The Importance of Structure in Private Brand.


This guest post comes from frequent contributor, Tess Wickstead, Strategy Director of the international design agency Pearlfisher.

There is a huge opportunity for private label retail brands to lose their stigma as the ‘poor relative’ of their branded counterparts and to learn from their behavior. Strategically led design will drive it. There will be a distinct shift from ‘private label’ to ‘private brand’. In my last guest post I talked about the importance of a strong creative strategy to give creative confidence and as a result get the most out of your products through design. And there are so many elements of design that can and should be maximized. Let’s consider structure.

When a brand’s structural design perfectly fits its purpose and its brand truth, immense desire can be created. Think of the iconic brand structures of Method, Absolut Vodka, POM, Help Remedies….the list goes on. So why can’t we see more unique structures in private label? Of course, pure imitation or cloning national brands doesn’t work, resulting in a less worthy aesthetic. However, when the opportunity presented by good structural design is neglected, a fantastic opportunity is missed.

Packaging design that’s aligned to a brand’s truth has the power to become an integral touch point because it is tangible and can create long-term brand loyalty, desirability and connection. It is the packaging design that has the opportunity to excite, enhancing day-to-day life and day-to-day purchases in the most innovative and engaging way. What is key is the power of physical touch and maximizing this opportunity so that when on shelf and in the hand, brands relate, connect and belong to the consumer. A strong structure that connects with the brand truth and the central brand identity is crucial.

Effective private label structural design ups the ante with an increased premium feel and consumer desire to bring products into their homes. In the case of In-Kind, structural design became its major equity, creating immediate on-shelf standout, with a feeling of specialness yet accessibility. The curvaceous structure fits snuggly in the hand during use. But, we also see Target’s pharmacy range breaking the mould through structural innovation and Victoria’s Secret’s meaty ‘Very Sexy’ beauty line and trademark Bombshell perfume. Waitrose in the UK have been exploring different brand structures for a while now, launching Umi and Umi Spa in 2005. The unique structures immediately elevate a brand to one that consumers would want to have on their bathroom shelves.

Ultimately structural design needs to give physical space and substance to an idea so that first and foremost a brand is given form. But when creating the optimum packaging structure, work cannot be done in isolation. Structure needs to be considered from the beginning and needs to be informed by the brand strategy. Future insight can open our eyes to emergent shifts that will guide us in what will be some of the most desirable emergent forms. For example we have seen food experiencing a renaissance of creativity – a return to both art and unadulterated pleasure. Brand design structure has responded to this as seen through brands like Absolut Glimmer and Marni Laduree. Similarly, what new technical innovations can help bring to life the desired structural vision? Structure needs to be considered right from the start and brought to life as an integrated part of the design process.

Structural design can sometimes be put on the back burner, with perceived high costs, but not all of it is expensive to produce, think of how Jovial pastas work with uniquely die-cut windows and how Green & Black’s maximizes embossing.

Retail brands must create a great experience every time a consumer touches a brand, so that a product invites interaction. Structure will create huge desire and can also give real meaning to your brand and what it stands for, enhancing the graphic design too. Think of how the Coca-Cola iconic identity curves around the iconic bottle structure. Structure creates a personal experience for the consumer and is the optimum tool for increasing shelf standout and the desired brands cues, be they premium, powerful, feminine, edgy or organic.

Structure can create the difference, and will make a brand loved.

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.

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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.