5 Questions with the Vertex Judges: Steven Cox

Leading up to the judging of the fifth annual Vertex Awards International Private Brand Design Competition I sat down with each of the judges and asked them five questions about Private Brands, package design and differentiation – their answers present a unique global perspective and depth of knowledge of the retail brand space.
Standard entries close January 15th

Today’s conversation is with Steven Cox, Creative Director, Daymon, Connecticut, USA

Over the last year Amazon, Whole Foods, Lidl, and Jet have made aggressive moves into private brand, what impact are you seeing them have on your private brand clients and their brands?

Private brands are used to being the “underdog” to national brands but to go up against giants, like Amazon, can be a daunting task for almost any retailer. Our clients are looking to be more proactive and they understand the landscape is changing. We work with them to continually evolve and stay relevant in connecting to their targeted customers.

Retail disruptors, like Lidl and Jet, are either targeting a specific shopper or leveraging data to tailor a shopper’s unique experience. While either may be difficult for smaller retailers, they can tailor solutions that are specific to their shoppers and the store environment to evolve their private brands.

What role should strategy play in solving retail problems?

Strategy should be at the forefront of all problem-solving discussion.  Retailers often build a strategic plan every few years and then it easily gets pushed to the back burner. If you’re able to continually make long-term strategic decisions, you will be able to proactively better your business for the long haul instead of continually putting out fires reactively.

Having a strategy means you are proactively building YOUR unique brand and YOUR experience, rather than reacting to what other competitors are doing. Retailers might ask the “Who?” and the “What?,” but when you take strategy one step further, you must answer the meaningful “Why?”

What are the most common mistake retailers make with their brands?

A store’s private brand program crosses all categories and lifestyles which requires flexibility. Five possible missteps include:

  • Retailers often develop systems that are too rigid and don’t allow for their products to compete within different categories.
  • There are also often too many decision makers, each with their own vision of what the brand should be.
  • There is a focus on execution before concept. Initial planning and strategy from concept to shelf is critical.
  • Retailers may build brands based on what they (as decision makers) would want or what competitors are doing, not what their customers want.
  • Retailers must educate shoppers on the brand’s benefits, differentiation, or value proposition. Retailers often don’t give their Private Brands enough marketing attention, and when they do, it is focused on products, not brand value.

What advice do you have for retailers trying to take their brands to the next level?

Know what your brands should stand for and, if you don’t, shoppers will notice. Savvy consumers have an eye for detail and they want transparency. Retailers must be prepared to evolve as the landscape never sits still. Consumer trends, National Brand redesigns, Government Regulations or new Competitive Products have the propensity to impact the market and the success of a program depends on your ability to adapt. With leadership support, strategic goals, unique qualities and comprehensive marketing campaigns, your Private Brands will thrive,

What will private brands look like 10 years from now?

Private Brands will be leading National Brands while they continue to grow their presence on shelf. They offer the ability to provide unique solutions, not just “me too” versions of National Brands. By developing Private Brands’ personalities and emotional connections with shoppers, they will be driving factors for loyalty in the growing competitive retail space.

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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.