Reimagining private brand design

CEO of the Fish Agency discusses how store brands need to think about optimizing for e-commerce, the phygital retail world and sustainability into their packages.

The use of digitization in brand design has been evolving for years, but it’s been accelerated by the pandemic, as more people transition to online shopping and retailers have had to get creative to remain competitive.

And according to global consulting firmMcKinsey & Company, the great acceleration in the use of technology and digitization will only continue to grow.

This is an enormous opportunity for private brands. 

Because even before the pandemic, the groups that were driving the rise in digitization were Millennials and younger, value seeking shoppers — groups that had already been fueling growth in private brand products.

But how do you employ these essential tools into your package design to make your private brand emerge as a leader in this new normal? Let’s look at three areas: online optimization, the phygital space and sustainability.  

Online Design Optimization
Online design optimization is intrinsically linked to e-commerce — the move from shopping in stores to shopping online. It is the act of making sure your online marketing lives up to its fullest potential, helping drive your brand’s growth and market share.

When you consider how grocery stores currently market online, most have created a shopping experience that consists of consumers wading through countless thumbnail-sized photographs of their products. This steers consumers into buying what they squintingly recognize, rather than helping them compare products or try something new.

Some tips when optimizing thumbnails:

  • put your private brand products at the top of the page;
  • highlight the most important characteristics of your product;
  • simplify your design so these characteristics stand out;
  • remove any information that does not increase saleability.

Once the thumbnail has brought people to your product page, there, further product optimization can highlight other important information. Optimizing online design serves one purpose for retailers: it makes it easier for consumers to pick your products in the growing online marketplace. 

Phygital Marketing
Phygital marketing is defined as the joining of the online and the offline environments, by taking the best parts of each space to create a more complete and satisfying customer experience. 

Often this takes place in a physical store, by giving consumers a digital experience they access by swiping their devices over a code on a display shelf, a poster or on the packaging of a product itself. And for store brands, having a connected package is one of the first and still popular forms of phygital marketing. 

The Fish Agency, for example, helped wine label Chateau des Charmes become the first winery in North America to incorporate QR codes on its labels, connecting wine lovers to their website containing information about food matches, tasting notes and recipe ideas. Their use of a QR code to connect to a website was a simple way to incorporate connected packaging, but, at the time, it was revolutionary. 

Augmented Reality has taken this to a new level: Some augmented experiences can insert a 3D object into the mobile view of a user’s surroundings, so that the user can look at a product from all angles, even inside. Ground-breaking for stores like IKEA, who now use this technology to help people see how furniture might look in their homes, to help consumers make an informed choice.

Even more advanced augmented reality technology can insert a person, like a hologram, into the mobile view of a user’s surroundings. Some ways to Incorporate phygital marketing into a private brand design:

  • know where your brand story intersects with your customers’ lifestyles and ideals; 
  • highlight those intersections in a phygital experience;
  • decide on the context: at home, in-store, or on-the-go, wherever you believe your customer would find an augmented shopping experience most valuable;
  • decide on just one product to begin with to keep the budget manageable and allow you to assess the impact of the technology to help you scale. 

Current market research suggests 90% of shoppers now expect access to their favorite brands across all channels, all the time. In fact, customers are so immersed in phygital marketing that they have come to expect these immersive, educational and fun shopping experiences — and are choosing the brands that provide them. 

Sustainable Packaging
Sustainable packaging intersects with the digital brand design revolution by giving brands the opportunity to inform consumers of efforts toward sustainability through optimization and phygital marketing. Consumers enjoy the power they have in addressing environmental challenges by aligning themselves with brands that provide greener solutions. Particularly the younger, more environmentally conscious consumers who have already, recently, turned their attention to private brands.   

So where do you start with your brand?

Plastic reduction can be as simple as ‘right sizing’ your packaging. Consider substituting aluminum, glass or paper for plastic. These options are 100% recyclable and have been used as packaging materials for decades, so a decent infrastructure for recycling them already exists.

Also, try reimaging packaging without unnecessary layers of packaging, including those plastic windows that are part of many cardboard boxes. They just make packages unrecyclable, and we can make beautiful packaging without them.

Then, inform and engage your consumer in your efforts through innovative phygital marketing.

Optimization, phygital marketing and sustainable packaging have opened innovative and exciting doors to help deliver value, convenience and engaging experiences for customers, all while helping you to communicate how you align with their beliefs.  We know that consumer desire for these tools are here to stay, even after we’ve put the pandemic far behind us.

And there are real opportunities for private brands to lead the pack in this new and exciting marketing space.

a woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

Rebecca Hamilton is the CEO of Fish Agency, an Ontario-based agency that conceptualizes, provides adaptive design and rollout programs that leverage optimized packaging for e-commerce, phygital and sustainable packaging initiatives.

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