Defending Brands against private label


After nearly a year of double-digit inflation in the UK, the last latest figures from Kantar show own label sales up by 13.5% year on year for the 4 weeks to 16th April 2023. But not all brands are suffering equally.

Private label brands typically deliver what the consumer expects of them. If the consumer is not clear in their own mind why the branded version is better, why would they spend more to buy it? You can argue that your brand is better quality, has better ingredients, a better flavour. But unless the consumer believes this themselves, they are, especially in this inflationary environment, unlikely to pay more for it.

The important point here in not whether or not your branded product is better, it is whether or not the consumer believes that it is better.

Consumer belief in a brand is emotional not rational.

Consumer belief is an emotional reaction to their experience of the brand. It is not a rational evaluation of the product properties, brand values or brand purpose. Consumers do not give your brand the time or thought to evaluate it rationally, they respond to it emotionally. System 1 thinking, not System 2.

So, product improvements, increased ad spend or even price reductions and special offers are not necessarily the way to fend-off private label.

The answer is to strengthen consumers’ belief in the brand. To do this you need to understand their emotional involvement with the brand and the product and how you can enhance and deepen this involvement.

Your branding, communication and your product experience together create a unique emotional journey for your consumers. Their belief in your brand is not driven by any one of these, but by the way that they all work together.

When you focus upon the whole emotional journey and understand how the individual elements of this journey string together to create the consumer’s whole reaction to their brand experience, then you start to understand why and how consumers believe in your brand.

When you focus upon their emotional journey you can identify which parts of this journey can be improved to strengthen that belief and, perhaps more importantly, which parts of the brand experience you must never remove or water down.

When you understand the psychology of how and why your brand evokes certain emotions and beliefs within the consumer and how this differentiates you from other brands and private label products, then you start to understand why consumers stay with you and why they move away. It also becomes much clearer what you can do to keep more consumers loving your brand and happy to pay a price premium for it.

Chris Lukehurst is a Consumer Psychologist and a Director at The Marketing Clinic:

Providing Clarity on the Psychological relationships between consumers and brands