To White Label, or Not To White Label, Part II

This is the latest in our series on white labeling strategies for local media and SMB SaaS companies. See the full series here.


White labeling is a structure for product distribution that goes back decades. Today, some version of white labeling is used in everything from your iPhone (designed and distributed by Apple, manufactured by Foxconn), to eCommerce (Amazon Basics) to brick & mortar (Walmart’s Great Value brand).

White labeling has also been a fundamental structure of local media and advertising for the past few decades. Local media publishers have distribution scale, while startups bring innovation in online and mobile marketing for local businesses. So naturally, collaborations can combine these strengths.

But the question is branding: what label does the product being sold to local business carry? Does it carry the publisher’s brand or the startups? The former has brand equity… but sometimes brand baggage. Does the startup’s brand lend a modern feel in its tech-forward branding? And does this boost sales?

A classic example is Google AdWords and its other SMB marketing products. Local media companies and smaller agencies become certified AdWords resellers, thereby boosting the value of their own ad bundles. They can then sell customized packages of Google along with their owned & operated media.

A more recent example is Walmart’s partnership with Shopify to bring its merchants into the Walmart Marketplace. As we’ve examined, this lets Shopify offer greater distribution to its merchants. But more to the point of this article, it lets Walmart boost the value of its marketplace, wholly under its own brand.

To White Label, or Not To White Label…

Brand Equity

Back to local media, we’ve been curious about what the current temperature is among publishers. So we’ve gone straight to the source. Yellow Pages Canada (Pages Jaunes) executes white labeling strategies including products from local media & commerce innovators like Mono Solutions‘ website builder.

Working with Mono, we collected white-labeling sentiments and strategies from Yellow Pages Canada  Senior Product Manager Andrea Klauber. Breaking down the publisher’s white-labeling rationale, she reveals a measured approach that balances tech partners’ value and its own brand equity.

One thought is that publishers can apply their resources and direct touch-points to SMBs to offer a consultative approach. That can be valuable for time-starved and tech-illiterate SMBs especially.  This echoes the sentiments of Swisscom’s Frank Huber, whom we featured in Part I of this series.

“From our perspective, white labeling does not only enable the same value that Mr. Huber was pointing out, but it also allows our SMBs to be serviced by one company for all of their digital advertising needs. Not only do SMBs [lack] the time or expertise to research which company to work with, they often don’t understand which products would best be leveraged to meet their needs.”

Back to the “balance” of tech partners’ contributed value, it’s all about technical chops and expertise.  This comes not only in the product itself but the tech vendor’s direction and participation in customer discussions. That can include efficient “one-to-many” formats like educational webinars.

“Our partnership with white-label companies also give us access to expertise in the form of thought leadership, SMB research, inspiration, best practices, webinars and more. This helps us to accurately identify new opportunities to help our small business clients, which is incredibly important in strengthening our role as digital advisors that can introduce them to new products and features, or just help them better leverage their existing digital presence for long-term online success.”

It also comes down to corralling that product savvy from many vendors under one trusted brand. This gives customers (local advertisers) a single point of entry for a growing bundle of functionality that resides under one brand and one billing relationship. This can engender convenience and peace of mind.

“By working with white-label friendly companies, we are able to be a full turnkey solution for our advertisers, and excel in each area. We rely on our partners to continue to invest in their platforms and tools ensuring that they remain best in class, so that we can focus on our strengths which is servicing the SMBs across Canada.”

We’ll keep an eye on this topic on an ongoing basis, including the pros and cons of white labeling local media products, and more publisher interviews.

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