guests Pearlfisher

A Less Ageist Future For Private Brands

\"sophieThis guest post comes courtesy of Sophie Maxwell, Insight Director of the international design agency Pearlfisher, presents a fascinating challenge to retail Brand Mangers and the future of Private Brands.

A Less Ageist Future For Private Brands

Retailers are required to be generalists. To survive, they need to have something for everyone.  But hidden under this facade of democracy is usually a hidden bias – with demographic targeting at the core of the business model. Private brand has currently been riding high on the growing success of own label baby and kids ranges and we have also recently seen the tween sector come under its spotlight. But, with one third of the U.S. population occupying the over 50 bracket by next year, what are retailers doing to attract such a potentially huge sector of the market?

\"KITH_1\"This consumer group may have made up a negligible part of the consumer demographic in past years, but they are now stepping up and raising their expectations with changing taste, style, aspirations and spending power. Studies also suggest that the older population is not necessarily just attracted to the older – more well-known name brands. There have been a few retail initiatives designed to attract this group – the Mary Portas over 40 Collection for House of Fraser in the UK– but for everything from fashion to furniture, from health to home hygiene, retailers should be finding ways to realize this new commercial opportunity.

Let’s take a look at just one of our best-loved and most successful private brands. By making style available and affordable for everyone, Ikea is seen as the essence of democracy. But is it truly? Because while we’re sold on the fact that Ikea successfully targets young and family demographics we also feel it is failing to grow up – and more importantly grow old – with us and our maturing taste and bank balances.

We looked at the issue of ageing as part of our recent Body Mode study (a study which examines how the future body will look, feel and function) and, using this observation as inspiration and Ikea as our case study, we envisioned an extension of their private label to answer the opportunity it presents: a new designer’s guild called Kith.

A celebration of the wisdom, self-assurance and desire for fresh expression that comes with a new stage of life, Kith is a hub of seasoned creativity where things are designed freely and to the creator\’s personal taste, for the homes of those who now have the time and inclination to sprawl, adapt or simply act. Modeled on a love-seat, we created the concept of a Kith chair to celebrate the increase in space and the changing relationships that you have during your later stages of life. Designed for a grandparent and grandchild, Kith accommodates and enhances the interaction between the two. The grooves of each seat follow the same pattern as the concentric age lines of a tree, with less grooves on the small seat and more on the big seat (a perfect analogy of the different stages of life and experience).

\"KITH_8\"We hope that by raising this issue, and with the design of concepts and new proposals, Ikea and other private label retailers will be inspired to reconsider their offer. Single-minded democracy is no longer the order of the day. Creating and designing for the individual but on a mass level is a very real consideration – and one that couldn’t be more prescient as the design savvy Boomers come of age. Brands and retailers should be designing for this captive, affluent and discerning market by celebrating the freedom, expression and wisdom found in this new stage of life with the creation of aesthetics that feel fresh, yet are signed by experience.

Designing for this demographic is, understandably, a hard one to get right. It\’s not about compartmentalizing by age – even if we want our specific needs met no one wants to be overtly targeted in that way – but neither is it necessarily about the ageless or more democratic offer. There will always be design classics that will appeal to any age – the Eames chair, the Burberry Trench…but there is also the opportunity to design well and with specificity – and inspire rather than irritate.

With the over 50\’s having maybe another 30-40 years of active consumerism, the silver dollar has just as much power to change consumer culture as that of Gen Z. With brand design also a progressive force for cultural change, brands and retailers need to start feeling the true value of time – appreciating rather than depreciating this hugely significant and pivotal audience – and looking for new ways to extend their shelf life in line with an evolving consumer.

Sophie Maxwell is Insight Director at Pearlfisher. Contact her at or





big box Spring Design Partners

Home Depot Redesigns Glacier Bay

\"GlacierAtlanta-based home improvement retailer Home Depot has introduced a redesign of its value-focused fashion kitchen & bath private label, Glacier Bay. The updated design created by Spring Design Partners refreshingly separates the brand visually from its private label portfolio cousin, Hampton Bay, that shared similar design architecture. The modern, simple look elevates the brand’s products and reaffirms the customer\’s purchase decision.\"Home

By using a contemporary color palette of dark gray, blue and white, impactful product photography, iconography, and clean, easy to shop information architecture, the new Glacier Bay is a dramatic improvement.\"Glacier




guests Theory House

Why Private Brands Fail?

