DESIGNER: LET YOUR PRODUCT DO THE TALKING

CHICAGO -- Autonomy will be critical to the survival of private-label brands in the 1990s, according to David Wisnom 3rd, director of Landor Associates, San Francisco."You have to be able to differentiate yourself from national brands other than on a price basis. This can be done by creating differentiation in a category and conveying quality, value and selection," said Wisnom, a speaker at the Private

CHICAGO -- Autonomy will be critical to the survival of private-label brands in the 1990s, according to David Wisnom 3rd, director of Landor Associates, San Francisco.

"You have to be able to differentiate yourself from national brands other than on a price basis. This can be done by creating differentiation in a category and conveying quality, value and selection," said Wisnom, a speaker at the Private Label Manufacturers Association's Consumerama here.

"A brand differentiates, commands a premium and creates a preference through structure, color and graphics. Every transaction in a store starts to develop a stronger relationship between the customer and the brand or store. Stores are becoming brands," Wisnom explained.

A private label picked up in error by a consumer because it looks too similar to the branded product can create tremendous alienation, he added.

H-E-B Grocery Co., San Antonio, and Target Stores, Minneapolis, have enjoyed significant market-share increases of their private-label products since recent packaging redesigns by Landor, Wisnom said.

In both cases, the new private-label design stresses the content of the package in words and illustration, with the store name appearing in a subordinate position.

The rationale for shrinking the brand name, H-E-B or Target, was based on the fact that although both chains had a strong value perception behind the store brand, the store name would not necessarily be a determining factor in competition against a national brand, Wisnom said.

For H-E-B, a 225-unit chain operating in southwestern Texas that serves a customer base with a large Hispanic population, the objective was to develop a category-specific design similar to what was being done for successful store brands in the United Kingdom, such as Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer, Wisnom said.

The challenge in redesigning the private label included addressing the need for bilingual identification as well as dealing with a high level of poverty and illiteracy, he added.

"We came up with category-specific labels where we let the product become the hero. The brand name used is H-E-B, but it appears extremely subordinate on the label. We wanted to let the product do the talking," Wisnom said.

In H-E-B brand canned goods, for example, the words identifying the contents, such as "whole potatoes" or "sliced beets," appear most prominently on the label. Also occupying a dominant position on the label is a hand-drawn illustration to articulate what the product is, which addresses the bilingual and illiteracy concerns. For the entire line, 28 different proprietary illustrations were created, Wisnom said.

The redesigned packaging for the dairy category features fun, whimsical illustrations that wrap around the carton.

"We tried to convey quality and flavor but without appearing to be overly premium. We wanted to create a look within each category. They do vary, but they have personality," Wisnom said.

In some categories, such as eggs, oversized cards bearing an illustration from the new private-label packaging were hung from the ceiling above the products in the store, he said.

Wisnom said that in Target's case there was a long-term objective to build a profit center out of its private-label line, which needed revitalization.

The challenge was to convey quality equal to or better than the national brand and to leverage a strong consumer store-brand perception of quality and value, he said.

As with H-E-B, the design option selected involved minimal endorsement of the Target brand name, letting the product do the talking.

Target's familiar bull's-eye logo was not used for the new private label. It was replaced by the name "Target" in a little box, with three dots underneath.