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Seeing the power of Private Brand: Pearlfisher’s Top Ten Private Label Retail Design And Packaging


This guest post comes from frequent contributor Jonathan Ford, Creative Partner branding and design agency Pearlfisher. Jonathan gives My Private Brand readers a interesting top 10 Private Brand list.

With an influx in competitive Private Brand across numerous categories, private label is no longer seen as the poor relation to its branded counterparts. In fact, it is largely brand design and packaging that has redressed the balance and the perception of its offer.

And this is what we must not forget. Powerful brand design expresses big ideas, builds meaningful connections and creates rich associations.  It works both on a conscious and subconscious level, resolving our conflicts and fulfilling our desires.  Over time, design (and ultimately brands) become part of our culture, shaping the symbolism, language and aesthetic that we identify with and ultimately seek.

If a brand builds this kind of deep and powerful connection, then its identity and packaging represent a great deal of emotion; they become symbols of our love for the brand. In psychological terms we could say that design becomes the object of our attachment to the brand.  And this has become as true for private label as it is for our leading brands.

It wasn’t hard to find brilliant examples to illustrate our point. Our problem was in sifting through them to select our top ten. We wanted to mix it up a bit with some old, some new; some store, some independent; some US, some European, but ultimately, what they all have in common is that their design has, and is, revolutionizing both the look and feel of private label and the brand landscape as a whole.

  1. \"\"Target’s Up & Up (2009) – Up & Up led the way with its integrated visual and verbal messaging. The Up & Up personal care and beauty range was one of the first to use design to differentiate from national brands. The bold simplicity of its design has endured and evolved to attract a new generation of fans.\"\"
  2. Waitrose Ready Meal Collection (2005) –Waitrose was not only ahead of the competition in launching a range of ready meals that claimed to be restaurant quality but it was the first time that an ‘emotive’ word rather than a picture of food had been used – a shining example of the power of visual language.\"\"
  3. Delhaize Wines of the World (2012) –the simple manipulation of the cork as a motif to refer to each country of origin is genius. And, as an instantly recognizable and everyday object, perfectly mirrors the positioning of this range as an everyday indulgence. Fun but expressive and totally original.\"\"
  4. Duane Reade Bar Code Brand (2010) – With an NY City stronghold, Duane Reade wanted to deepen its relationship with customers and expand its store brand positioning. With a unique product voice and barcode visual equity depicting NY landmarks, the innovative design expertly – and stylishly – brought to life the new positioning statement ‘New York Living Made Easy’.\"\"
  5. ICA (2000) – A really fun and forward thinking Swedish private label brand that heroes ingredients and freshness in a practical but stylish way and is all about the graphic execution.\"\"
  6. Hannaford’s Nature’s Place (since 2006) – Bringing flavor and authenticity to their private label range by dialing up the health cues of the time and bringing them to life with a natural looking design that appealed to its target group of health conscious, provenance aware consumers.\"\"
  7. Trader Joe’s (since 1967): Trader Joe’s first opened in 1967 but is still cited as one of the leaders in private label. One of the first to make private label fun, friendly and welcoming but took the consistency out of the formula by letting each item take on its own personality with an eclectic environment featuring different and vibrant brands. A strategy it still engages today.\"\"
  8. IKEA food packaging (2012) – a recent redesign of its food offer. Pared down and simple packaging relying on a bold and expressive graphic language using big 2D icons to visualize the contents at a glance. Self explanatory but inspiring – and perfectly IKEA.\"\"
  9. Sephora (1994) – Sephora hit the beauty world with a basic but premium looking design that could easily match the branded competition at any design or price point level. From the outset right up to present day, Sephora has continued to create desire with its brand and design evolution of unique items and campaigns to secure a positioning as one of the global beauty leaders.\"\"
  10. American Rag (2003) – with over 610 stores nationwide and sold exclusively at Macy’s, American Rag has design and creativity at its heart. Renowned for its vintage apparel, and particularly its denim, the brand identity – from label to environment – is used in a fluid way and is at once retro and contemporary, but with a premium and stylised edge, to particularly rival the look and feel of any of the denim brand leaders.

Leave a comment to let us know your favorites or find out more about our thoughts on the cultural role of brand design and packaging  – can we link to this week’s presentations?

Jonathan Ford is Creative Partner at Pearlfisher –


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