5 Questions with the Vertex Judges: ZHOU Wenjun

Entries for the fifth annual Vertex Awards International Private Brand Design Competition are now closed and are being prepped for judging. During the process 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.

Today’s conversation is with ZHOU Wenjun the Founder, Creative Director & Architect of 524 Studio, China.

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 brand is compared with traditional manufacturer brand. With relatively low costs and relatively high returns, developing own brand has become a trend that cannot be ignored and an important part of composition of profits for retailers. Actually, both in China and abroad, whether it’s a traditional well-known brand or a new private brand, businessmen invest a big cost in the aspect such as the environment decorates, but there is a great lack of investment in brand packaging, visual design, etc. For our private brand clients, they produce self-produced goods, eliminate many intermediate links, save a lot of advertising expenses. They can carry out mass production and sales, achieve economies of scale and reduce the cost of selling goods.

What role should strategy play in solving retail problems?

The strategy is the direction. A good strategy is conducive to enhance the competitiveness of commodities. It’s beneficial to form characteristic management, give full play to the advantages of intangible assets, have more autonomy, accurately grasp the market demand, improve the management level of retail enterprises.

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

To reduce market risk, some retailers have launched a number of own-brand products that mimic manufacturers’ brands to mislead consumers. Their brands lack independent design strategies and lack strategic investment in design. These actions may infringe on the intellectual property of others. In other words, product brands and quality are difficult to guarantee. I remember that Mr. Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group, who said that everyone should have zero tolerance for violations of the intellectual property.

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

For private brand, it is impossible to succeed if positioning is not clear. It’s not necessarily only on the basis of price, but also on product quality, packaging design and brand design, they are also important too. The essence of the brand is the product, the product meets the needs of the consumer, and the brand satisfies the consumer’s desire. So, I think that private brands need to increase strategic investment in design strategies. Once the market positioning of the private brand is clear, the business characteristics of the enterprise will be formed accordingly.

What will private brands look like 10 years from now?

In the next decade, online, offline and logistics could be combined more organic. Private brands will have a huge impact on brands that are based on traditional and mature retail business models. And more excellent design would help more and more private brands to better themselves. The successful private brands can grasp more initiative of competition. Well, let’s see it!



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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.