There is a lovely TV ad at the moment for Sellotape. It builds on the fact that ‘Sellotape’ has become a generic for adhesive tape in the UK. Now, we all know how people aspire to having a similar generic brand – a ‘Hoover’ in their market place – but is this a misguided aspiration? Take the Sellotape example: adhesive tape is a commodity product and though I know there are some low quality products out there, I just buy the one on sale at my local store. I checked my home and found four rolls of tape around and not one was branded Sellotape. I would suggest that people do not seek out the brand with the generic name when they are dealing with just noticable differences. Even though we talk at home about; ‘putting the Hoover on’, I don’t think we have ever owned a real ‘Hoover’.
Grappling with the strengths of the generic brands and trying to understand the strategic thinking behind the Sellotape ad, perhaps we have to be thinking about the distribution channels, in particular the retailers. To justify an outlet stocking the generic (often at a premium price) there must be a margin advantage – which can only be supported by the brand values and promise. This is backed by years of investment in the brand, and yes… current advertising and promotion.