Seize the moment

Humans all over the planet are laying low, so don’t store brands have wide latitude to do the same?

Absolutely not. However, you can see how an outsider could draw that conclusion — in this era of peanut butter-hoarding and rolling shutdowns, store brands have been growing at an even faster pace (even before the pandemic, they were already gobbling market share from their national-brand competitors).

Some of those gains are due to legitimate improvements that store brands have made on all fronts. But let’s be honest, a substantial portion of this most recent growth also comes from the mere fact that many national brands are available neither at shelf nor online. When you can’t find your usual pick for toilet paper, disinfectants or frozen pizzas, you’ll take whatever’s available. 

Getting nimble
There’s a cautionary tale here: When the economy started to recover from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, many consumers who had embraced store brands switched back to the nationals. For them, buying store brands had been an economics-driven decision all along.

Now is the time for store brands to surprise and delight their captive (almost literally) audiences.

The lesson is clear: Don’t let history repeat itself.

Now is the time for store brands to surprise and delight their captive (almost literally) audiences. Their competitors are distracted with struggles to keep enough product in supply. Why not seize the opportunity and do a better job of giving consumers what they want and need?

To innovate quickly, reinforce existing brands and build new ones, retailers need to be able to pivot quickly. The goal should be to gain the agility of a scrappy startup. If moving faster was a goal for many brands even before the pandemic, it is a strategic imperative now. 

New methodologies
Brand strategy and design agencies can play a key role here. At CBX, we’ve just branded a new program (Leap by CBX) that leverages the high-efficiency methodologies Agile Scrum and Design Thinking to trim up to 18 months off of the development cycle for new brands and products. The process is executed using anything from four to six “sprints” of two weeks each — short bursts of high-collaboration, time-boxed achievement of specific project goals.

Agencies can use these types of approaches to drive the rapid development of new brands, new products or new packaging. It’s the kind of flexibility retailers will need if they are to keep their store brands relevant in this fast-changing world.

Moving forward, retailers should work to streamline creative processes and decision-making in ways that facilitate a rapid response.

Store brands continue to make remarkable progress, but their competitors aren’t standing still. 

Forget about “sheltering in place.” The mantra should be to “keep on moving.”


Store brand industry veteran Todd Maute is a Partner at CBX, the New York-based brand strategy and design agency. He works with clients across multiple channels of trade including grocery, pharmaceutical, mass, pet specialty, consumer electronics, convenience, office, home improvement, warehouse clubs, and auto parts supply; [email protected]


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