Marketing Proprietary Product Online

Proprietary brands and products have become the end-all and be-all for retailers in recent years. Brand aggregators have been struggling with margin squeeze since Amazon polluted their pool. And so more and more retailers are working on proprietary goods that seemingly don’t have any price pressure problems (say that three times fast).

But proprietary goods have their own set of marketing issues that tend to squeeze margin; namely, how do you drive demand for your own brands? The margins are great, but 70% of $0 is still $0. And if you create a proprietary brand there is one thing you need to remember upfront: *no one is searching for your brand*.

The nice thing about branded goods is that they already have built in demand. Paid search works great, SEO works great, social works … well, it is social. Remember, these sales are just collecting demand for the product that already exists. In other words, it’s easy (relatively).

Building demand for a product is a very different endeavor than collecting demand. And it requires different marketing than most ecommerce retailers. It requires brand marketing that creates demand. The creative is different, the channels are different and the execution is different. Once demand is created, you can turn on paid search and collect the demand as you see fit.

To start you need to have proprietary merchandise that is better in some way, shape or form for your target market. Creatively you need a campaign with a big, simple idea. And you’ll have to invest far more in the marketing, but hopefully far less in the promotional game to get the sales.

You will likely have to go offline to drive the demand. Here’s where old school catalogers missed the boat: catalogs do a great job of creating demand. But only if you’re featuring and highlighting your brands. Direct mail works. TV is the absolute superstar of brand building, but is expensive – start with radio, paying those with your core audience to mention your product. And focus on selling your new branded goods to your current customers and visitors above all else. Don’t half-ass it.

Building demand online for proprietary product is tough. Banner ads are an expensive way to build demand (bots don’t buy things). PLA’s are an opportunity, if you’re willing to investment spend.  Amazon can work, but only if you push it: a Lightning deal, invest in Amazon CPC’s on the few categories where you still can, or sell goods direct to Amazon and let them market it (questionable strategy for brand building). Everything else results in a very slow process of building a brand.

I recommend you commit to a significant investment in branded advertising that includes a strong offline component: TV, Direct Mail, Radio, etc. Advertising is like exercise, it needs to be consistent and sustained over time to be effective. You can’t measure it like a direct response marketer would or you’ll never make the investment necessary to create your own brand.

Long-term, the payoff is huge. Moving a large portion of sales to high margin proprietary brands would transform most companies. Start with the product, but no matter how great it is you can’t market it the same way you do your national branded goods.

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