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    EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Damon Exec Brings FMI Private Brands Summit to Rousing Close

    Andres Siefkin’s presentation at the conclusion of the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) first annual Private Brand Summit, which ran from June 14 to June 16 at New York’s famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel, aimed to energize attendees as they headed back to their businesses and began rethinking their private brand strategies. From the buzz in the room at the close of his talk, the executive at Stamford, Conn.-based private brand broker Daymon Worldwide achieved his aim -- and then some.

    Andres Siefkin’s presentation at the conclusion of the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) first annual Private Brand Summit, which ran from June 14 to June 16 at New York’s famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel, aimed to energize attendees as they headed back to their businesses and began rethinking their private brand strategies. From the buzz in the room at the close of his talk, the executive at Stamford, Conn.-based private brand broker Daymon Worldwide achieved his aim -- and then some.

    Through his “Our Time is Now!” presentation, Siefkin, Daymon’s VP, marketing and consumer insights, was eager to instill a “sense of urgency” in listeners as he insisted that just as private labels had evolved into private brands, so executives’ mindsets regarding private brands must evolve.

    The three main points Siefkin stressed were that the boss of private brands was now the shopper, so it was critical for companies to understand the consumer; private brands aren’t just a trend, but are here to stay; and it was up to attendees to make private brands the brand of choice for consumers, by getting the products on the shelf and enabling the shopper to decide.

    Major consumer trends Siefkin noted were stocking up through the purchase of items such as multipacks; “trading down” from national brands to private brands; cocooning behaviors, including dining more at home and watching more TV, and the desire to live better for less, by buying alternative products that can save them money. He additionally cited such global mega-trends as a more sophisticated consumer, comfort and enjoyment, a focus on a healthy body and planet, and the aging consumer, the last of which now represents over 30 percent of purchasing power worldwide.

    An intriguing point Siefkin raised was the changing concept of value, which has gone beyond mere price of an item to encompass quality and relevance to consumer lifestyles and needs. He noted that the media has played a substantive role in evolving the consumer’s perception of value in regard to private brands, with the result that now 62 percent of consumers consider private brands to be as good as private brands.

    Siefkin further urged forging better connections with consumers via a more strategic approach to private brands, including product innovation, packaging design that clearly conveys the item’s unique message, limiting assortment to eliminate unnecessary repetition and make stores easier to shop, and advertising and other promotional efforts such as educational information on Web sites, and social networking to reach out to younger shoppers.

    Another piece of the puzzle is trial, he noted, adding that it was “crucial” for companies to make sure that their own associates try the products.

    Although the economic downturn presents a good opportunity for companies to spotlight less expensive private brands, Siefkin warned that businesses should be ready to make needed changes as the recession recedes, by such methods as engaging “gatekeeper” buyers and category managers, and doing a better job of merchandising product.

    “Do you have a strategy to build your store brand?” Siefkin exhorted at the close of his presentation. “If you have, how are you evolving it? If not, what are you waiting for?”

    In her closing remarks following “Our Time is Now!” FMI CEO and president Leslie G. Sarasin reminded attendees of the Private Brands Conference, which will be held in late October in Dallas, and added that the organization was currently searching for a venue for the next Private Brands Summit, scheduled for the first quarter of 2010. “We are committed to making a home for the private brands community at FMI,” she said.

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