Brown’s Sees Success with Brand Protection Program
The rise of e-commerce presents both new opportunities as well as challenges for manufacturers, a conundrum that Sue Brown, senior vice president of sales and marketing of F.M. Brown’s, has faced personally.
“A few years ago, we noticed that our distributors and brick-and-mortar retailers were struggling with the effects of unauthorized sellers on Amazon and other e-commerce sites who were not investing in our product lines or providing the customer service and support that we expect authorized sellers to provide,” Brown said. “The products our channel partners were most concerned about were those in our Tropical Carnival line, which is our gourmet, high-end pet specialty line of pet bird and small animal food and treats. Protecting our brand quality and equity is very important to us as is maintaining the longstanding relationships we have with our valued distribution channel partners. While I understood the dilemma, I didn’t know what to do at the time.”
Brown said that she discovered other companies had employed Authorized Seller Programs, minimum advertised price (MAP) policies and other brand protection programs to address these issues, but didn’t believe it would address the entire issue if they didn’t find a way to make sure it was effective.
“At trade shows, I spoke to various organizations who served to identify unauthorized sellers and MAP policy violators, but that was the end of their responsibilities,” Brown said. “They did not provide help in implementing or enforcing these programs. I realized that without a comprehensive strategy, these tools were not going to address our concerns.”
Brown’s company officials began responding to these market dynamics in 2017, wanting to take control of how its brands were represented online. First, an Authorized Seller Program was implemented to formulized its quality control and customer service expectations for all of its authorized distribution channel partners. The program also included rules regarding how Brown’s products may be sold online, allowing Brown’s to execute a new e-commerce strategy designed to protect brand value and harness the power of e-commerce platforms to grow their brands, according to company officials.
Brown’s officials also took steps to protect its Tropical Carnival line, including implementing a MAP policy and engaging a single business partner. Finally, Brown’s attorneys and other advisors helped the company take action against unauthorized sellers who were infringing on the company’s intellectual property rights and damaging the Brown’s brands, officials said.
“With this strategy, I am happy to report that our Tropical Carnival brand equity is stronger than ever, and our distributors, resellers and retailers have been extremely satisfied with the impact of our program on the brand demand.”
In order to meet this demand and build upon distribution channel relationships while still maintaining the necessary control over their brands, Brown’s developed an e-commerce catalog containing more than 250 products from the Encore, Extreme!, Song Blend, Bird Lover’s Blend and Garden Chic! brands.
“This catalog allows Brown’s to continue fulfilling demand for their products from e-commerce retailers while maintaining their strategy of limited distribution for the Tropical Carnival brand,” company officials said. “Brown’s relies on distributors to supply e-commerce customers, and the e-commerce catalog provides many successful brands for distributors to focus on with their e-commerce partners.”
While implementing and enforcing a comprehensive brand protection program can require a lot of time and resources, it is time well spent, officials added.
Brown’s is a sixth-generation, family owned and operated manufacturer of small-animal and bird foods from Sinking Spring, Pa.