Remember Mattel’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots? Today’s slugfest between store brands and national brands evokes memories of the classic toy that’s gotten hot again.

Store Brands Decisions recently published NYC’s Ipsos Marketing’s latest research in an article called “Consumers See Little Quality Difference Between Store Brands and National Brands.” The data this study revealed is important.

More than 21,600 consumers were interviewed from 23 countries. The study was conducted between November 2009 and January 2010.

The findings:
• 80% stated store brands are as good as or better than national brands for meeting needs: convenience, environmental friendliness, good for the family and trustworthiness.
• 81% indicated store brand foods taste as good as their national brand counterparts, and home products are just as efficacious.

Gone are the old customer perceptions that lower cost equates to lower quality. Consumers now see much more value in store brands.

The implication of this? Many consumers are unlikely to spend more on national brands even as the economy improves unless they are able to offer perceived additional benefits. That added value may come in the form of emotional benefits. Or national brands might continue to do the things that give them a decided edge.

When asked what national brands’ greatest strengths are, respondents cited:
• Packaging
• Innovation
• Uniqueness
• Quality

That’s pretty telling, isn’t it? The fact is: National brands have great experience bringing consumer products to market, and it’s up to them to continue to deliver in the areas customers are looking for and respond to.

By making certain products are continually innovative, unique within categories—or even new category starters like P&G’s Swiffer was a few years ago—national brands continue to enjoy an edge that’s hard for store brands to quickly and effectively replicate without raising prices and taking their clearest advantage away.

Uncompromising quality gives jaded consumers reason to believe again. Prompt responses to quality issues, necessary recalls, and total transparency help build, or rebuild trust.

Plus, updated, refreshed packaging continues to maintain brand relevance with consumers. Because surveys confirm 70% of consumers make their final purchase decisions at the shelf, packaging must “sell” brand, product and assets in terms that are now relevant to consumers who have fundamentally changed. That means adopting today’s language of relevance as the new marketing currency.

Far from being perceived as “the same old” and becoming stale, national brands should use the increased competition coming from retail brands as the impetus for moving ahead and giving consumers more than they expect. More than they can get from store brands. If they do, regardless of premium pricing, they will continue to succeed.

Questions: What’s your take on store vs. national brands? Who’s better at offering the products you want at the prices you want to pay?

I’d love to hear from you.

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image of Ted Mininni

Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni