The three stages of the distributor’s brand - Strategic Brand Management

Once the decision has been taken, there are three stages in the business growth of distributor’s brands: ablative, imitative and identity.

The first stage is known as reactive probative: historically, it results from the refusal of sale by the major industrialists. This is how many own-brand products are born. However, it is also strengthened through identifying gaps in the ranges of the major producers. Category management approach quickly identifies those segments where something should be offered to the client, but where the major brands have nothing to offer, since it is not their strategy. These gaps need to be filled.

The second stage is imitative: here, the distributor examines its competitor’s distributor’s brand ranges, and sets about imitating them, producing the same products typically supplied by its other competition. By means of this emulative method, the distributor’s brand core offer is constructed, created from all the references common to all the distributor’s brands.

We should add that this is also typically a phase during which the distributor, for lack of investment in its own distributor’s brand identity, chooses to imitate, trait for trait, the packaging of the brand products that it is targeting (generally the category leader). The objective of this copycat approach is clear: a deliberate intent to take market share from the big brands by allocating more space to one’s own distributor’s brand, a similar copy, and to increase the average price of the big brands in order to attract clients to the distributor’brand (Pawls and Sardinians, 2002).

This imitative or ‘copycat’ approach border son trademark infringement, and sometimes gives rise to court cases by the outraged and wronged producers, complaining of either an infringement of their brand rights, or unfair competition (see page 270), or economic parasitism.

A visit to the aisles of mass distributions enough to note the striking similarity between the copy and the brand packaging. Inmost cases, however, disputes – arising from the over zealousness of the designers – are resolved amicably. Furthermore, the distributor takes refuge in the fact that the issue is not brand codes, but rather category codes.

The real aim of this approach (the imitation of the essential attributes of branded product packaging), which dominates mass distribution, is to cause confusion, profiting from the average attention span of the shopper in the aisle. Through lack of attention, the consumer may take the distributor’s brand instead of the major brand product.

The Involve has actually calculated that, for mass consumption products, in hypermarkets, consumers spend 7 seconds on each purchase: speed matters to them. When there is intentionally strong resemblance between the packaging, a hurried buyer wi than average attention span can be confused.

Our research into the imitation of brand packaging (trade dress) by distributor’s brands(Caperers, 1997; Caperers and Hoeing, 1992)has shown that the unconscious recognition factors in the aisle were, in decreasing order of importance:

  1. Co lour.
  2. Packaging shape.
  3. Key designs.
  4. Name, typography and so on.

This is exactly what distributor’s brand products copy: Rico’s packaging is yellow, and so Calicoe’s s. There is an image of a small Mexican on Pep ito, the leader in biscuits for children. There is a very similar character Conrail and Rook, Au chan’s children’s brand, and soon.

As our results (shown in Table below) demonstrate, where the private label copy/original product pairs are placed in decreasing order of resemblance, the stronger the perceived resemblance in trade dress, the more the consumer infers that the producer of the two products is one and the same – and the more confidence the copy inspires.

How copycat resemblance influences consumer’s perceptions

How copycat resemblance influences consumer’s perceptions

Another study has shown that the discovery of a quality distributor’s brand created a less positive attitude towards to the leading brand . J Aitches and R Simpson (1996)conducted consumer trials with Lora Cola, distributor’s brand imitating the appearance of Coca-Cola cans. The taste of the product was manipulated in such a way that one section of consumers would find it very good, while others would find it bad. Among the latter group, the Coca-Cola evaluation, measured twice (before and after trying Lora Cola) did not change (5. 41 versus 5. 71). However, it did fall significantly in the case where the consumers liked the taste of the copy (falling from 5. 67 to 5. 22, or a drop of–0. 45).

The third stage is the identity stage: the distributor’s brand is used to capture market share from competitors. It becomes a genuine instrument of strategic differentiation, expressing the identity, values and positioning of the store itself. It should generate loyalty not just to itself (through its effect on the share of requirements), but also – more challengingly – to the store.

During this stage, the brand’s power and management is no longer in the hands of the purchaser alone. The purchaser strives for an optimal mix of purchase and resale conditions. Making the brand into an instrument for shaping identity and positioning presupposes genuine marketing strategy, and also the construction of a range that reflects the brand’s ability to communicate the distributor’s own values and identity. Here, the trick is to effect the shift from purchase driven by confusion to one driven by preference.

In this situation, the distributor’s brand holds key positioning importance, since its content and products express the values of the(distributor’s) store. To this end, it offers one or more components of added value, based on the ingredients, packaging, trace ability, concept and so on.

This is generally the point at which brands appear for which the main sales argument is no longer price, but the concept itself. It is true that often they have no equivalent among the branded producers, for a simple reason: these are specialized by category, product or trade.

For example, what producer could construct an umbrella brand around the concept of ‘Pleasures of yesterday’, bringing together more than a hundred of the best products from every region of the country, along with rediscovered recipes and method of manufacture? Nestle would be incapable of doing this, as it does not produce oils, jams, biscuits and the like. The same is true fungible, Philip Morris and Dinnerware, however, can: all it needs to do is promote the concept among small regional companies in each country where it operates.

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