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What ’s Inside Drives What You See Outside
We live in a results-oriented world, and this is good as long as people understand that your outward performance is led by inner strengths. When the own brand industry refers to “best-in-class”, this is usually a discussion that focuses on the metrics and what we see in-store: who has the highest share, who has the most items, who demonstrates the greatest innovation?
Yet in every Best-In-Class example that we identify, from Waitrose to Trader Joes to Target, there are four inner truths to their organization that drive everything you see in their own brands program. If you want to be a high performer with a distinct Private Brand portfolio, then it is important to focus on these internal facets first, as they are the foundation for all that follows. In other words, the behaviors underlie and produce the results.
Culture >> Cultures take time to build through the established values and leadership within a company, and they are instilled through repetition. Company cultures are distinct from one another and palpably felt, and you can sense the difference between cultures of “accountability”, a “handshake and trust” culture, “innovative” and “time-urgent” cultures in the first few moments of interacting with these types of organizations.
Within retail, the Best-In-Class retail brand performers have cultures that prioritize, value and treat their own brands with a higher order level of respect. This often echoes from the top down, at places like Costco where Jim Sinegal valued an attention to detail and quality across own brands since the first Kirkland Signature item in 1995. The same is true at Wegman’s, where the Wegman family prioritizes their own brands, setting a standard for experimentation, innovation and quality that permeates throughout every department and category lead.
Progress >> Best-In-Class organizations instill a sense of own brands’ importance through culture, but they also hold their people accountable for the development, proliferation and success of retail brands. They track progress in many ways and through many lenses, and they make it visible on the inside and out. Inside, they track buyer progress for own brands, store/regional performance and department performance. They track progress with their shoppers, and it goes beyond just share metrics to measures like repeat purchase and even consumer attitudes towards own brands. On the outside, they make this progress very visible to Wall Street and the financial community, and especially to the FMCG stakeholders in an effort to make everyone accountable.
Plan >> The Best-In-Class internally have a strategic and operating plan specifically for own brands, one that is highly actionable, measurable and repeatable throughout the organization. The plan is crystal clear in its objectives, and critically creates responsibilities across operations, marketing, sourcing, QA and even within human resources so that all departments understand their roles in own brands’ success. The plan transcends the Private Brands department in a Best-In-Class environment, and similar to “Culture” and “Progress”, the manufacturer partners play key roles and understand the mission.
Support >> The fourth inner truth for own brand leaders is the level of support that the organization invests in retailer brand success. The own brands department doesn’t live on an island, unempowered and desperate for resource. There is an infrastructure that is multidimensional, that has Brand Management for its key brands, that has a proactive structure fostering innovation, and is technologically supported too. These are just some of the “inner truths” to Best-In-Class, requirements really, if you want to be differentiated in the long run. They are the engine underneath the car’s veneer, and the heart and muscle underneath the skin. Build them deliberately, and you will reap the reward.
Perry Seelert is a retail branding and marketing expert, with a passion for challenging conventional strategy and truths. He is the Strategic Partner and Co-founder of Emerge, a strategic marketing consultancy dedicated to helping Retailers, Manufacturers and Services grow exponentially and differentiate with purpose. Please contact Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org.