7 Attributes of the Innovative Private Brand Manager

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Retailers and their brands today can no longer survive on the “as good as but cheaper” national brand equivalence mentality that has dominated the last 20 years of private brands. It’s simply not enough; the customer has hundreds of brick and mortar and online retailers to choose from and they expect the foundation private label products to exist – cereal, milk, canned vegetables etc. But that expectation does not lead to loyalty. “As good as but cheaper” does not inspire love or create passionate fans.

So what will help retailers go above and beyond in the 21st century? What traits does it take to manage and grow private brands that customers know and love? Brands that provide a competitive advantage.

  1. Strategy Obsessed: The best private brands are built and managed as an expression of corporate strategy. Their brand positioning and corresponding logo, package design, and product development are each an expression of both the corporate strategy and by extension, the customer strategy.
  2. Customer Focused: This is the age of the customer. Retailers have the privilege of regular interaction with their customers. Leverage that to build brands and product. Know her, give her solutions to her problem, maker her life easier. Merchants and manufacturers focus on the product; the modern private brand executive should be wholly focused on her
  3. Fearless: Take risks and learn from failure. Repeat. Take risks and learn from failure. Repeat.
  4. Diplomat & Leader: Building private brands is as much about diplomacy as it is about leadership. The goal is to understand and embrace the complex, matrixed organization as an ally and partner. Merchandising, Marketing, Operations, Legal, etc. must all become active partners in the growth of modern private brands.
  5. Data Informed: Consumer data must inform not define. Remember: behind every number, there are real people, real families. The data will reveal what they do, however, it is your job to uncover why they do it.
  6. Differentiator: Stop copying, mimicking or stealing. Create brands and products with meaningful differentiation. The ultimate goal is not simply to create price based selection but to create experience and emotion-based loyalty.
  7. Passion: Love what you do. Love the brands you build. Fill your closets and cupboards with your passion. Demonstrate that passion every day.


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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.