Be consistent in own-brand marketing

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Be consistent in own-brand marketing

By Michal Christine Escobar, Store Brands magazine - 08/19/2016

With consumers constantly bombarded by advertisements for national brand products, retailers might think they are at a disadvantage when it comes to marketing store brand products. But according to Raymond Swain, vice president of corporate procurement for Smart & Final Stores LLC, Commerce, Calif., it is possible for retailers to get through the clutter to effectively market their store brands. But they must be committed to communicating a consistent message.

During his Aug. 17 presentation at Store Brands' 2016 Innovation & Collaboration Summit, held in Orlando, Fla., Swain shared four ways Smart & Final builds awareness and acceptance of own-brand products among its shoppers:

1. The retailer engages its 12,000 store associates to promote store brands. How? By offering them coupons for store brand items with their paychecks. Each coupon is good for a free item. Smart & Final then encourages its associates to provide feedback on those private brand items via its website. This initiative not only makes it easier for store employees to recommend private brands to shoppers, as they can speak from personal experience, but also alerts the retailer to potential product problems.

"Every store employee should be like a waiter in a restaurant," Swain said. "They should be able to recommend store brand products the way a waiter is able to recommend menu items."

2. Smart & Final provides customers consistent and repeatable messaging around own brands. Throughout the year, Smart & Final implements 15 events in its stores and flyers that are specific to promoting private brands. For instance, advertisements in its flyers will discuss the breadth of different store brands, the quality and, most importantly, how those brands deliver on Smart & Final's overall promise to its customers. The retailer supports that messaging via in-store merchandising aids such as shelf-tags, banners throughout the store and on end caps, aisle signage and more.

3. The retailer rewards customers for trying specific store brand products. For example, in a partnership with a major Hollywood movie studio, Smart & Final was able to offer customers a free movie ticket when they purchased four private brand products among a list of 30 specific own-brand items. The promotion was funded entirely by the movie studios, and at its conclusion, Smart & Final customers redeemed more than 5,000 movie tickets.

4. Smart & Final has fun with contests and sweepstakes that encourage trial of own-brand products. For example, for its First Street Frozen Treat Cowdown, Smart & Final posted different flavors of its First Street ice cream over a period of 14 days on its Facebook and invited consumers to vote for their favorite for a chance to win a gift card. Swain noted that the retailer generated a lot of activity on social media around the promotion — approximately 35,000 hits.

"Make sure your entire organization is involved in your private label branding message," Swain emphasized at the end of his presentation. "Check in with customers on a regular basis to ensure your message is getting through, and do something that will make your brands unique to you and your banner."