Great For You: a great big missed opportunity for Walmart – and Private Brand?

This guest post comes from frequent contributor, Tess Wicksteed, Executive Vice President Pearlfisher NY of the international design agency Pearlfisher.

Walmart - Great For YouGreat For You: a great big missed opportunity for Walmart – and Private Brand?

Rather than educating about health and simplifying choice for consumers, Walmart’s new Great For You labeling icon has not just created another confusing layer to the ongoing debate about healthy living – but a confusing picture of the Walmart brand and what it stands for.

WAL-MART STORES, INC.Whilst the new icon is designed to be an easy visual shopping guide to help consumers make healthy (ish) decisions by alerting them to the products that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars and salt, in practice the icon is very small on many of the packs and there is no corresponding signage or-in store marketing to explain the program. In all likelihood Walmart shoppers either do not notice the icon or simply have no idea what it means.

And sticking with the consumer view, it’s important to recognize that a desire for health conscious options doesn’t mean that consumers can’t ultimately make healthy choices for themselves. The “one size fits all” nature of the Great For You tag misses the opportunity to empower consumers through education and, ultimately, enable them to make smart choices on their own. It merely replaces one form of dependency for another. And many private label products that consumers rely on as cost-conscious staples don’t carry the Great For You icon. So what then?

What is maybe more confusing and misleading, is that the label does not fit into Walmart’s general visual expression –containing no typical Walmart colors, typography, nor hint of the Walmart brand. Admittedly, it has purposefully designed an icon that claims objectivity and this is allowing the brand to offer the icon to any national brand manufacturer interested in using it. But why would it do this?

Does Walmart not believe it has the authority to define health? Is it not committed to health? Walmart is raising more questions than it is answering. And, by divorcing the labeling from the brand, it is actually – and actively – divorcing Walmart from the promotion of healthy eating.

Legislative and consumer pressure is pushing health to the fore. And as one of the biggest retailers in the world, it is necessary for Walmart to take a stand on health. And we know that Walmart is committed to health: the Walmart Foundation has announced $9.5 million in new grants for nutrition education. And the movement in healthy eating – and its investment in it – should present the perfect opportunity for Walmart to take the lead and capitalize on an own brand of healthy living products. But to do so with its new icon in such an underwhelming way seems a shame for the retail behemoth, and a real loss for consumers.

Retailers like Safeway, Wholefoods, and Target all have healthy eating Private Brand solutions. Waitrose’s calorie-conscious brand, You Count, makes the calorific content of each product clear, celebrates the choice, and heroes the joy of healthy eating. This type of product allows consumers to make smart choices and elevates brand loyalty but doesn’t dilute the private label parent brand. And the incredible market success of products such as this shows an unswerving demand for affordable, health-conscious, private label food.

As a goliath in the retail space, Walmart has missed an enormous opportunity for thought leadership. Rather than building brand loyalty through something clear, original and definitive – that could really educate and help their consumers to eat healthily – it has, instead, only added to the blurring, fudging and obfuscation of health.

So retailers, take note: Private Brands and labeling are an incredible opportunity to make healthy living easy for your consumers by designing comprehensive and exciting brands that really make a difference…and that don’t just try to fix it by putting a band aid / sticker on it.

Tess Wicksteed - smallTess Wicksteed, Executive Vice President Pearlfisher NY
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.