I’ve been through a grocery on a Private Brand with No Name.

With the recent passing of Private Brand design luminary, Don Watt it has been particularly interesting to see the Canadian retailer, Loblaw return to his startlingly stark “No Name Brand” package design. The Canadian daily the Edmonton Journal takes a look at this decision and its impact on brand recognition in the Loblaws space. More than 20 years ago Don Watt, Dave Nichols and Loblaws led North America through one of its many Private Brand revolutions. Their influence can still be felt in Walmart’s Great Value whose original strategy with Great Value and Sam’s Choice was an exact copy of the “No Name” and Presidents Choice Private Brands, which Loblaw’s ground breathtakingly deployed. What does it say about the current Private Brand revolution that Loblaw has returned to this strategy?

No Name returns to no frills

During tough economic times, back-to-basics marketing reaches a fever pitch. But at a time when most corporate marketing budgets were whittled to the extreme, a campaign from grocery giant Loblaw Cos. for its No Name line of in-house consumer goods virtually re-wrote the genre of no-frills simplicity.

When the company relaunched its No Name line one year ago in the depths of the recession — a happy coincidence in timing for Loblaw, as it had planned the brand revival for months — it went back to the basic, bold packaging that it used in 1978 when the line launched with just 16 products: a product name in black lower-case typeface against a lemon-yellow background. The packaging had no product shots.

The television ads from Loblaw’s ad agency of record, Bensimon Byrne, is bringing that packaging to life, featuring scrolling black text against a blinding yellow backdrop to the strains of kitschy stock organ music.

“They are produced for a fraction of what a [standard] Canadian TV commercial costs,” says David Rosenberg, creative director at Bensimon Byrne. “There is no film, there are no actors.” Since the brand relaunch, the agency has created 19 of the No Name spots.

“We don’t have a single item under $2,” the text of one recent ad reads. “We have 300.” The No Name insignia appears onscreen to close out the ad. That’s it.

“[Loblaw] was looking to get back to [a message conveying] no gimmicks, no fakery — just high-quality products at the lowest price possible,” Mr. Rosenberg said. Another spot highlights Loblaw’s money-back guarantee on No Name, aimed at encouraging customers to try the generic offering rather than a national brand alternative, and return the No Name version for a refund if they think it is sub-par. The ad jokes that the guarantee itself does not have a name — “you just get your money back.”

Loblaw’s stripped-down branding is a departure from how the line was marketed in recent years. As No Name grew over the years from 16 staples to more than 2,900 products today, the line began to take on a look that resembled its flashier private-label sister, President’s Choice. It featured pictures on the packaging, and while the bright yellow backdrop was usually present, the text was less obtrusive and featured other colours in addition to black.

“Two years ago it was spectacular packaging, similar in many cases to what the national brands were offering,” says Ian Gordon, senior vice-president of grocery at Loblaw.

But blending in was exactly what Loblaw needed to guard against — with the bold packaging muted, the generic brand looked too much like its higher-priced rivals. “When you went into the frozen pizza aisle, you would have to hunt for [No Name pizza],” he said. Sold at a 25% lower price tag than comparative national brands, the brand appeals to consumers watching their wallets, but “the real impetus for this was about restoring the in-store distinctiveness of the packaging,” Mr. Gordon said.

Read the entire article.

Here is one of the commercials referenced in the article, it is a 15 second spot that wholeheartedly embraces the ethos of “No Name” brand

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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.