Color Brightens Up Private Label Packaging

Discussion
Oct 20, 2010
Carol Spieckerman

Commentary by Carol Spieckerman, President, newmarketbuilders

Speaking at last
month’s Private Brand Movement conference, Michael Ellgass, Walmart’s director
of grocery marketing, acknowledged that customers thought that the initial
Great Value redesign went a bit too far into generic territory and, as a result,
Walmart has begun to add touches of color back into Great Value’s packaging.

Color
is coming back, and Walmart is not alone in the effort.

Kmart’s new mantra, “colorful thinking,” says it all: The days of retail
whiteout are drawing to a close. Kmart is going for full saturation with its
redo of the Champion Breed pet line and both Family Dollar and Kmart are pushing
for more vibrancy with their respective launches of the Family Gourmet (formerly
Family Pantry) and Smart Sense lines. Mr. Ellgass revealed that ongoing iterations
of Great Value packaging will incorporate customer-appropriate props. (Based
on my store visits, think sensibly-plated food resting on not-too-fancy placemats
with fork to the side.) Packaging will also feature more close-in photography
that will make the food the “hero.”  (I caught early sightings of
the color-prop-close-up formula at work on pizza boxes last week.)

At the conference,
McDonald’s senior director of global brand strategy, Matt Biespiel, also showed
off the ‘I-can-almost-taste-it photography’  that will become the new standard
as McDonald’s marches on with its “simple, easy,
enjoyment” rebranding.  He too spoke of propping as the next big thing.

Mr.
Ellgass is not saying the original Great Value redo didn’t yield real results:
87 percent of shoppers find it easier to spot the product on the shelf; 70
percent think it looks like a “true brand”; and 78 percent like it
so much that they’ve purchased more products post-primp. It’s a nice perception
jump from over a year ago when Andrea Thomas, who formerly headed up Walmart’s
private label program and is now senior vice president of sustainability, spoke
of the “disconnect” between
Great Value’s purchase rate and its brand awareness.

It turns out that Walmart’s
new quest for color isn’t just about store shelf navigation either — they’re
now thinking about how products look in shoppers’ pantries. 
It stands to reason that if you’re buying more Great Value than ever, telling
your green beans from your garbanzos would become problematic as the sea of
white stacked up.

Color to the rescue. Sam’s VP of private brand, Maurice
Markey, spoke of how packaging is something that customers “interact” with
until the product is “depleted,” and McDonald’s Mr. Biespiel pointed
out that, since packaging for them is an after-purchase event, it serves an
important role of “reassurance” and
offers McDonald’s a great platform for story-telling.

Discussion Questions: How do you think color and imagery is transforming
private label packaging? Is standing out against the field of national brand
products the most important criteria? What’s the next step PL packaging needs
to take?

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13 Comments on "Color Brightens Up Private Label Packaging"


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Joan Treistman
Guest
10 years 6 months ago
Give yourself the exercise of drawing a brand that is generic and chances are you will draw a white package. It’s the universal icon of generic. Now think of any national brand and you will start to imagine colors. Let’s go a step further. I show you a solid blue package with a yellow band on the upper right hand corner. What does that tell you? You’re probably thinking of a branded product with a promotion. Colors mean something to consumers…to us. When Tropicana went to an all black package eons ago, consumers felt the quality of the product had improved. No kidding, black can up the quality image. But you already know about the American Express Black Card. At one time black meant the opposite, associated with hoodlums…think Marlon Brando on a motorcycle in “The Wild One.” Today there is much use of Gold and Platinum to convey higher quality. So to the mention of the discovery of color, I say “shocker.” Look at a can of soup. If you see the soup in… Read more »
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
10 years 6 months ago

After all the progress Private Label has made in the marketplace with regards to quality, I am not sure why some retailers still insist on creating generic looking packaging for their Private Label brands. Private Label should have strong images and colors that are appealing to shoppers and helps them visualize the item and primary use. The key item on a Private Label item should be the store Logo to help a shopper identify the item with the retailer. Some retailer’s shy away from using a bold retailer logo and I see this as a huge missed opportunity for retailer recognition. Trader Joe’s makes a point of including their store name on their Private Label items. Why? Because they want to remind you that if you like the item you are eating or using the only place in the world to buy it is Trader Joe’s.

Just because it’s Private Label doesn’t mean it has to be ugly.

