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Catherine Monahan: why consumers must come first in indies supplier debate

Published:  11 October, 2011

Watching the brand channel debate is like watching a rugby match where the ball has been left on the sidelines.

Watching the brand channel debate is like watching a rugby match where the ball has been left on the sidelines. There is lots of tusselling between brands/suppliers and independent retailers, whilst the grocers are sitting on the sidelines, I imagine, bemused.

This debate is really about narrow focused, self interest, at its worst. What the trade should be thinking about is the consumer.

The reason brands have failed so miserably in the last 10 years is the trade is focused on its own selfish needs, We grab cash and volume in an effort to meet ever increasing financial goals, but there is rarely a discussion about what is better for the consumer - and ultimately our brands.

Labels are changed, sow's ears turned into fancy sow's ears, which we kid ourselves are purses. Disingenuous deals are foisted upon the public. Their response is to recognise the commodified nature of the product and flee to the cheapest, most enticingly promoted.

This discussion should not revolve around labels not appearing in one channel and not another. It should be about how do we, as brand owners, develop an honest solution to the needs of the consumer. How do we provide a meaningful reason to buy our products in grocery, on premise, and in a specialist.

Different price points that represent differences in quality, package and story. The issue isn't about developing a strategy that protects the channels, but to develop unique products better suited to each market segment.

It seems this debate has been distilled down to switching labels to conceal the true contents of the bottle - this is consumer fraud, as we are tricking them to pay more for the same product.

This whole issue needs to be addressed through carefully thinking about the relationship we have with our consumer. It is about crafting a relationship that allows them to experience your brand in different settings, and in ways appropriate to those settings.

Everyone is in crisis mode, and fixated on self interest. When the solutions lie in just doing the right thing for the end user.

Catherine Monahan is managing director of Clink! Wines