Steve Jobs never asked the consumer

This is the third 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 #6-#7:

Steve Jobs never asked the consumer
Apple is one of the most innovative and well thought of, successful companies in the world. When asked, in a New York Times article, what Steve Jobs thought about research, and how Apple utilizes it in guiding new product development, he said “none…it isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.” There are too many retailers who use research in their creative development process for store brands, and this is a mistake. Consumers will always veer towards safety and what is comfortable to them, so you won’t get the most innovative outcomes if they are your only sounding board. The Via Roma brand would have never seen the light of day if research were the decision-maker.

Own the brand’s positioning
There are no general rules in utilizing your store’s name on the actual store brand packaging, just as there are no generalizations to make in how wide the store brand can span. In creating Greenway, Hartford Reserve and Via Roma for A&P, each of these brands had a very definitive strategic positioning, and this collaboration that defined the brand’s role was a very important part of the process. Define it clearly, know where you want to differentiate the brand other than pure price, own it thoroughly in the mind of the consumer, and repeat it appropriately.

These seven principles will serve you well in the creation of an innovative store brand program, and they are principles that many of the examples in this book abided by with real conviction. The store brand industry needs to be guided by continued creative innovation, a true steel hand in branching out from the sole veil of “price”, and store brands need to be marketed with the vigor, inspiration and media support to be compelling in their own right.

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
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.