A Conversation with Jim Holbrook
Daymon Worldwide, a Stamford, Conn.-based broker and global expert in consumables retailing, experiential consumer marketing and innovative retail services, was founded in the 1970s when private label products were viewed as low-priced, cheap-quality, undifferentiated alternatives to national brands. But Daymon’s founders were intent on transforming how retailers and consumers viewed private label products. Decades later, the company is known for helping retailers use their private brands to achieve a competitive point of differences.
Recently, Daymon Worldwide announced that Carla Cooper was retiring as CEO and that Jim Holbrook would replace her. Holbrook’s background includes working for companies such as Post Holdings, Procter & Gamble, Ralston Purina (now Nestlé Purina), as well as advertisement and marketing agencies. Store Brands asked Holbrook to discuss his career and what he sees going on in the store brand industry today.
Store Brands: What are the most exciting store brand categories right now, and what makes them so exciting?
Jim Holbrook: I think the nut butter category is a great example of how bad or how amazing private brands could be, particularly as it’s one of many growing categories gaining traction with wellness-minded consumers.
This section is over-SKU’d and miss-SKU’d by many retailers, making it difficult for consumers to find what they need or even to consider the private brand option. Yet, the category itself is ripe for private brand domination. There are terrific suppliers who can deliver private brand excellence in the peanut butter category and the alternate nut/seed butter [categories] like almond, sunflower and soy.
Private brand share of nut butter is nearly 20 percent and it is even as high as 45 percent [for] some of our most successful retailer customers. When it’s done correctly, retailers can declutter crowded categories and offer attractive carefully curated private brands in their assortments to draw more attention from consumers. That’s how you get cash registers ringing and at higher margins to boot.
Store Brands: What is your all-time favorite store brand product and why?
Holbrook: From a personal taste perspective, I’m a huge fan of Schnuck’s barbecue sauce. The honey sweet is my favorite, and it’s great for grilling, which our family likes to do year-round.
Store Brands: What is your fondest memory in your career so far?
Holbrook: Wow, I’ve had so many incredible moments. Recently, I’d say the warm welcome I received from all of the Daymon Worldwide employees I’ve met. It’s so nice to be invited into a family business and to be embraced by the trust that my fellow employees have shown me.
I also remember very fondly my first job interview while in college — with P&G. I begged them for an interview and even drove to Cincinnati six times to get one. When they finally agreed, I got the job!
Store Brands: How would you sum up your work philosophy?
Holbrook: I actually have four philosophies: a) results are only in the marketplace; b) there are no answers, only choices; c) becoming is more powerful than being; and d) nothing is more powerful than honest to goodness teamwork.
Store Brands: Describe an experience where you had to “take a leap of faith.” How did it turn out and what did you learn from it?
Holbrook: I took a literal “leap” of faith when my oldest daughter turned 21 and declared that she wanted to go skydiving. So I drove her to the skydiving center and was blindsided when she begged, “You’ve got to come with me!” I didn’t want her to miss out on the experience, but I sure didn’t want to do it! I ended up suiting up, and we jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, 10,000 feet up. What did I learn? Well, some things are worth doing — but only once!
Store Brands: What is one goal you would like to accomplish during your lifetime?
Holbrook: Publish a spy novel.
Store Brands: What award would you love to win and why?
Holbrook: Husband of the Year. I keep coming in as runner-up; I must try harder next year!