FDBuyer: Fire the Nerds! Is there hope for those secondary brands after all?
by Warren Thayer, Editor
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary
of a current article from Frozen & Dairy Buyer magazine.
Recently I had long chats with a couple of frozen food buyers at major chains
about how brands are becoming commoditized. No rocket science here — the
recession has turned many branded manufacturers into cowards, afraid to innovate.
More and more, from the shopper’s point of view, the only real differentiation
between brands is “what’s on sale?”
But cripes, if there were ever a time for innovation, it’s now. Private
label already had a strong head of steam before the economy went to hell, and
so did the move toward SKU rationalization.
Both these factors can get branded items delisted in a heartbeat. Brands know
they need differentiation to stay viable, but they seem stuck in analysis paralysis.
And the worst offenders seem to be the biggest brands.
No sooner had I hung
up with my retailer pals than I read a magnificent piece online from Advertising
Age magazine, “Our Biggest Brands Can
No Longer Be Managed by Nerds.” Written by Tom Hinkes, principal consultant
at OutBranding, the article explores the challenges bigger brands have adapting
to the marketplace and driving innovation. My favorite line in the piece was “Fluency
with buzz words and expertise with spreadsheets do not guarantee brand-marketing
competence.” A close second: “If Edison had done market research,
he would have invented bigger candles.”
I don’t see this changing quickly with the big brands. What’s
it take, something like 60 miles to turn a cruise ship? Besides, I’ve
always mistrusted guys with suspenders unless they’re genuine, bona fide
farmers, or younger than six.
But I do see increasing opportunity for the smaller
brands that I so unabashedly root for. Retailers seem in the mood to buy local
and seek out real innovation, and that’s where these smaller players
fit in so well.
I have to wonder where all this is headed, since Walmart is
the champion of the big brands. It’s easy for shoppers to see Walmart
is cheaper when comparisons on the same big brand are so readily available.
has more than a few retailers I’ve spoken with tentatively rethinking
their commitment to the big brands. After all, there’s no favorable differentiation
available to them in carrying the same product Walmart does, but at a higher
Will this result in a weakening of the big brands, and new opportunity
for the little guys? Or will the nerds rule? Hmm….
What’s the opportunity for smaller brands within the movement toward SKU rationalization
at the bigger boxes? How should smaller brands position themselves? What’s
the likelihood that SKU rationalization turns out to be positive for smaller
brands in the long run?
- Kill the Nerds! Is there hope for those secondary brands after all? – Frozen & Dairy
- Our Biggest Brands Can No Longer Be Managed By Nerds – Advertising