A way with words. Visualizing the Verbal.

Pearlfisher - Safeway - In-Kind

This guest post comes from frequent contributor, Tess Wickstead, Strategy Director of the international design agency Pearlfisher. Her post discusses the importance of naming and language, which  if you have seen me speak in the last year you know how near and dear this subject is to my heart.

Take her words to heart and lets all work together to move beyond the  Great/Guaranteed/Clear – Value/Essential/Basic “labels” that have proliferated and create memorable, distinct and ownable BRANDS.

A way with words. Visualizing the Verbal.

In my last posts I spoke about the shift from ‘private label’ to ‘private brand’ and the elements of design that must be embraced in order to maximize a private label brand’s potential. We have considered how to gain creative confidence through strategy and express desire through structure. Last, but by no means least, we come to words.

For private label retailers, with a wealth of different products across different categories, words are vital. Words offer interpretation and inspiration and importantly will breath life to a specific range or product, elevating its status. Private label retailers have always used naming to segment their ranges, but now we are seeing more retailers adding voice to the mix to create ranges and products that stand alone as brands in their own right. This allows them to better compete with their branded counterparts, create strong loyalty and simultaneously give kudos to the retailer itself.

Words are crucial when launching a brand with impact, telling its story – its reason for being. All too often the design world uses words as a creative rather than narrative device. But words must be purposeful in order to be heard – their graphic treatment is crucial, but rather than fitting them into a design concept, language must be considered as an equal partner – created and crafted to express real meaning and speak with true power. Design creates instant connection; words can strengthen that bond by speaking directly to customers and demonstrating a deeper level of detail. They balance the delivery of information with the delivery of delight – good language makes the reader feel emotionally engaged and truly appreciated. Ultimately, a name gives you a powerful identity, and a voice a distinctive personality.

The strongest brand names bring clarity to the consumer while revealing the depth of the product’s offering. They articulate a core idea through their meaning, their appearance and the way they sound out loud. The best names stick in the mind, forming vivid images and standing for something real.

When we created the name for Waitrose LOVE life we looked to the products that aimed to take people from a restricted lifestyle to a liberated one. Waitrose LOVE life was a name that reflected this liberation, a name that celebrated food in all its unique beauty, goodness and pure vibrancy. ‘LOVE life’ disrupts the diet category’s bland, compromised and apologetic approach to health, while sitting comfortably with the Waitrose brand and its generous approach to retail.

The name In-Kind is about being considered, beautiful and special. It challenges the language of the traditional personal care category with a distinct tone of voice that establishes a relationship with the consumer, and this ethos is underlined in the tagline: ‘Share the best you.’ Another example of great tone of voice and naming in private label is Target’s up & up brand. What is refreshing is that up & up is not trying to imitate brand-name counterparts; instead, the name highlights the positivity and optimism of household purchases, making their lower prices secondary to the brand.

Naming and tone of voice sets private brands free by bringing to life their own individual meaning and character. They can define a powerful personality, allowing a brand to be refreshingly unique and impossible to ignore. A name and voice reminds us why a product is such a valued part of our lives

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.