There was a time when private brand design was predictable. How hard could it be to design a generic can of beer? It had a white background and BEER boldly slapped on its side. In the 80s and 90s, retailers rushed to create National Brand Equivalent private labels. Each package was designed to mimic a national brand.
Today, retailers manage complex portfolios of private brands. Each brand within that portfolio addresses different business needs and speaks to a different customer segment. The corresponding brands are brought to life with unique design strategies.
Over the last five years, the quality of private brand package design has dramatically improved. Through more than 1,000 entries from 65 retailers located in 37 countries, the Vertex Awards has presented a unique look inside private brand design trends and the retailers shaping them.
This year five trends emerged.
The first trend is Category Specific Design, and it’s been growing over the last few years, and is now rapidly replacing the dominant Monolithic Brand Designs of the previous 20 years… as embodied in the iconic design of Publix’ mid-tier private brand.
Category Specific Design seeks to both build a brand and enhance the unique characteristics of specific categories. Jet.com, El Corte Ingles, Woolworths, Walmart and Ahold Delhaize are just a few of the retailers embracing the trend.
The second design trend is Simple & Beautiful. It takes the stark, poorly executed minimalism of old-school generic and rethinks it with modern aesthetics, precise graphics and a personality designed to engage the customer.
The next trend is Packaging as Art. Jet.com completely covers their coffee packaging with hand-drawn art inspired by tattoos. Sobeys from Canada embellishes their cold brew private-brand coffee with playful woodland creatures. and Federated hot sauces jump off the shelf with Mexican Día de los Muertos sketches.
In the midst of continued technological advancement and smartphones invading every moment of our lives, consumers crave "real" and "authentic." For the last few years, the trend toward vintage package design has tapped into that need for authenticity. In 2018, Vintage has begun to morph into a trend I call Real Stories. It combines vintage with the buzzword of the day, "Experience," and creates a vintage-inspired brand design with a story. The power of the Story experience can be seen in the Pick Local brand from PNP South Africa. Each pack features the story of the farmer and black and white photography.
The final trend is Uniquely Holiday. Retailers around the globe have embraced the need to differentiate with seasonal limited-edition products. The corresponding private-brand packages are unique celebrations of the holiday and the product. They often feature premium finishes and themes are designed to delight and intrigue.
A trend never emerges in a single year and then disappears. Instead, an aesthetic becomes popular gradually – even mysteriously – over time, before slowly disappearing. What is truly exciting about these trends is that private-brand is leading them, and they possess a staying power not seen before in store brands.
For PLMA Live!, I’m Christopher Durham.