Private Label: Take a stand to stand out

01 May, 2019 Share socially

Long gone is the time when private label had to mimic big brand in order to earn its place in our shopping baskets - albeit still destined to be banished to our cupboards once we got home (oh, the shame of buying a ‘supermarket’ brand).

It came of age when retailers realised the power of investing in design, using it as a distinctive calling card that pulled away from being the poor cousin to brand, one that shoppers would be happy, even proud, to buy.

The liberation of having fewer packaging ‘rules’ to follow (dominance of brand, appetising shot of product, clear range hierarchy) paved the way for some truly outstanding design work, often outshining the brands they had sought to copy not so long ago.

Now, we are entering the new age of retail, where rather than striving to be a worthy competitor to the brands stocked on the shelves within, the whole experience must be much bigger - delivering a single-minded expression of the retailer’s values and ethos.

Take Jack’s – Tesco’s challenger to Aldi and Lidl – promising to be the ‘cheapest in town’. Whether, in the words of CEO Dave Lewis, you’re the “economically challenged that need a bargain” or “the affluent shopper that wants a bargain”, you’re in no doubt from the moment you step inside that’s what you’ll find. From the deliberately crude identity and ‘under-designed’ packs, pallet-style ‘pile ‘em high’ displays reminiscent of Jack Cohen’s original market stall, fewer staff and polished concrete floors, the holistic proposition conveys the message that no money is spent unnecessarily.

Private Label: Take a stand to stand out

At the other end of the spectrum Wegmans – the niche, US retailer - focuses on the holy grail, creating compelling reasons to visit its stores. And it’s working - they have a cult-like following and higher sales per square foot than any competitor. By taking pride not only in the quality of the specialist goods it offers (350 varieties of cheese, 2,200 wines, celebrity chef produced meals) but also the way it treats its employees (flying them to Sicily to learn how to make authentic ricotta) it has built a loyal customer and employee base, with many, often family members, remaining in its employ for over a decade. Their enthusiasm and knowledge, along with the unique offers, are tangible reasons for fans – known as ‘Wegmaniacs’ - to keep returning and spending.

Private Label: Take a stand to stand out

As with all successful brand building, retailers must start with their purpose, and amplify that across every consumer touchpoint.

That purpose can be as prosaic as offering a bargain, as long as the expression is uniquely compelling, and the experience built around it differentiating. Because standing apart, rather than blending in to, the often dispiritingly homogenous supermarket landscape is what will drive growth.

Does your retailer brand know what it stands for, and how to stand out? That, rather than ubiquity of location or price comparison, is the question to start with.