Brands Get Back To Basics

New York Times: Charmin has a new low-rent cousin, Charmin Basic. It’s slightly less “squeezably soft” – but it’s a lot less pricey than Procter & Gamble’s other toilet paper.
“The premium that consumers were traditionally willing to pay for a brand name is under attack,” said Sridhar Balasubramanian, an associate professor of marketing at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina.
Of course, there is nothing new about using price as a come-on to increase sales. Cents-off coupons and store promotions were a staple of the shopping experience long before most current-day shoppers were born.
Nor is downward brand extension a radically new idea. Mercedes now sells relatively inexpensive versions of its luxury cars, and Apple has cheaper iPods. And unlike, say, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which put different names – Ted and Song, respectively – on the scaled-down versions of their premium products, these companies proudly slap their vaunted brands on their low-cost offerings.
What is new, the experts say, is the stress on budget-friendliness by sellers of branded consumer staples like toilet paper or batteries or detergents. They have normally operated on the theory that consumers who buy products based on the price probably switched to store brands or other low-cost alternatives long ago. Thus, their ads and marketing have primarily stressed product attributes – Charmin’s softness, Bounty’s strength, United’s friendly skies – in hopes that their brand names will be automatically associated with quality.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.