Tag Archives: Head & Shoulders

Best of 2012: Scalping consumers

Originally posted 2012-12-23 08:00:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

First posted March 6, 2012.

Private-label branding is a huge topic, and a very interesting one. I wrote a huge post about it here, focusing on Hellman’s (or, for you westerners, Best Foods) mayonnaise lookalikes. The question is: How close to a famous brand’s trade dress (which may in and of itself be protected by trademark) can a “store brand” or private label package get before there’s a plausible argument for unfair competition base on consumer confusion? Here (above) is a cute video I even found on this topic, via this Australian website. It’s a hot issue, and Rebecca Tushnet probably wrote up the best blog treatment of it.

Now, the premise of the question itself is that the private label product is a generic or low-grade-branded (I just made up that phrase) offering that is less expensive but which consists of the same fundamental features as the “famous brand.” The consumer is invited to “compare” the two products, which typically have the same active ingredients, but often differ in material respects – mainly the price. As Rebecca explained:

The [McNeil Nutritionals, LLC v. Heartland Sweeteners, LLC] opinion began by noting that, in 2005, private label products accounted for 20% of all US supermarket, drugstore, and mass merchandiser sales, or $50 billion. At that time, more than 90% of consumers were familiar with store brands, and almost as many bought them regularly. Such brands are typically found next to the coordinate national brands, and their packaging often invites comparison with a national brand, whether by similarity in dress or by “compare to” statements. Shelf tags also explicitly invite comparisons. The court accepted as fact that consumers are generally aware that private label products are sold next to national brands, and that prominent price displays allow consumers to see the cost differences between them.

So the consumer “gets” the concept of the private label, expects the private label product to be compared to the famous brand, and makes a choice.

Read More…

Scalping consumers

Private-label branding is a huge topic, and a very interesting one. I wrote a huge post about it here, focusing on Hellman’s (or, for you westerners, Best Foods) mayonnaise lookalikes. The question is: How close to a famous brand’s trade dress (which may in and of itself be protected by trademark) can a “store brand” or private label package get before there’s a plausible argument for unfair competition base on consumer confusion? Here (above) is a cute video I even found on this topic, via this Australian website. It’s a hot issue, and Rebecca Tushnet probably wrote up the best blog treatment of it.

Now, the premise of the question itself is that the private label product is a generic or low-grade-branded (I just made up that phrase) offering that is less expensive but which consists of the same fundamental features as the “famous brand.” The consumer is invited to “compare” the two products, which typically have the same active ingredients, but often differ in material respects – mainly the price. As Rebecca explained:

The [McNeil Nutritionals, LLC v. Heartland Sweeteners, LLC] opinion began by noting that, in 2005, private label products accounted for 20% of all US supermarket, drugstore, and mass merchandiser sales, or $50 billion. At that time, more than 90% of consumers were familiar with store brands, and almost as many bought them regularly. Such brands are typically found next to the coordinate national brands, and their packaging often invites comparison with a national brand, whether by similarity in dress or by “compare to” statements. Shelf tags also explicitly invite comparisons. The court accepted as fact that consumers are generally aware that private label products are sold next to national brands, and that prominent price displays allow consumers to see the cost differences between them.

So the consumer “gets” the concept of the private label, expects the private label product to be compared to the famous brand, and makes a choice.

As it turns out, the illustration above is one Rebecca used to illustrate her blog post: a collage of Head & Shoulders shampoo bottles and various private label products that look more or less alike the real thing.  Some more, some less.

But none of them looks like what I found in the Clifton, New Jersey Acme Market on a recent visit. Read More…