Making Sense of Branding

Carole Sloan, July 6, 2009

Branding. It seems to be the new buzz word of the late 00's

But today's concept of branding whether on the part of the brand owner or the retailer is often — most often — a far cry from what branding was a decade or more ago when brand owners zealously nurtured and protected their brands.

For those of us with more than a decade or two involved in consumer product marketing, the concept of a brand began with its creation, then moved outward toward consumers through a strict regimen of distribution and marketing.

Brands of old typically had a specific presence — either in their fashion sense, product leadership in terms of performance, quality levels and maintenance of many other criteria. Today, as we live in a world of economic strife, the whole dynamic of branding has changed.

In days of yore, major brands were distributed across many retail outlets — congruent in their approaches to product and marketing — so that consumers could buy them in many retail outlets.

What a difference a decade or so makes! Today's mantra among retailers is "you want me to sell it, it's mine alone."

Then there's the step-down marketing of brands where the brand owner solicits — or is requested — by a retailer to make a sub-product line using the brand name and "disguising" in a vague way to differentiate it from the primary brand. Or the newer approach is to develop a similar looking product — one with enough lineage ID — and market it to a retailer under a completely different name but with a look that can readily be identified by today's sharp consumer.

In home textiles we've seen that increasingly occur.

But what is even of more concern it how brands that still have consumer loyalty but have been neglected by their original owners for one reason or another are now being foisted on an unsuspecting public.

We've seen that increasingly, not just in home textiles and retailing in general in the last year or so, where brands that were iconic were sold as distressed goods and the new owners have but one goal in mind — reap as many dollars as possible, no matter how and move on to the next.

With this approach, the decline in consumer confidence concerning brands is certain to grow.

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