Whingers must help themselves

Letter of the month prize. Every month the editor will award this de luxe fountain pen to the writer of the best letter. The chrome and 22ct gold pen, made by AT Cross, is worth 85. The editor’s judgment will be final.

In the light of the ongoing debate re copycat brands, I would like to pose a challenge to marketers for 1997. Isn’t it time fmcg companies stopped whinging and faced up to the reality that a brand, like a species of animal, must obey social Darwinism?

If the consumer is happy to buy a brand such as Asda’s own-label bourbon and consumers, like my mum, believe the contents are as good as the branded equivalent, then doesn’t this highlight a weakness to be addressed? No brand deserves extra help to survive.

Indeed, a recent study by Manchester Business School questions whether “brand imagery can continue to sustain the difference in the prices shoppers pay for similar, or even inferior, products…”

Sometimes in business, as the great Sir John Harvey Jones says, marketers have to kill their favourite children to survive. So, come on marketers, start creating brands with the longevity and resilience of Aston Martin, for example.

Brands need to show true spirit and courage to win the consumer, as David Ogilvy once said “the consumer is your mum – and she’s not stupid; give her reasons to pay more or suffer the consequences!”

I believe the copycat branding issue is a red herring, look at Coca- Cola which has gone from strength to strength since Sainsbury’s and Virgin copied it. I’d like to open the debate as to how and why Coca-Cola has not only increased its market share in the past year, but also remains the leading fmcg brand in the UK, despite tougher competition from retailers and Pepsi ?

Paul Stallard

Associate director

The Gathering

Henley on Thames

Oxon

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