Fifty2, The MPB Project: Lowe’s Home Improvement – Kobalt

Kobalt Front drill“Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project,” will present a carefully curated look at the best Private Brands in the U.S. across all retail channels. The weekly series looks at each great Private Brand with insight, analysis and original photography. In early Fifty2 The MPB Project Logo2014, these will be published as my first book along with several new chapters that focus on strategy, packaging and design learnings from the included brands.

I am looking for retailer-owned private labels that are BRANDS – brands that bring their positioning and business purpose to life through great design, purpose, expertise, confidence, emotion, lifestyle and innovation.

To submit a brand for consideration please email

Mooresville, North Carolina based Lowe’s Home Improvement launched Kobalt, the “Next Generation of Tough Tools,” in 1998 as a Private Brand of mechanics’ tools. Since that time, the brand has extended to more than 1,700 products and become one of the fastest-growing tool brands in the United States.

In 2012, San Francisco based branding agency Landor released its annual Breakaway Brands report. The study, which was published by Forbes, is designed to measure sustained growth in brand strength over a three-year period and includes a who’s who of the worlds greatest brands including: Facebook, Keurig, Skype,, YouTube, Netflix, and Apple. The 2102 list included a list of three “Brands to Watch:” Kobalt, Foster Farms and Norton. The brands in this list exhibited significant upward momentum but did not make it into the top 10.

Landor described Kobalt’s emergence in this way

“Sometimes a brand has to connect to consumers through one person. Kobalt, one of our brands to watch, has been able to involve its community with the strategic sponsorship of NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson. As Johnson accumulated victories, and was voted Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year in 2009, Kobalt gained increased visibility and positive associations. From sponsoring races to working with Johnson’s team to design a line of tools, Kobalt’s decisive partnership has allowed the brand to carve out a distinct identity.”

By creating, managing and marketing an aspirational brand designed to professional standards and focused on engaging the suburban tool enthusiast, Kobalt and Lowe’s are consistently winning. They have created a unique brand voice and visual language that is truly differentiated and ownable. The distinctive logo, branded hex pattern, ergonomic grip and Kobalt Blue brand color have become a recognizable point of difference that Kobalt customers know and LOVE.

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Brand: Kobalt
Brand Focus:
Lowe’s Home Improvement
Mooresville, NC
2012 USA Retail Sales:
$50.5 billion
2012 Stores:


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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.