Ben Ball
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Packaging has the most impact of any branding statement–more than advertising, promotion, or PR, with only a very few exceptions (e.g. Red Bull). Packaging is also the primary consumer communication for private brands by far since most retailers don’t advertise them actively. So packaging carries almost 100% of the “branding” load. Its importance in crossing the Rubicon from “private label” to “private brand” is tremendous.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Packaging color and graphics are not different for private label or national brand. The objective is to communicate what the product is to potential consumers. Weak graphics and color were hallmarks of private label in days gone by, but not today. Improvements in packaging and graphics have been one of the strengths in private label growth.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 6 months ago

“Great Value” packaging said “cheap.” Wal-Mart is wise to become more colorful in its packaging. Private labeling is on the upswing everywhere and to continue its upward climb it must match national brand packaging.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

It is possible to use the color white in your store brand packaging and be successful (see Publix and Wegmans). However the color must vary by category and show product shots to give the best of both worlds–brand recognition and product identification. Store brand quality has been accepted by most consumers but good packaging is critical to continued loyalty as well as trial by new consumers.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

This all sounds logical and correct until you think about Publix private label product, which is as bland as bland can be, but which has a lot of “street cred.”

So…I’m thinking that bright colorful packaging on a product that has no credibility is a bit like “dressing up the pig.” I’m not dug in on this, but that’s the way it seems.

Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
10 years 6 months ago
Walmart’s relaunch and expansion of its Great Value line followed the hiring of Jack Sinclair (of Tesco fame) to head its grocery business. Walmart’s rebranding (via packaging) of its GV brand was supported by best practices in package design learned (and one assumes was shepherded by Mr Sinclair) from its UK unit ASDA. The packaging looked remarkably similar to that used within the ASDA stores whose PL packaging was dominated by a white background. This packaging redesign launch appeared to be about a consistency in package design for easy customer identification. However, their success may have also led to the problem of making it glaringly apparent that their PL dominated assortments in some categories to the exclusion of brands and a reduced selection. Much has been written about the need for color and graphics so that needn’t be revisited by my comments. However, it has been pointed out that the most effective message a packaging design can provide is to support the brand message. White doesn’t support quality and value but seems to point towards… Read more »
Phillip T. Straniero
Guest
Phillip T. Straniero
10 years 6 months ago

As the largest retailers in the U.S. continue to build their internal brand development departments and staff them with experienced and savvy ex-CPG marketers, the importance of packaging and package graphics will grow and evolve.

Color is an important variable in building a successful brand equity as well as attracting and educating consumers–not to mention the need for product appeal for edible consumables.

This may be more important for premium own brands at this time but I expect it will become more important for mainstream and value retailer own labels as they grow in share and revenue.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 6 months ago
As retailers develop their private brand business, the focus on packaging will increase. The move to bland generic seemed to be driven by the idea that stark white backgrounds would contrast with colorful national brands, and that consumers would think the private brand product provided better “value” because of perceived less expensive packaging. Some private brand tiers sank to below “basic” packaging to convey lower cost image. Lessons learned? Consumers make hundreds of unconscious choices from the aisle, searching for the packaged product — based on associations in memory. Shoppers quickly deselect what they don’t want, rapidly scanning the shelves for brand colors and logos they do want. If it isn’t visible or memorable, busy shoppers won’t see it. Consumers make very strong associations with package design that deeply impact their perception of product quality. The brand colors and logos — Campbell, Tide, Coke, and many others — have become iconic because of the consumer experience with the packaging and the product. Expect retailers to invest more in package design to extend the reach of… Read more »
Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
10 years 6 months ago

Packaging is your marketing tool that conveys your brand image, and your brand message. If your packaging looks generic, that is exactly how consumers will view the brand. Yet when private label sales lag, retailers tend to wonder why, and they seldom blame it on the packaging design, unless their design department did not produce it.

The #1 reason people will pick up a package is taste appeal. If a product looks good enough to eat, chances are significantly better that the consumer will in fact choose this product, solely based on a decision made by their stomach, not their brain. So yes, color is important. But great color with great taste appeal, will not do anything to increase sales.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Colorful packaging, whether private label or national brand, makes the world a more vivid place. However, let’s remember the environment. Too much packaging is filling the world’s landfills. And many inks (color) inhibit or restrict a package’s ability to decompose. Overlaminates, which offer great brilliance to a product’s box, further adds to the decomposition time.

In Hong Kong, I’ve met a company focused on delivering practical recycling of waste products into new products or new packaging. Think perpetual life cycle, not single use.

Kai Clarke
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Generic or not, color is important to merchandising a brand. However, private label needs to be sensitive to how the national brands are packaging their products (which they are emulating), and most importantly to fit their products into the same scheme so that they have the same look, feel and image along the entire line. Continuity within a category as well as outside of a category is key to successful merchandising, and private labe is no exception.

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