As they change their price positioning and ranges, supermarkets can learn from the big brands, says Dr Alan Treadgold

Even by their usual standards, September was a busy month for the supermarkets.

Sainsbury's and Asda relaunched part or all of their own-label offerings (the former relaunching Taste the Difference and the latter launching Chosen by You) and Waitrose announced it was price-matching Tesco on 1,000 everyday branded products.

In this landscape, a key challenge for supermarkets is to make new brands stand out in-store and persuade the shopper to purchase from an ever-growing portfolio. This ­challenge becomes especially important as their product offers extend into non-food, bringing supermarket brands into ever-more direct competition with often well-established retail brands in speciality parts of the market.

Shopper engagement is one area where supermarkets can learn from the best fmcg brand marketing. The most successful fmcg brands, such as health & beauty, have become highly adept at learning how to engage with shoppers in-store across their 'path to purchase', even in the most congested categories.

Successful communication programmes have always had at their core rigorously derived insights into how shoppers behave in the category; the messages that will resonate most strongly with them in each phase of their journey to purchase; and the barriers including price, value, product effectiveness, and brand scepticism that need to be overcome if the shopper is to, firstly, be aware of the product; secondly, consider it; and thirdly, buy.

Through deep shopper understanding and precisely crafted communication in-store, 'elite' fmcg brands have been able to maintain often very impressive levels of ­shopper preference in the face of the ­considerable challenges posed by own-label expansion and product assortment proliferation by rival brands.

With their expansion into new merchandise categories, these ­lessons from the fmcg brands will become ever more relevant as ­supermarkets look to further extend their reach.

Dr Alan Treadgold is head of retail strategy at Arc Worldwide, the Leo Burnett Group brand activation company