\"failure\"Most brands fail. In fact, some estimate that 70-80% of new brands launched each year flounder and eventually flop. But do Private Brands fail? Do they follow the same sobering failure rate as other brands? Is it even possible for them to fail?

Private Brands fail differently than manufacturer brands. And because of this, tracking failure isn’t as obvious. Failure is not a word often used in reference to Private Brands, and yet there are clear ways retailer owned brands can fail in the today’s marketplace. To become better brand builders, launchers and managers, we must become students of why Private Brands fail.

For years, retailers leveraged their brands more as category fillers then strategic differentiators. They were given shelf space to provide more (and usually cheaper) choice to shoppers. Yet today’s marketplace has shifted. While Private Brands may not have to fight for space, they definitely have to fight for shoppers. And it is in the fight for the shopper where they succeed – and fail.

So, why do Private Brands fail? Let’s not focus on their ability to get to shelf, instead let’s focus on their inability to get off shelf. There are two strategic cracks that tend to run through most failures.

Information, not Insights
Information is easy to find. Observations are easy to make. Yet it is insights that are the lifeblood of success. Private Brands must be able to find, understand and leverage insights like never before, using them to influence what and how they go to market. In this age of choice, you can no longer afford to fake innovation – your brand must be able to clearly have a reason for being.

Appealing equity or pretty packaging doesn’t mean a sound strategy. Nor does it cover up the lack of a strategy. Private Brand packaging is on the up and up – anyone who reads this blog can clearly see this. And yet it is the insights behind the strategy that guide the product and packaging that will ultimately determine success or failure.

Different, Not Differentiated
Retail shelves are full of brand parrots attempting to mimic and replicate what once proved to be successful. But putting a clever twist on what has been done before doesn’t mean it will work again. If you lack the insights that influence development, you will lack differentiation at launch.

Different is not enough, you must determine what you can bring that is unique. What’s your new angle? And your answer better not end with –er! At the shelf, where success ultimately plays out, a clear differentiation translates to a clear reason to buy.

So, how should this influence what you are delivering today and developing tomorrow? Learn from failures, both personally and organizationally. Have the courage to question foundational elements, even after development has begun. And always start with the shopper, because that is where success ends.

\"JaredJared Meisel
Managing Partner, Shopper Marketing – Theory House
Before launching Theory House, Jared worked at some of North America’s biggest shopper marketing agencies, including DraftFCB and Saatchi & Saatchi X. A seasoned marketer and brand strategist, Jared is responsible for helping clients connect with their audience in relevant, profitable ways. His deep understanding of the retail space and consumer behavior helps partners navigate and leverage the rapidly evolving world of marketing.

Jared and his wife, Rachel, have two young boys. Though he grew up overseas and has lived all over the U.S., Jared has a southern heart and is proud to now call Charlotte home.


Food Lion Jim Cusson Theory House

Turning Bloggers from Influencers to Private Brand Advocates

Is it better to engage bloggers with a limited audience who are passionate about your brand, or to seek out highly influential bloggers who reach a larger audience but may not be as committed to your cause? Ideally you can have both. A new term “advocate influencers” has been coined to describe people who are passionate about your brand but have the ability to reach a large audience as well. If this group of people doesn’t exist for your brand, why not create and enable it?

Food Lion, the U.S. division of Brussels-based Delhaize Group, recently engaged our agency, Theory House to challenge popular, Baltimore-Washington metropolitan bloggers to compete in a “Frugal Cook-Off” and create nutritious, low-cost meals for a family of four using Food Lion Private Brands, as well as fresh produce and meat options available at Food Lion stores.

The event was held at a Talara Restaurant in Baltimore. The winning blogger team created an entrée with two sides in 45 minutes using items shopped from an onsite Food Lion pantry of store brand products. The total cost of the meal was $9.90. The bloggers were judged on creativity, taste and awarded points for being frugal.

I can tell you from being in the room that while these bloggers may have entered as influencers; they left as advocates for Food Lion and its brands. This was a very interactive and engaging experience for the bloggers and they became intimate with Food Lion and its family of Private Brands. A few hours into the event thousands of social media impressions had already been generated, and with promotional assets being delivered to the bloggers this week that number will really start to climb.

