It’s Time to Shed a Tier (or Two)

February 2, 2015 | February 2, 2015 – One of the many repeat questions I get in my travels, after “how you can you do this better, cheaper and faster?” include “what is the best tiering strategy to have?” “One tier, two tier or three tier?” My answer is always the same and it always elicits the same response from the inquirer.

Me: “There is no right answer. You need to stop thinking about your brand strategy with a merchant mindset.”

Them: “Awww, I knew you were not going to tell me a real answer!” (or something like that).

The truth is, our research has showed us for a long time that retail private brand portfolios can work just fine with the often-employed “good-better-best” dissemination of the mainline brand – be it in food, drug, mass merchant, Club or category-killer. However, our research has also showed us that a single brand can work across a store in many diverse aisles, categories, segments and product offerings – from premium to “good value.” And the fact is that a two-tiered system in certain retail channels ALSO can work. So, hence, no one right answer.

The right answer, as always, is 1) do your homework and 2) create a plan.

Do your homework. What does your shopper expect you to or believe that you can provide them with an “exclusive brand?” Do they desire simply a variety of choice in certain categories, where your brand plays a role as well-priced for the quality offered? Do they expect your brand to always be better priced than the competition? Do they give your brand the permission to enter into new areas? To stretch into innovative solutions? In branding, like in any relationship, perception is reality – and what your brand stands for today – right now – will guide you towards the decision about what it may be able to achieve moving forward.

Create a plan. You must go through the foundational techniques and practices of strategic brand development – It’s positioning and promise, its essence and personality, its role in your business and its drivers to succeed. I have, quite frankly, pissed off my clients in the past when they demand shortcutting the process to “just make it look great.” They typically thank me/us after they see the results of doing it the right way.

Having private brands that will engage your shoppers; brands that will stand for something and have meaning and purpose; brands that will grow with their needs – will end up providing you with one of the most important points of difference you will have as a retailer. Don’t rush it with a pretty picture and a tired strategy.

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