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





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.

guests Pearlfisher

Private Brand diversification: the new middle ground power shift

\"RoryThis guest post comes from Rory Fegan, Senior Strategist with the agency Pearlfisher.

Private Brand diversification: the new middle ground power shift

In the past few weeks, the retail headlines have yet again shone a spotlight on Private Brands. While Tesco’s Fresh & Easy grocery chain made a very public exit from the US, Walgreens announced the launch of yet another brand line with their new baby range Well Beginnings. Once again, this brings up the topic of just when and how it is right for brands to diversify and just how far you could – and should – go.

Although it is something of a segmented picture when you look at the UK, European and US markets, there are two prominent strategies being engaged that are not just accelerating and expanding diversification but shaping and growing a whole new middle ground market.

Firstly, retailers are adding value and choice by either bringing in already highly successful and established brands or by creating new tiers of products from existing brands – such as Sam’s Club’s Artisan Fresh which was created from products formerly in the Members Mark brand.

Secondly, and perhaps more notably, retailers are either approaching producers to create ever-more tailored brands just for them or seizing the opportunity to create their own, independent sub-brands. In the UK, John Lewis has recently introduced The Kin collection, a new own brand fashion range including men\’s, women\’s and children’s wear, tied together by a tightly edited palette of colours and patterns. In the US, Walgreens is a master of the Private Brand with the creation of Ology, Nice, Good & Delish, each with unique positioning and equities.

Tesco produced the first incarnation of what they term a ‘venture’ brand in the UK market with the introduction in the 80’s of its ‘Finest’ range – a range still going strong today. The intention behind venture brands is to produce a portfolio of quality branded goods that can compete with established FMCG brands but at a lower price. And it is a strategy that more retailers are now adopting and gaining traction with but for some, such as Tesco, the venture brand premise is actually being hailed as shaping the future of the retail business model. Tesco CEO, Philip Clark has been discussing the way these new brands and businesses are bringing a “new form of entrepreneurship” into the business that is helping change the way it operates.

“We’ve brought in intrepreneurs – entrepreneurs that actually work for us. They’re changing the way the business thinks. We’ve done a good job with our in-store bakery but Euphorium is taking it to a whole new level.” (Source: Marketing Week)

And while both of these approaches have undoubtedly rejuvenated the traditionally static middle ground – and continue to do so – a new leftfield strategy by, yes, you guessed it, Tesco is potentially adding yet another dimension and opportunity into the mix.

Just as news was breaking about the closure of Fresh & Easy, Tesco also (and maybe shrewdly) chose to announce its plans to add its name back on to its range of food and household venture brands with products re-labeled ‘by Tesco’.

This is not supposed to just be a case study of Tesco but Tesco is one retailer boldly using a mix of routes and strategies to diversify the brand offer. Fresh & Easy may have bombed but it will be interesting to see what difference ‘by Tesco’ makes to its market share and profile. Especially as Tesco has not invested in a new brand or category but has chosen instead to put the focus back on its brand equity and identity – to adopt a new form of communication as the catalyst of major brand change. And, of course, there is the potential for further creative development across this portfolio.

And this brings us back to the power of brand design and communication – and is maybe indicative of where the new opportunity really lies? As the volatile power shift between the brands and the retailers continues to play out, design remains a constant and there is a very real opportunity for design to establish itself as a pivotal ‘intrepreneur’ in helping shape the communication – and fortunes – of this important middle ground market.

Rory Fegan, Senior Strategist, Pearlfisher
Rory combines logic, substance and storytelling to create compelling narratives that bring depth and richness to the brands we work with. Creative, yet analytical, he’s able to translate future insight into pioneering brand strategy, focusing in on a single strong idea and following it through to fruition. With an MA in Design from Central Saint Martins, Rory has an understanding and depth of knowledge about design that remains relatively rare among strategists. For Pearlfisher, it’s a valuable skill that translates into considered, constructive and well-crafted strategy that takes into account our designers’ needs as well as our clients’ aspirations. Imaginative and intuitive, Rory is full of ideas about how brands can use design to communicate – all inspired by his healthy curiosity into what makes people tick.



guests Pearlfisher

Insight: The Future of Private Brand – Prêt a Marque

This special post on Private Brand comes courtesy of our sister site Prêt a Marque the hub of all our exclusive, licensed and Private Brand news and thought leadership in fashion and beauty. The guest post from frequent contributor Sophie Maxwell, Insight Director of the international design agency Pearlfisher, her look at Insights and the future of Private Brand.

Insight: The Future of Private Brand – Prêt a Marque

We’ve praised the aesthetic evolution of the Private Brand many times – praised the impact it is having on the shape of the retail industry as a whole. But how can this sector continue to lead? Innovation? Yes. But innovation is only as good as the Insight it brings to life.

Different agencies, different brands, adopt and use Insight in different ways. But, many maybe still don’t fully understand its role or its significance for them – and its potential impact on its future offer.

