5 Questions with the Vertex Judges: David Ziegler-Voll

    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 David Ziegler-Voll, he recently joined Boston-based branding agency MBD’s team as Creative Director. Prior to switching roles, David was a 10-year veteran of Trader Joe’s private label design team where he created some of their most iconic and celebrated package designs and programs. When not obsessing over type, you will find David swimming, biking and running all over Boston (and possibly eating the occasional taco).

    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?
    There is no doubt that new-comers to private brand are pushing the design envelope. There is less attachment to “brand-ego” and more emphasis on creating experiences that transcend a brand book. The reality is retailers, such as Jet, speak the language of younger audiences and they execute this through fresh, invigorating design. Retailers are suddenly competing in a landscape of what is or isn’t Instagrammed; what makes or doesn’t make the front page of PopSugar. This breath of fresh air is a very good thing for private brands as it’s forcing retailers to evaluate how they’re telling their story.
    What role should strategy play in solving retail problems?
    I’m a big believer in sketching before attempting a design. Additionally, I ask a minimum of 5,932 questions because I want to fully and completely understand the design problem that I am solving. Strategy is really no different. Retailers should expect their private brand team to be inquisitive, curious and not afraid to ask tough questions. In turn, creative teams should be expected to synthesize these answers into real and meaningful solutions.
    What are the most common mistake retailers make with their brands?
    It’s imperative that retailers understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to brand integration is confusing, and quite frankly, dreadfully boring. Trying to force the same brand attributes of a bag of potato chips onto a bottle of scotch does nothing for the product or the brand.
    What advice do you have for retailers trying to take their brands to the next level?   
    Retailers should think of their private brand guidelines as just that, guidelines and not the letter of the law. Successful private brand products should be able to tell a story specific to its audience while simultaneously living within its brand eco-system. While brand guidelines certainly have their purpose, creating stunning and compelling stories can only exist if retailers relax their “brand-ego”. I would also encourage retailers to embrace one of the most amazing attributes of private brand… it’s an incredibly nimble business that can easily be tweaked as attitudes and audiences change over time.
    What will private brands look like 10 years from now?  
    Much like Trader Joe’s, I think we are going to see less emphasis on what constitutes private brand or private label. From a design perspective, I think we are going to see less heavily branded package design, e.g. Trader Joe’s for the most part only utilizes a single logo as a “brand” element and they are incontrovertibly one of the most successful “private” label grocers in the country.
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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.