July 10, 2017
As legacy brands continue to expand into different verticals and technology offering more choice and points of purchase for consumers, brands in all industries must reckon with the old adage faced in the modern business era: What comes next?
The concept of disruption is not a new one. But typically, it refers to a brand attempting to make waves in a market it exists in. However, some of the biggest innovations in the past decades have been brands willing to foray into creating products and services not in their direct wheelhouse- who would’ve thought a computer hardware maker would have disrupted (and possibly saved) the music industry so massively and drastically? The act of disrupting your own brand- your value proposition, your core offering, your target demographic, the list goes on-is a harder path for brands. Understandably so, why would a brand risk the equity they’ve accumulated over the years in their category? Because, as Ted Minnini points out, “If a brand stakes out its ground as a disruptor, it has to build a culture that will keep on disrupting. Because if it doesn’t, another brand will come along and disrupt the disruptor.”
At CBX, we work with brands across the spectrum of food, health, retail and cosmetics just to name a few. Our specialties include everything from packaging design, branded environments, product innovation and experiential engagements amongst others. While our legacy is built on tackling these individual touch points, our bigger purpose has always been to architect strong brand universes. Whether it is naming a product, designing an identity or helping build stores, it is always apart of a bigger brand story built to be resilient over time. Essentially, the building blocks we help create for a brand are anticipatory of the fact that brands might want to disrupt themselves one day.
So how do you build a resilient brand? As an example, we’ll look at the typically tradition-adherent world of private labels. Most private labels work from the inside out: creating and designing products in service of financial goals and quantitative cues. Often, this means, products are rolled out with secondary regard to qualitative considerations and how much of a unique value proposition the item provides to the consumer other than price. Consequently, these private labels resonate with the consumer in generic less meaningful ways.
However, there are standouts like Trader Joe’s, Sam’s Club and Lidl, the German supermarket chain that recently announced their official US entry, who allot themselves enough space to continually expand into different categories meaningfully but stay true to its core brand values. By diverging from the typical private label mindset, instead they begin at the foundation of their brand: Does the product perpetuate what we, as a company stand for?
Trader Joe’s is a prime example of what is essentially a private label brand creating products that are competitive and differentiated with national brands (80% of its product bear the ‘Trader Joe’s’ brand name). As a brand, it is unified in its strategy, positioning, execution and marketing. Their product offer rollouts operate within clear guardrails of the brand while respecting the operational logistics of a private-label enterprise. Their merchandising is unique and diverse and the product rotation is swift and consistent. Trader Joe’s is able to innovate quicker than others because they think like a small manufacturer but operate like a big retailer. This can perhaps be attributed its current owners, Aldi, who operate over 10,000 stores in Europe with a similar model: private label focused and on-trend merchandise sold at lower prices presented in a well-designed setting.
Similarly, Member’s Mark from Sam’s Club is another brand built for resilience in both its operating structure and how it merchandises and markets products to consumers. With its recent “A Wonderful Quest” campaign, which emphasizes their commitment to sourcing unique and high-quality products in its Member’s Mark line, Sam’s Club has turned the mundane activity of grocery shopping into a journey of discovery for consumers.
Additionally, they use packaging not merely as a design exercise but a brand vehicle. The design, from a jar of olives to a pack of pasta, references a bigger story – whether it be the origin of where it came from or why it was unique enough to be selected for Member’s Mark.
From its wide and eclectic product offering to its discerning packaging design, Sam’s Club has elevated private label items by introducing each item with a narrative whether be its origin, creation or otherwise. Because of this smart strategy, shoppers aren’t just buying another item, they are going through a culinary experience.
Lidl, the German grocery giant, entering the US market as of last week is another great example of a brand operating along the same lines as Trader Joe’s and Sam’s Club. The private-label based company’s approach to brand, design and product is driven by extremely high quality standards and limited but relevant variety. Simplicity and value are the cornerstones of their operating model and its packaging design is unique unless it’s used to call out a specific product value proposition like gluten-free. Its presence in the US will undoubtedly impact the aforementioned brands alongside numerous others.
The growth of omni-channel and blurring of retail channels is making brands redundant- in either operations or more literally, in its existence. Those brands failing to evolve and reinvent themselves within the changing shopping landscape are quickly disappearing. On the other hand, the ones who have designed their brands to be resilient by remaining focused and targeted on their core values and creating strong brand universes have been able to quickly expand and pivot as need be. Technology continues to enhance convenience making the need to physically step foot into a store obsolete. In the overwhelming choice-filled digital world, product differentiation is less clear and it is those brands that create experiences from their brands- through environment, packaging and unique value proposition- that will come out on top.
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