Lawyers for Asda made a remarkable claim in court last week.
Consumers, they said: ’are not interested in the source of a product. It
is extremely unusual to find people who care about the make of a
particular form of biscuit’.
It is a claim that will shock many of those in the fast-moving consumer
goods sector who had believed, perhaps naively, that brands still had a
role to play on supermarket shelves, and that consumers do care rather a
lot about ’makes’.
Our own research, conducted for Marketing by National Opinion Polls,
shows a different picture. It is one in which many consumers believe
that if an own-label product looks like a premium brand, then it is
probably made by the same manufacturer.
In most cases, that’s a misapprehension, but it has to be said that some
branded manufacturers may have weakened their case by supplying
own-label next to their premium brands.
Nevertheless, we suggest that our research should spur brand owners to
greater efforts in protecting their investment. With 20% of the people
in our survey admitting to having bought an own-brand product by
mistake, consumers are clearly confused, and no one should be allowed to
capitalise on that confusion.
It has been said before but needs saying again: supermarket own-brands
rely on the investment of brand owners in research and development. They
piggy-back on the ideas of brand owners, too often borrowing their
clothes as well.
We would never condemn competition, but we do support fairness and we
don’t believe that blatant lookalikes are fair.