So when considering blogger outreach strategies for your brands, think about ways to engage and activate them in a meaningful way.

\"JimJim Cusson, President, Theory House Shopper Marketing Agency
Jim Cusson is president at Theory House, the leading shopper marketing agency for North America’s next great brands. He began his career hustling cookies for Keebler and has been in the aisles ever since supporting retailers like Food Lion, Bloom, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Cato Fashions and Body Central and national brands like Chobani, Kobalt Tools, Husqvarna, Delta Faucets, and Britax Child Safety.


guests Pearlfisher

Design for brand – not channel

\"Tesswickstead\"Gone are the days when all our products were sold in the same place in the same pack. Consumers now engage with a growing number of retail platforms, yet brands and businesses are still designing their products as if little has changed. The truth is, different channels have very different needs, from digital to club stores, from QVC to physical retail. Brands must learn to adapt to these evolving outlets; for us, this diversity of retail behavior is a strong argument for identity centric brand design.

Design is the common denominator when it comes to brand innovation, pick up and success but in order for brands to truly succeed in multiple channels, it needs to be design first, channel second, and not the other way around. As even more channels appear and vie for our attention, the need to address this becomes even more prescient. (Twitter is currently being hailed as the new QVC.) As flying stores continue to expand and innovate brand recognition for – and connection with – the consumer will become even more important.

And to have any sort of real and personal connection, we need to fully experience brands from the outset and this starts with the identity. Brands just need to realize the opportunity before it is too late.

It’s amazing how many brands still have packaging that\’s designed to create fantastic standout on shelf but that is hard to identify from a phone screen, or design that includes intricate details that simply get lost online. And when it comes to the physical arena, and particularly the club sector, we see a rigid mass volume mindset that by and large leaves – and loses – the brand behind.

Private brands are actually increasingly ahead of the curve, matching the equity and trust of their national brand competitors, and many are beating a path to power by seamlessly embedding their brand within their digital experience and offer. And they are right to do so. We need to think of our world as a digital one and designers have to think in the digital space right from the start, but not to the detriment of the physical space or, more precisely, the brand identity.

The digital space is actually allowing brand owners to think about and work with their brand and packaging design in a whole new way. Rather than the pack having to protect the product, promote the product and inform the consumer about the product, brands can focus so much more energy on promoting it. What is lost in size (and the potential impact this creates on shelf) is gained in movement. Digital allows the brand to become animate – rather than just a replication of physical equities that result in static, online stamps.

And if we look at the physical arena, the club sector is one ripe for redesign and development. Sam’s Club has been cited as saying that it is losing out to the value offered by the dollar-store chains, but it can’t just be a question of value for any club store. Immediacy, clarity, brand recognition and, yes, creativity, also have a very real part to play in today’s consumer motivation.

Though value drives the club category, the block space could be better branded if we only considered the massive scale and shelf space that club products take up. Instead of sacrificing identity to the value offer, brands should consider how to innovate, looking at how their identity translates when scaled for club stores and furthermore, boxes, shipping containers, and collateral.

Great design works at its absolute best when all of a brand\’s equities and impact come to life and reach their full potential across ALL retail and marketing channels, not just one. To give customers the 360-retail experience they now expect and desire, we need to look at designing an identity that has the flexibility to create desire across all the different channels. And there is a very real need and opportunity to create desirable, inspirational brand design for an integrated world: creating brand and packaging design with impact on-shelf, in hand, in mass and also online at 20 pixels.

Tess Wicksteed, Executive Vice President Pearlfisher NY
Tess’s great talent is the instant ability to see the wood for the trees. As the creative force behind Pearlfisher’s strategic offer, she trades in originality, clarity and logic, getting to the point fast and delivering strategy that’s both creative and cohesive. A longstanding Pearlfisher person, Tess was Strategy Director in London for ten years before relocating with her family for a brand new challenge in New York.

As a literature student at York, Sussex and Cambridge Universities, Tess was keen to become first a clown, then a teacher. However, it was her belief that good culture matters that finally led to a career in design and an ongoing commitment to creating powerful brands that contribute positively to the world. Short and sharp in all things, Tess balances refreshing bluntness with disarming humanity. Her presence on a project promises fireworks – and guarantees results.