The Co-Operative – A Private Brand Experience

If you were lucky enough to attend this year’s edition of the conference that I chair The Private Brand Movement, you were privileged to see Harry Pearce of the designer consultancy Pentagram, present numerous case studies on Private Brand work from the last few years. Including the creation and development of the new visual identity for the English retail group “The Co-operative”. The presented work focused on both brand identity and Private brand package design including the mark based on a sans-serif bold lower case (Neue Helvetica) logotype of the wording, different colors representing different businesses, and a playful type based package design aesthetic that brings the brand to life. So when I had the opportunity to visit London over Thanksgiving I could not wait to walk a store and see Harry’s work live and in person. The NBE tier stands up well, combining a distinctly British aesthetic with bright colors and a playful aesthetic. The Value tier clearly embraces the now expected value clichés while maintaining a connection to the Co-operative brand.

If you are not familiar with the retailer – The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private shareholders but by over six million consumers – in the US outdoor retailer REI has a similar structure. It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services provider, operating The Co-operative Bank, Britannia and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s largest farming operation. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas.

The Group operates 4,800 retail-trading outlets, employs more than 106,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13bn.

The Co-Operative defines its brand in this way:

The Co-operative Group Values and Principles

At The Co-operative we encourage new ideas to tackle issues that are important to our members – from helping the community to changing the world.

Membership is open to everyone as long as they share our values and principles. Our members show these values by working together for everyone’s benefit, and are encouraged to play a full part in the community.

Here are our underlying values and principles, which influence The Co-operative Membership and the way we run all of our businesses:

our co-operative values

Self-help  –  we help people to help themselves

Self-responsibility  –  we take responsibility for, and answer to our actions

Democracy  –  we give our members a say in the way we run our businesses

Equality  –  no matter how much money a member invests in their share account, they still have one vote

Equity  –  we carry our business in a way that is fair and unbiased

Solidarity  –  we share interests and common purposes with our members and other
co-operatives.

our ethical values

Openness  –  nobody’s perfect, and we won’t hide it when we’re not

Honesty  –  we are honest about what we do and the way we do it

Social responsibility  –  we encourage people to take responsibility for their own community, and work together to improve it

Caring for others  –  we regularly fund charities and local community groups from the profits of our businesses.

our principles are the way we put our values into action

  • Voluntary and open membership  –  membership is open to everyone
  • Democratic member control  –  all members have an equal voice in making policies and electing representatives
  • Member economic participation  –  all profits are controlled democratically by members and for their benefit
  • Autonomy and independence  –  co-operatives are always independent, even when they enter into agreements with the Government and other organizations
  • Education, training and information  –  co-operatives educate and develop their members as well as their staff
  • Co-operation amongst co-operatives  –  co-operatives work together with other co‑operatives to strengthen the co-operative movement as a whole
  • Concern for community  –  co-operatives also work to improve and develop the community, both locally and internationally.


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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.