Favorite Stocks, Favorite Brands?

I had a really fun conversation with a stock analyst I met at the dog park today.  This conversation confirmed my belief that great branding goes way beyond creative ad campaigns and cool in-store displays.  It also confirmed my beliefs about the way women invest.

It all started because the woman next to me heard me call to my dog.  My dog's name is Giada (like Giada De Laurentiis) and of course, the fantastic new "Giada De Laurentiis for Target" kitchen line just came out.  My new friend, we'll call her Jill, told me she was just researching this new product line for work.  Then we started talking about some of the stocks she loves and holds in her personal portfolio.

Not surprisingly, this very financially savvy woman (who I later found out has held some VERY impressive job titles at top financial firms and also happens to have an MBA from The University of Chicago-WOW) invests in brands she believes in.  She reads about the company's philosophy, what they do differently, how these brands make her feel and what values these companies are founded on.  But it's not all fluff. She also does in-depth quantitative research on financial performance and trends. But when push comes to shove, a brand she believes in tips the scale.

Consider the connection between financial performance and "brand performance." Remember that in the stock market, perception plays a huge part in driving the market price.  Therefore, could strong branding keep stock values on an upward trend, even in a down economy? Perhaps.

Do Top Female Brands= Top Female Stock Pics?

Do women invest where they shop?  Here are four of Jill's personal favorites.

Lululemon Jill and I LOVE Lululemon for so many reasons.  Lululemon sells "yoga-inspired apparel for healthy living." This store is more than a store.  It's a lifestyle.  It's a chain store that feels like a local boutique.  It's a place where employees are encouraged to grows people. Where neighbors can stop in for a free Sunday morning yoga class. And it's a brand that has (in my opinion) no direct competitor.  No one can touch this brand right now.  They entered early, they entered with personality and they love what they do.  Their brand is way beyond nice work out clothes, it's contagious!

Petsmart Jill and I are dog owners so we may be a bit bias, but we both agreed that Petsmart is doing it right in the pet sector.  People love Petsmart because of its variety, caring staff and impact on the community. Not to mention that I don't like carrying a 40lb bag of dog food through the city in heels, Petsmart offers premiere brands, price matching, in-store returns, easy online shopping, dog training, boarding, "day camp," local adoptions, grooming and many other services that make it more than just a store. As long as they do their branding and customer service right, I think we'll see Petsmart outlast its competitors.

Kohl's This conversation MAY have started in a whipser. Yes world, we like Kohl's.  A few minutes later we laughed because we knew that brand snobs would be missing out big on this stock.  They'd also be missing out on some serious sales.  Anyone who has shopped at Kohl's knows about their pricing strategy. What woman doesn't love [and justify excessive purchases because of] a "sale".  I mean for real, Kohl's, you are rocking!  In fact, Jill thinks they are in the process of putting out brands that even beat out Target's "cheap chic" products.  An example is Lauren Conrad's clothing line.

Energizer Holdings Yep, batteries and tampons ladies.  We all need 'em, right?! We all know about the energizer bunny but most of us probably didn't realize that Playtex products (which includes many consumer goods way beyond tampons) also falls under this brand category.  Regardless of the economy, we all need these products. We also trust them and depend on them.  Many of Energizer Holdings' brands fall in the middle in terms of price point but have very trusted names with the perception of high quality and longevity- key factors in picking stocks.

Do your favorite brands mirror your favorite stocks?

What are your favorite brands?  Do you love these brands enough to buy their stocks if you were looking to invest?  Which stocks do you own and why?

*Curiosity Question* after seeing the media coverage on the recent oil spill, how does this affect your views of BP as a brand?  Would you have bought their stock 6 months ago?  Would you buy it now?

Nicole Emerick