Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ignore the Brand, Look for the Quality

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ignore the Brand, Look for the Quality

Article excerpt


THIS is the golden age of the brand, when simply attaching a fancy label to almost any product can inflate its value to a multiple of its intrinsic worth.

Ask a food industry professional which mass market retailer in the UK sells the best meat pies, and they will almost certainly give you the name of one of those German-based discounters, which famously sets manufacturers a higher specification than any of the so-called "quality" retail chains.

A former client of mine at the cheap and cheerful end of the fashion industry used to give City analysts an arresting presentation comparing the price and quality of his garments with those of more mainstream high street chains. Often the clothes were absolutely identical, even sourced from the self-same factories in the Far East; yet the price differentials were huge, and all based on the relative snob appeal of each retailer's label.

I have listened to marketing experts present case studies of products that failed completely until they were relaunched at much higher prices, because consumers then reckoned that they must be something special.

The entire cosmetics industry is based on investing millions in brands to convince the gullible that they are "worth it".

When the EU insisted that manufacturers start disclosing ingredients on their bottles, they opted to use the Latin "aqua" in the hope that most mugs would not twig that they were mainly buying ludicrously expensive scented water.

Meanwhile in the car market, I saved myself thousands by buying an excellent Nissan 4x4 rather than a remarkably similar vehicle with a more coveted badge on the bonnet.

All value retailers struggle to convince investors of their merits because they are simply not places that City types would be seen dead shopping themselves. A few years ago a food retailing client of mine was amazed by an exchange over lunch in which a very senior stockbroker (and former Government minister) asked him to justify his characterisation of Waitrose as "upmarket". …

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