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Kraft CMO sounds warning to FUSE audience: 'Retailers are building brands'

“Private label,” as a term generically defining retailers’ product-marketing approach, is antiquated, said Kirsten Lynch, chief marketing officer at Quaker Foods and Snacks, a division of PepsiCo.
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“Retailers are building brands, and if you don’t recognize that, you have blinders on and are missing what’s going on,” Lynch said in poignant remarks during a panel discussion April 16 at FUSE, a conference focusing on marketing, design, and branding of consumer packaged goods.

Product competition between retailers and national brands, Lynch added, will only intensify as retailers continue to lure top talent from well-known consumer packaged goods companies. She cited PepsiCo, Kraft, and Procter & Gamble as companies that recently have lost chief marketing officers to retailers building their own brand bases.

How can national brands effectively compete with strengthening retailer brands? Lynch offered two ideas:

1. Observe shoppers in their natural environments to glean key insights that can impact design. “To me, nothing beats experience,” Lynch said. “You’ve got to get out and shop with shoppers. Be in their homes as they’re fixing dinner. You should not design without this information. Focus groups have their place, but they are contrived. You need to get out in real-world situations with the consumer. If your design agency isn’t doing this, you should demand it.”

2. Great package design should be a brand’s foremost in-store marketing tactic.

“Graphic and structural package, in my mind, this is the single most important communication we have with our consumers,” she added. “It is more important to me than advertising or any single thing else we do on the brand. Getting the design right is our identity with our consumer.”

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