on consumer data. Are consumers advocates for their brand? Working tirelessly to promote the brand and convince others to shop there? Rogers customers definitely don’t do this. I’m sure some Walmart customers do. But an awful lot of customers of the Apple store do this. Same for Amazon, who only just cracked the top 10.

What do you think? Do brand valuations fairly reflect the value of a brand?

Written by benwisebranding

March 15, 2010 at 5:23 pm