Great Private Brands Don’t Blindly Follow

This is the second guest post in a three-part series from Perry Seelert the strategic partner of united* dsn, a design consultancy based in New York and San Francisco. In an upcoming book on “Grocery Store Brand Design”, to be published by Liaoning Publishing Group the agency was asked to write the preface. The series includes the preface and The Seven Key Principles for creating strategically compelling Private Brands.

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Principles #3 through #5

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 intelligent 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.

Perry Seelert is strategic partner of united* dsn, a design consultancy based in New York and San Francisco. To contact Perry: or 917.267.2857

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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.