We are doing a lot of groundbreaking work in the field of Private Label as of late, and here is good refresher on The Key Principles that we believe in for creating strategically compelling own brands.
The Principles of Equity And Environment
From a branding and design point of view, there has never been more interest in the grocery store, and how we communicate, shape consumer decisions, and even create theater within it. This is true in every part of the world. There is, of course, a respect we all must have in the cultural uniqueness of the grocery store, from country to country, where some shoppers are in the store just twice a week, to some grocery and marketplace experiences where shoppers are interacting every single day.
And even with these varying cultural nuances in frequency, experience and loyalty within the grocery store, there is a universal interest in making the store brand act more credibly and overall be more compelling to consumers.
We have found that across all great store brand examples, there are unique underlying stories in their development, but there are seven principles that they must live by to truly be strategically compelling.
The equity connection : It is critical to immerse yourself in the overall mission of the retailer, its perception and differentiating equity as it stands today, and what is possible in the future. To do this, the best branding partners collaborate with the top leadership of the retailers they work with, as well as the top merchants and store brand specialists within the organization. The best store brands and their designs are not created in a vacuum. They take into consideration all the key objectives a retailer is angling towards, and then consider how to optimize store brands as one of the key weapons to achieve their mission. Store brands reinforce the overarching equity of the retailer and vice-versa, and when they don’t, they fail.
Environmental support: A package can only accomplish so much. Even when I helped to create Via Roma for A&P supermarkets, which is stunning in its shelf presence and attitude, we argued for more environmental media in the store to support the brand. In the wide stream of 40,000+ products, that many of the biggest supermarkets carry today, your store brand can get overwhelmed if it doesn’t have that off-shelf, environmental support. Give it life and expression beyond the package. Use the theater of the store to support your brand.
Be preferential: There is lots of different nomenclature for store brands, own brands, proprietary brands and the like. But whatever the language, don’t treat your store brands as weaker “stepchildren” to the larger national brands. Beyond the incisive package design for your brand, don’t be afraid to treat your store brands preferentially in the store. Preferential in their prominence, in their space allocation, in their shelf placement and in their display and cross-merchandising throughout the store. No need to be apologetic to the CPGs or succumb to planogram analysis (which shows a vision to the past and not to the future). Be preferential.
Don’t blindly follow: There has been a “follow the herd” mentality with store brands for years, and it still exists today. Many retailers we speak to today are scared of “white” packaging, because of what Walmart has done with Great Value. Too many people are hyper-attentive to the competition and the conventions of what is happening in store brands across the industry. The bottom line is you should create quite uniquely and specially to your own vision. Don’t blindly follow the naming conventions, color conventions set by large categories, or traditionally mundane price-centered store brands and how they traditionally have behaved. Intelligently reconsider everything.
Three layers working together : In your positioning of your store brands and how they are to truly be differentiated for the future, make sure that you are not obsessing on visual language alone. This is the fault of a lot of design companies, who think they are just hired to reinvent the aesthetic language for the store brand. If we are to inspire the creation of these brands differently, we must consider how the visual language is created, yes, but also how it is packaged structurally, and the language we use to express the brand verbally. Visual, structural and verbal languages all working cohesively.
Steve Jobs never asked the consumer: Apple is one of the most innovative and well thought of, successful companies in the world. When asked, in a New York Times article, what Steve Jobs thought about research, and how Apple utilizes it in guiding new product development, he said “none…it isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.” There are too many retailers who use research in their creative development process for store brands, and this is a mistake. Consumers will always veer towards safety and what is comfortable to them, so you won’t get the most innovative outcomes if they are your only sounding board. The Via Roma brand would have never seen the light of day if research were the decision-maker.
Own the brand’s positioning: There are no general rules in utilizing your store’s name on the actual store brand packaging, just as there are no generalizations to make in how wide the store brand can span. In creating Greenway, Hartford Reserve and Via Roma for A&P, each of these brands had a very definitive strategic positioning, and this collaboration that defined the brand’s role was a very important part of the process. Define it clearly, know where you want to differentiate the brand other than pure price, own it thoroughly in the mind of the consumer, and repeat it appropriately.
These seven principles will serve you well in the creation of an innovative store brand program, and they are principles that the greatest of retailer brands abide by with real conviction. The store brand industry needs to be guided by continued creative innovation, a true steel hand in branching out from the sole veil of “price”, and store brands need to be marketed with the vigor, inspiration and media support to be compelling in their own right.
Published previously on My[Private]Brand blog