At Pearlfisher, we define our Insight Program as opening up new ways of seeing the future – and designing for it. We combine the responses from experts and opinion makers (who are in the best position to steer the future) with our own explorations into the cultural and categorical changes happening around us. We can then define key shifts – with accompanying blue-sky design concepts – to build a inspiring and tangible picture of the future for brands.

One of the main shifts we have been working on does tie into the new originality of offers that we are seeing in Private Brand. How we are moving away from copycatting and stereotyping to a more unique, distinctive and inimitable view of ourselves, others and our brands. We call this the shift from ‘Dictatorial to Free’. This captures for us how in the past we conformed to culture, and how in the future our constantly evolving, individual self-expression and growing confidence will instead challenge, change and create it.

\"RealMannequins\"At the time of writing, Swedish department store chain Ahlens is sparking a global social media sensation with what is known as the ‘Swedish mannequins’: the chain’s adoption of two female and fuller-figured, lingerie clad mannequins. This is an initiative that has been much debated previously within the industry but Ahlens has quietly made it a reality. This has not just changed the uniform shape of mannequins but will inevitably start to shape a different aesthetic for fashion retail. It showcases a real commitment to difference – radical yet relative.

And we are already starting to see this new sense of freedom – and fluidity – of approach filter through to the brand design and packaging. And it is the growing manifestation of this shift at the key product touchpoint that will undoubtedly be one of the most pivotal for the future direction of Private Brand.

\"and+other+stories+makeup\"‘& Other Stories’ is a new retail brand from the H&M Group. Items under this brand include beauty products, makeup, shoes, bags, jewellery and clothing – and are not inspired by catwalk trends or marketed as \”must have\” pieces. It is intended to be a premium brand premised on the female attitude to shopping influenced by social media and blogging.

\”Women create looks differently than they did 10-15 years ago. They create their own stories through their personal style and they know fashion.\” Creative Director, Sara Hilden-Bengtsson. (Source: LA Times)

A personal and individual brand collective – based on the emotive rather than the branded – with a more flowing and freeform design aesthetic. It also has a beauty range of particular note: refreshingly honest and different with witty and concise packaging and naming.

Whilst the ‘Dictatorial to free’ shift primarily explores the relationship we have with our body (and how this is translating into obvious categories such as beauty, fashion, health and lifestyle) it can – and needs to – be translated and applied across all sectors and mediums from environment to structural packaging innovation.\"1\"

Brands need to decide whether this shift towards creative freedom applies to them – or, at least, to what degree. But the field is undoubtedly wide open for brands to play with the parameters of craft, innovation and design and look for revolutionary new ways to make an impact.

It’s not about religiously fostering every shift. It’s about keen awareness of our changing culture and context and using Insight, strategy and design to realize this in truly inspirational ways that remain true to the heart of the brand. Insight should be seen as integral to brand innovation and design process right from the start  – but in many cases this is a fundamental opportunity still to be maximized.

\"SophieSophie Maxwell is Insight Director at Pearlfisher –

global Pearlfisher

Mothercare Introduces Innosense & Innovates Baby Feeding

\"Innosense\"British baby and mom retailer Mothercare has released an innovative new Private Brand of baby feeding products and accessories. The new brand Innosense was created by the design agency Pearlfisher who created the brand strategy, name, tone of voice, brand identity and packaging for Innosense, a carefully researched and expertly developed range of practical feeding products for babies. The Innosense range consists of everything mothers need to feed the way that comes most naturally to both mother and baby. With 36 products (31 in the UK) in the complete range, Innosense is a global brand in its own right and has been created following three years of insight, vision and passion.

Mothercare’s innovative Innosense bottle has an off-centred nipple making it easier to keep the nipple full of milk while hardly tilting the bottle at all. This results in a natural and relaxed feeding angle; with parents confirming that their babies fed more comfortably and the bottle helped reduce gas.

The tone of voice and design aesthetic combines this innovative functionality with the care and warmth of the values behind the Innosense range. The brand name and tagline ‘feeding from a new angle’ reflect the empathy and intelligent adaptability of the products.

Commenting on the brand identity and packaging, Sarah Butler, Deputy Creative Director at Pearlfisher comments: “We have created a logotype that plays homage to the famous ‘m’ Dolly logotype, a strong equity at the core of the Mothercare brand. The packaging design incorporates black and white baby photography, providing an aesthetic that is modern and striking whilst still caring. The secondary packaging structure reflects the bespoke curves in the Innosense bottle design.”

Alexa Lundin, Mothercare’s Head of Brand said “At Mothercare we’ve been helping to feed babies for generations so for us to design and produce a feeding range seemed like a natural step.  We are delighted with the range, coupled with the branding, tone of voice and packaging we believe this is a truly unique and innovative range to help parents feed their babies in a way that is most natural for them.”

The Innosense range is available now in Mothercare UK stores and online at  Launching internationally in February & March 2013.