The Power of Creative Confidence – Private Brand?

This guest post comes from frequent contributor, Tess Wickstead, Strategy Director of the international design agency Pearlfisher. Her premise is essential to the development and growth of Private Brand – We must stop copying, we must stop apologizing for owning brands, we must develop and demonstrate the creative confidence that national brands have for years simply assumed.

The power of creative confidence

It is easy to look at certain brands and envy the look and feel that makes them who they are. And we all believe that good design sells. However, it takes a confident brand to maximize the power of design and get the most out of it. The question is, how can you instil this confidence in your brand and – as a result – give it the (packaging) design that it deserves?

If there is an uncertainty and lack of understanding as to what the core essence of your brand is  – and what it stands for – the ways of making it desirable are more limited and can lead to confusion and disparity at point of purchase for the consumer. However, by understanding the core truth of the brand and what it means to its consumers, creativity can be set free. Once again, we need to keep front of mind the fact that design is the key touchpoint for the consumers. And the role of the designers working with these brands is to bring together the deepest truths and most powerful desires within a brand to allow for a unique and definitive expression.

The power of a strong and consumer relevant brand strategy provides a powerful foundation from which to move the brand forward –   a foundation which allows you to understand how design can be used to create the right language and aesthetic for you. It gives permission for creativity, instilling a necessary confidence which, in turn, becomes self-generating as profile – and, of course, most significantly, sales build. Let’s look at some examples.

Personal Care is probably one of the trickiest sectors for Private Label as design needs to promote a high quality look and feel whilst still being synonymous with value. This can only be achieved when retailers corporately get behind each and every product and ensure that all design communication is cemented back into the core brand strategy. And you only have to look at the continued success of Bath & Body Works – consistently feted in the press and awarded by the industry – to see this rings true. The new redesign of its Japanese Cherry Blossom fragrance – the US’ no. 1 selling fragrance – bears testament to the Label’s resolute commitment to creative strategy with an amazing premium looking package that belies the $34.50 price tag.

And when it comes to the fickle world of fashion/lifestyle, Private Label is definitely not  the poor relation. Debuted last month, Target’s biggest design collaboration to date is with iconic Italian brand Missoni – translating the unmistakeable Missoni aesthetic into an affordable line for everything from babygro’s to bicycles..Target has, of course, collaborated with many celebrated designers but rather than dilute its core brand proposition, this partnering only strengthens its commitment to the best in design and shows the kudos and esteem with which the Target label is afforded by these premium brands. And, in the case, of Missoni, a brand that shares a synergy of value and core beliefs with the retailer when it comes to focus on quality, family, style…

And I can’t leave this debate without mentioning the redesign for Hemköp Private Brand from Swedish grocery chain Hemköp. The press release about the recent redesign states that the “brand was designed to deliver on the Hemköp core brand, which offers its customers a wide and affordable range, inspiring joy of food and good service to meet and exceed customer expectations.” And the fresh, fun and interactive variety of the designs (for everything from t-shirts to popcorn) perfectly exemplifies the point they – and we – are making. Creative confidence powers brands by providing unity with the brand environment and communications but also a striking – but relevant – difference at point of purchase.

Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director, Pearlfisher
Tess’s great talent is the instant ability to see the wood for the trees. As the creative force behind Pearlfisher’s strategic offer, she trades in originality, clarity and logic, getting to the point fast and delivering strategy that’s both creative and cohesive. A longstanding Pearlfisher person, Tess was Strategy Director in London for ten years before relocating with her family for a brand new challenge in New York.

As a literature student at York, Sussex and Cambridge Universities, Tess was keen to become first a clown, then a teacher. However, it was her belief that good culture matters that finally led to a career in design and an ongoing commitment to creating powerful brands that contribute positively to the world. Short and sharp in all things, Tess balances refreshing bluntness with disarming humanity. Her presence on a project promises fireworks – and guarantees results.



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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.