Think BR: The perils of being a repertoire brand
Repertoire brands have it tough, but they can succeed if they stay mobile and memorable, writes Jonathan Weeks, director at Ipsos MORI.
Jonathan Weeks, director at Ipsos MORI
Every brand would like to lead their category and be loved by all consumers, but unless you are in a category all by yourself that’s just not possible.
So what are the perils of being a repertoire brand, when consumers only buy or use you occasionally?
Ideally when consumers think of a category, you want them to think of you. You are the category.
But being in the middle you are much less likely to be top of mind.
You can’t necessarily access consumers via a blanket approach as the leading brands would.
Being part of a repertoire means that you won’t fit all occasions or needs that a consumer has.
You don’t get regular reinforcement by being present all the time, and this lower exposure will in turn impact on other factors such as word of mouth recommendations.
In a repertoire, it’s more likely that the number of facings you can get in the retail environment are more limited.
And being in the middle territory of a category can force price expectations on a brand - that you are 'average' in consumers’ eyes and therefore only able to hold a price point that reflects this.
For some this will be a sustainable position at least in the short term but, common in recessionary times, the middle is the most squeezed point, being neither the luxury treat of premium, nor the value driven purchase of downgrading to a cheaper brand.
This has been played out in the markets, with consumers switching supermarkets or brands seeking more creative solutions.
Some have moved to reducing pack sizes while maintaining the original price point.
This potential solution is one that needs additional management to face PR challenges when consumers realise that the underlying value to them has changed.
And what of promotional activity? You can drive volume with promotional multibuys and see if any of that additional volume sticks longer term as consumers switch over.
However these gains can be share-based only, as guaranteeing trade margins will negate a large part of the gain made.
Repetition and constant promotion lead to even greater erosion. With many economies squeezed and a gloomy outlook across media, consumers are hyper-aware of pricing and there is a clear trend towards looking for the best prices.
The long term impact is that RRP can become meaningless and the promotional price becomes the new norm.
Only the brand loses here and ultimately the category as a whole when other brands are forced to compete in a similar way.
A competitive advantage is afforded to the market leader, as it knows where to look - over its shoulder - to see what the competition is doing.
Repertoire brands, being in the middle, have a much bigger task: looking upwards, downwards, sideways…
This is great news for the market leaders as they can consolidate their position.
The other smaller brands are all jostling for position and fighting with each other so their focus is distracted - too much energy spent fighting for small incremental gains.
How can repertoire brands succeed?
Repertoire brands do have a tougher time, but don’t despair. Being in the middle can afford you some advantages.
- Force reappraisal by purposefully not using the same tactics as the category leaders - smaller budgets can still generate something memorable for consumers and a lower budget should be put to work in a more creative manner.
- Don’t wallow in what you are currently missing out on, revel in where you succeed, and tell this to consumers.
- Once you are sufficiently embedded in an occasion (or need) look at what is next closest and make the stretch. Pick off occasions one-by-one, and seek out the spaces the market leaders are unable to occupy.
- The moment of approach to the shelf by consumers is absolutely critical. The ability to stand out from other packaging on shelf will minimise missed sales "I couldn’t find what I wanted", and aid "wow - I’ve never seen that before!"
- The point of purchase can be the point of reappraisal and can lead to a spontaneous trial decision.
The message here is to watch, be mobile enough to act if you have to, but to stay focused on your own goals.
Be nimble, or at least more so than the leading brand. Be different and stand out - in message, style and on-shelf.
Be memorable - forgotten brands languish while remembered brands flourish. Whatever you do, fight for your share and look to leave the pack behind.
Jonathan Weeks, director at Ipsos MORI
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