The Own Brands Packaging Challenge

Starbucks Packaging

Own brands have fought for their space amongst private brands, and lately, that fight has gone in their favour. But now, private brands are fighting back.


Own brands used to care very little about marketing, as looking cheap used to suffice. Over the last years, though, this mindset was replaced with a stronger market endeavour; which, thanks to the crisis, (or unfortunately so), exploded into a huge rise in customer interest.

In the words of The Guardian:

[quote style=”boxed”]“In fact, with more own-label products launched in 2011 than branded equivalents, own-label has moved from the margins to become the rising star of the supermarket shelves. Once aimed at those on a low income, the levelling effect of a grim economy means today own-brand is popular with everyone – so much so that upmarket grocer Waitrose got in on the act, launching its ‘essential’ range as a response to the recession.”[/quote]

But how has that spur in popularity been achieved? The answer lies, primarily, in maturity; David Bird, from retail analysts Datamonitor, indicated that UK’s own brands longevity makes them much more fitting to the British population, and that own brands have been outperforming private brands for the last years.

Now, the battle at the shelf has intensified with a counterattack from private brands who, logically, won’t go without a fight. At the current state of the art, packaging has become an enormous concern for own and private brands alike, as it’s one of the fields which could determine victory or defeat.

[quote style=”boxed”]“Packaging – and more specifically, labelling – is the key to winning at shelf, and holds the secret of competing against own brands in the current market landscape. Many leading packaged goods companies are currently facing this challenge, leading to an upsurge in packaging innovation, and competition is at an all-time high.”[/quote]

According to Perception Research Services, own brands facing a private threat should secure four key principles: distinctive visual assets, emotional connections, points of difference, and innovations.

The case for visuals is simple, as customers use to go on autopilot on those categories with a strong presence of private labels. Resemblance, but also distinctiveness, play a large role on the visual design of both own and private brands’ packagings. Connections, on the other hand, are developed when brands surpass the point of mere recognition ─ into the space of underlying emotions.

The last two principles are somewhat more logical: difference, at the rational level, come down to features and advanced capabilities, which, in turn, are usually achieved by innovations in structure, functionality, etc.

In the end, though, it all comes down to the shelf:

[quote style=”boxed”]“While marketers typically focus their attention on brand building through advertising, promotions and social media, the reality is that their brands will largely succeed (or fail) at the retail shelf, where most purchase decisions are made. At the shelf, they will find far stronger private label competitors than ever before, with more compelling packaging, better product quality and often a considerable pricing advantage.”[/quote]


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