Retro Cool or Just Bad Brand Strategy? The Response.

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Yesterday after posting about the new and improved retro design for the Loblaws “No Name” private brand I posted the following question to a number of LinkedIn Groups that I am a member of. Below are the responses from three of those groups. The range of responses is intriguing and really shows the breadth of thought in this pseudo science we call branding.

So then what do I think, I have a soft spot for retro designs so I have a tendency to think, that it is pretty cool, as well as pretty brave. That being said the strategy question bugs me and living in Charlotte, NC I can’t walk in the stores or taste the food. What is the positioning supposed to be for this brand, and does this design deliver on that. If it is a true value line that is less that than National Brand quality at a really great price then it delivers beautifully.   However, if the product is the classic National Brand Equivalent then the design really downgrades the perceived quality. What do you think?


Is Loblaw’s New Package Design Retro Cool
or Just Bad Brand Strategy?


Answers from the LinkedIn Group Creative Intensive Network

David McMonigle
Partner at Lopez and Company, LLP
Bad strategy. They will find out when their product hits the skids.
We all know that the contents of private label brands is virtually the same as the name brands, but, we need to be enticed to use them. There is nothing wrong with great packaging and branding, even private label.
We designed many private label products including entire lines for certain chains. The idea is to show product value not brand inferiority.
Part of the research showed that shoppers did not want to have Private label identified in their carts.

Ernest Burden
Creative Director (AD)
It’s a retro cool bad idea!
Though I did recently buy some Kidney beans in this package. As my wife said, “Hey these are way cheaper, and it’s just Kidney beans…”
I agree with Mr. McMonigle’s comments, though I remember a packaging design creative presentation a year or so ago where I was told by the client that my design for their frozen veggies made the product look too high-end. I thought this was a good thing: expensive look, economical price. nope. Could have used your help in that meeting!

John Kewley
Writer / Creative Director / Brand Consultant
It’s a gutsy, smart idea. They’re riding the new trend of conspicuous frugality, which will be increasingly cool as we muddle our way through the barren economic landscape this year. In the past, people didn’t want to be seen looking ‘cheap’. But for the next while, the inverse will be true. People will want others to know how economically resourceful they are. Conspicuous consumption, out. “Look at me, everybody: I’m saving more, by spending less than you.”

Ray McAnallen
Creative Director, Brand Communication/Corporate Marketing for Maritz Inc.
Traffic signs have been yellow with black type for years. I always pay attention to them. Now, if they really want stopping power go with the “new” DOT color scheme “Day-Glo green” with black type. You’ll hear shopping carts screeching to a halt all over the place.

Answers from the LinkedIn Group: Brand Innovators, Branding Leadership & Creating Innovation Network

James Welsh
Manager, Brand Development at Canada Post Corp.
I think it’s very smart. At the tactical level it leverages their well-know credentials in the category and supports their claim that they’re competitive on price. In today’s tough economic times it makes sense on a variety of levels to harken back to your roots.
They invented “no-name” (at least in Canada anyway) in the 70’s. This was a time of the do-it-yourself movement, bag your own groceries, self-serve gas stations appeared, health food and vitamin consumption became commonplace, home improvement movement etc.

Lisa C. Clark, MBA
Founder/CEO Textiles for Thinkers, LLC and Thinker Clothing(tm), Int’l Consumer/Tech Marketer, Branding, Channels
I have to agree with James. Very smart.
In my design business I’ve been approached by endless folks expressing dismay with continue to wear — and market — clothing that’s just walking advertisers for brand names, and seek something different and which expresses substance and their individuality.
Examples: DKNY, Billabong, Abercrombie.
Related issue is packaging, its excess, its expense relative to overall COGs of products, and its long-term impact.
If the Loblaw’s brand presents itself as ca. 1950s-1970s ACME-style, and it focuses on the substance and value of what’s inside the low-impact packaging and consistent testimonials of positive customer experience, *that* will build the brand and, IMO, is a good and well-timed market move.
Quite an example of classic marketing: Substance over fluff. It’s how little brands like Costco were born…

Answers from the LinkedIn Group: Retail Industry Experts

Robert Sorenson
Product Manager at Omniture
I think it lines up correctly with the no name brand attributes while building a clear differentiation to their president’s choice products, which is the premium private label.



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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.