"I'm cheap" – Package Design and Brand Management

Since beginning both the MY private brand Linked In group and this blog I have been gratified by the reception I have received from the Private Brand Community. The group now has more than 200 members representing many of the top US retailers, brokers, agencies and manufacturers. So I regularly post on the group site when I have a new post. Below is a response I received to my New Year post from Jeff Klein, from  One Hero Creative.

“OK, I’m a Graphic Designer… I am also preoccupied with the packaging aspect of this world of consumers. Each product, generic or not has the ability to share a message that is more than the combination of legibility, image, color and price. One of my recent private brand experiences was my freelancer drinking “Mountain Lion Cola”, “Yup, I’m poor” he smiled. We had a great exchange about some of the generic names that sound like top brand names. That could go on for days… Now that I’m writing this I googled the term “Mountain Lion Cola” and found this:


Another example of real people having fun with their time and place in the world.

I want to take that BEER and create the best designed can of generic beer the world has ever seen. How do you measure? Connection. I want the consumer to be challenged to realize a connection between their experiences and the products they use. We, the struggling class know perfectly well what we have to do to maintain or dare I say prosper in this gloomy economic climate. A part of the survival technique for many is using the cheapest products they can find. We have completed the cost/benefit equation and realize the stigma of low quality has diminished to a point that it is barely an issue. So I’m a Mountain Lion man, growl! We should celebrate it. Maybe I’m off base but most of the PB packaging out there today tells the story “I’m cheap” and that’s about it. I’d like the price to that story, let the package teach us something new. Where else can you efficiently explore the possibilities of consumer products and connections with a reduced risk of loss? After all it’s cheap, people will buy it anyway.”


Thanks for the comment I think from a design perspective you are largely correct. When you say “Maybe I’m off base but most of the PB packaging out there today tells the story “I’m cheap”. So much or Private brand still lives in the me-too past, that created the original generics. Over the last few years Private Brand has made great strides. Take a look at Publix and Target you can honestly see not only great package design but great strategy and great products. O Organics from Safeway and On the Go Bistro from Delhaize are nice examples of great brand being brought to life by good design and quality products.

The interesting challenge for the retailer is using branding strategy and design strategy to build a portfolio of brands that creates differentiation, enhances the shopping experience and generates loyalty. So Target includes brands in their portfolio which tell the “cheap” story as part of their mix – Market Pantry, while building Archer Farms as a unique and innovative premium food brand. Take a look at the recent cereal launch, great product, great packaging, and great design.



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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.