Publix: Everything tastes better with a Smile.


After the last two days of very lively debate over my posts on the Great Value redesign, I thought it would be interesting to take another look at one of the retailers that readers and myself have both referenced as best in class. Publix.

Last month I wrote a three part series on my trip to Publix and Dollar General:
What Do Publix & Dollar General Have In Common?
Publix & Dollar General: Chapter Two
Dollar General & Publix: The Final Chapter

Note the use of the cookies to create the stripes in the cat

Publix has not only created great designs but they have truly used their Private Brands as an extension of their brand. Each product reinforces and validates the retail brand in design, quality and value all the while injecting a unique sense of humor. The designs are clean, elegant and well proportioned, utilizing the white space to draw the consumer in, and creating clarity through their consistency.
Take a look at this great article from the New York Times Magazine written by Rob Walker written in 2006 it really demonstrates how a forward thinking focused retailer can innovate through private brand and both engage the customer and lead the industry.

Shelf Improvement

As store-brand, or “private label,” products have grown in popularity over the years, package design has been part of the story. The private-label message: This store-brand canned corn or box of aluminum foil is just as good as the nearby Green Giant Niblets or Reynolds Wrap (but cheaper). Thus the store-brand packaging tends to look like the famous-name product’s packaging – simultaneously borrowing from the familiarity created by branding and trying to undercut its power. Imitation in this case is not a form of flattery but of subtle persuasion.

This shot is from the Publix Packaging blog
This shot is from the Publix Packaging blog

The private-label packaging strategy of Publix, an 878-store chain of groceries in several Southern states, is striking precisely because it eschews this familiar strategy. Instead of echoing brand-name designs, Publix’s products have their own look: clean, clever and – with lots of white space and simple but crisp typography – vaguely upscale. This has won Publix praise not just from publications like Package Design Magazine and Private Label Buyer but also from HOW, a graphic-design business magazine, which named Publix “in-house design group of the year” in 2005.

Of course, Publix did not set out to win awards from design magazines but rather to win the attention of shoppers. Tim Cox, director of the company’s in-house creative-service department, says Publix’s house brands used to mimic the look of national brands; the problem was that imitation made the private-label stuff blend in. A breakthrough came with the conclusion that similarity was no longer necessary. For most consumers, the knee-jerk suspicion of “generic” products faded a long time ago.

Read the entire article.

So Publix is widely acclaimed for their branding and package design, I have shopped the stores many times and have always enjoyed the experience, overall a rousing success. It will be intriguing to see how Publix evolves and or changes over the coming years, these designs are at least five years old, if not older, will they stay the course or will they reinvent and lead the next five years.

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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.