Wednesday 1 May 2013

Copycat brands - Fab or frustrating?

Take two...Think you know what you're buying? Look again.

Recently a new low cost supermarket opened near me. When I first went into one of their other stores I was amazed – cheap tea, cheap cereals, cheap crisps, cheap chocolate and I hadn't even got halfway down the first aisle. While I glanced the shelves the colours of the packaging all seemed familiar. At closer inspection though things weren't as they seemed to be. They were all the supermarket's own brand but designed in such a similar way to well-known branded products that a busy or less-attentive consumer could easily be fooled in thinking they were buying something else.

This copycat branding is something that Which? has also picked up on recently. They have found that most of the major UK supermarkets plus some other specialist retailers sell their own brands with packaging designed to imitate other well-known and established brands. You don't have to be a cut-price supermarket to cash in on this trend.

Convincing a customer to buy your product once through a bit of trickery may get you a one off sale but will you get them back? The Which? survey on behalf of the Big Brands Group found that a third of those asked had bought an imitation brand by mistake. Of those who responded 38% felt 'mislead' and 30% of shoppers were annoyed. A spokesperson for the Big Brands Group deemed such copycat tactics as 'cynical'. In effect they are getting the benefits of market research and advertising that have previously been paid by someone else. While some supermarkets have denied this practice even exists, Aldi has said that it deliberating uses, “familiar colours and designs to help shoppers find what they want.”
Similar packaging, similar names and even similar slogans!
You may argue that most people could tell the difference between the original brand and a supermarket copycat brand but it is easy to be fooled. So many people seem to be in a rush these days. A trip to buy the weekly groceries can be like an old episode of Supermarket Sweep. Big, multi-packet of crisps with a red background? Well, that could only be one brand couldn't it? Throw it in quickly and don't worry. However, there can be severe consequences to buying the wrong brand. Recently one brand of crisps started putting natural chicken and bacon flavours into their crisps. If you're not a vegetarian you may have not realised that most smoky bacon crisps have never been near a pig so this has serious implications if you pick up the wrong brand by mistake.

Many people think that copy cat brands are actually the same products just cheaper. A lot though have a very different recipe and use other ingredients. Some food restrictions can be a personal or religious choice. The mental and emotional consequences of finding out you have eaten something from a banned food group can be devastating. If your food restriction is due to a medical condition it could end up being fatal. Your usual brand may be nut-free but if the copycat brand contains nuts and you are have anaphylaxis, you concern is not going to be about saving a few pennies.

One way to gain the trust of your customer is through original and quality labelling. Make sure the ingredients are clearly displayed and don't be tempted to use general or vague terms to try and cover up 'bad' ingredients. If the product is suitable for vegetarians but not vegans make that distinction. It is highly infuriating to see a green 'V' on a product but not know which group it covers. The best way to do this is through clear and original design. Mercian Labels are an UK company that for over 40 years have been offering a design and printing service for labels including those for food and produce. 
Show off your product and be unique. Image used with permission from Mercian Labels
While it may be hard to persuade supermarkets to change their selling techniques the chance for independent companies and new businesses to stand out from the crowd has never been more current or needed. So develop those products, be original and get customers who know exactly what they are buying. You never know but one day you may see a similar product in a supermarket near you.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Mercian Labels. The thoughts and views are my own. Photographs used with permission as credited.

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