Good Things Come in Better Packages: The Role of Packaging in the Growth of Private Label

Steve KazanjianThis guest post comes from Vertex Awards judge Steve Kazanjian the vice president of Global Creative for global packaging company MWV.


Good Things Come in Better Packages: The Role of Packaging in the Growth of Private Label

At some point it became trendy to shop at Target. These guys are MASTERS of branding. They figured out a way to turn conspicuous consumption on its head and make it fashionable and fun to be cost-conscious. The theory seems to be, “Just because you’re saving money doesn’t mean you can’t have a real brand experience.” Others have imitated the strategy, trying to re-conjure the phenomenon that is “Tarjay.” (See TJ Maxx’s “Be a Maxxinista” campaign.)

Hyundai has done the same thing in the automotive category, proving their safety chops and anchoring their marketing around their warranty.  The Korean automaker broke a sales record last month, selling more than 56,000 vehicles.  Luv’s diapers is marketing to the “practical consumer,” too. They ran a hilarious campaign last year called Live, Learn and Get Luvs about how “experienced moms” make the more reasonably priced choice for their children.

The same trend toward pragmatism is also boosting sales of private-label store brands. According to Nielsen, sales of store brands grew 18.2 percent over the past three years, accounting for more than $100 million in sales. But how? Private label marketing budgets are a fraction of what Target, Hyundai and Luv’s can devote to the cause. So what’s their secret?

Good things come in well-designed packages.

An often overlooked element of the omnichannel marketing communications mix, packaging is the only medium that actually reaches 100% of consumers of any given product. And for private label products, it is a retailer’s only opportunity to establish an emotional connection with shoppers.Target Archer Farms - risotto

A recent New York Times article focused on the growth of private label brands, citing Target’s Archer Farms and Safeway’s Open Nature. “Grocery store brands once carried a stigma. With no-frills white packaging that telegraphed bargain basement and low quality, they were a last resort for consumers on tight budgets. Today, they are the stars of grocery store shelves and refrigerated cases.”

With “up and up” and Archer Farms, Target has abandoned the “no frills” packaging, investing in the aesthetics and structure of their packaging to communicate brand positioning to consumers. Again, just because you’re saving money doesn’t mean you can’t have a real brand experience. Packaging can play a major role in sending this message.

So how should a private label brand prioritize improvements to its packaging? Making a consumer connection is not all about graphics and aesthetics.  According to MWV’s consumer satisfaction study Packaging Matters, consumers are most interested in the functionality of the packaging, such as ease of opening, portability, preserving freshness and getting the last drop out. Additionally, these structural elements can be an opportunity to deliver on a brand promise, particularly one of good value for the money.

Vertex Judges_0000_Steve KazanjianSteve Kazanjian is vice president of Global Creative for global packaging company MWV. You can find him on Twitter @SteveKazanjian and at


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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.