This is the next in a series of interviews Christopher Durham, founder of My Private Brand and VP of retail brands at Theory House, will conduct with private brand leaders around the world. Today, he discusses retail-owned brands and their evolution with Vertex Award winner Marie Horodecki-Aymes, Director of Design and Packaging for Canadian retailer Metro Brands at Metro Inc.
Marie is responsible for the overall brand identity and strategy as well as day-to-day deployment of the roadmap to deliver the brand success.
Prior to joining Metro Inc., Marie held a variety of managing roles in retail industry such as private brand development director, retail strategist, and sustainable sourcing leader in France, Italy and Belgium.
CD: What is your first memory/experience with Private Brand?
MHA: My first internship was for a big European soft drink brand. Looking at Nielsen numbers, there was a mysterious line, growing each month: retailer brands. Nobody in the CPG industry was worried by this. I searched info, met people and finally was hired by one of the most innovative French retailers to reengineer their Private Brand ranges.
CD: What does the future of retailer owned brands look like?
MHA: It can be amazing; it’s dependent on what we will do with it! The main issue with private brands is not our clients’ trust, or to a greater extent, our industry ambition. Worldwide, all the studies show us consumers are ready to choose private brands if the offer meets their needs. We, as retailers and representatives of the industry, have to be ambitious and aware of the great potential of our products. As e-retail is growing, it becomes easier to compare the offer between one retailer and another. Distance from the store is no longer an issue… In the years to come, private brands should be one of the main differentiation drivers between one retailer and another.
More than price, we have to think about value, brand mission and consumer expectations.
Which brand could say it offers products in every aisle of a supermarket and is present in 97% of homes? Only a private brand has the ability to reach across all aisles. Our potential is obvious. Now we have to align our strategies and our ambitions regarding our products, brands, design, and marketing to realize it.
MHA: Design is a key element in the private brand industry. More so than in national brands, I think, as our packaging is most often the main way we have to communicate with our customers. We have to develop designs able to express our banner’s positioning, brand promises and our product attributes. Our consumers have to be comfortable using our products, and not be ashamed to put our packaging in their kitchen, bathroom or on their tables.
Because our brands are not as known as National Brands, a bad or dated design is a showstopper. We have to be better than national brands, by being innovative and clever with our products and our designs.
Another challenge is to improve the shopping experience in store and online. We are a part of our banner’s merchandising tools. Our mission is to create more traction in our stores. Our designs have to create visual ruptures in our flagship categories to showcase how innovative the banner is.
CD: What advice do you have for retailers trying to take their brands to the next level?
MHA: My first advice would be to ask the question: why do you want to take your brand to another level? If the answer is because it’s a nice to have, forget it. This will only create frustration for your customers and your teams.
In your global strategy, you need to illustrate through your offer who you are, what makes your products different. Define where you want to go and align your products’ quality, your brands, your pricing strategy and your designs to serve your promises.
Retailers have to be coherent and stop comparing their products to the National Brands. Instead, focus on being the reason why consumers will choose them instead of the others.
CD: What do you look for in great brand design?
MHA: I look for what design should be, as it was defined by great designers like Charlotte Perriand or Charles Heames: something that makes your life more comfortable and more beautiful. If you translate that into packaging, that means your design must take your product experience to another level.
Critical elements are:
- Immediate recognition of the brand processes,
- Good identification of the product,
- Anticipation of the pleasure of using it,
- Functionality of the packaging: how to open it, close it, ease of storage, how to dispose of it when you don’t need it anymore, and
- Clarity of the instructions.
That done, add aesthetics, simplicity, and appeal, and you have a winning design.
Don’t reduce packaging design to as a purely aesthetic exercise. Campbell’s soup packaging became art the day Andy Warhol put it in his paintings, not the day the soup cans were put on our supermarket shelves.
CD: What advantages does private brand have over national brands?
MHA: We have the power to expand our customers’ expectations and give new direction to the global CPG evolution. For example, some European retailers took a different route by choosing local suppliers, by stopping the use of some controversial ingredients, and explaining why they were making these choices. Their retail vision was: if we have healthy and wealthy clients around our stores, we will secure our turnover and our revenues will increase. And by doing so, those retailers pushed national brands to reconsider the way they were doing business together.
Our other main advantage is our agility. With smaller teams and small or medium size suppliers, it is easier to respond to any new trend. We are less dependent of investments than any national brand. We are the “brand startups.”
For example, take the organic offer. When a National Brand wants to develop an organic product, it has to be compliant with their banner’s positioning, minimum production batch, etc. As Private Brands, we can rapidly adapt and create new products with our suppliers. It is in our DNA to be closer to our consumers’ expectations. This concurrent advantage will become crucial in the years to come.