David Ziegler-Voll recently joined MBD’s team as Creative Director. Prior to joining MBD, David spent 10 years at Trader Joe’s where he was apart of their private label design team. David sat down to have a conversation with Christopher Durham, president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. Christopher asked David 5 questions about his perspective on private brands, packaging design, and how to stand out in the marketplace. Here’s a glimpse into their conversation:

Over the last year Amazon, Whole Foods, Lidl, and Jet have made aggressive moves into private brand, what impact are you seeing them have on your private brand clients and their brands?
There is no doubt that new-comers to private brand are pushing the design envelope. There is less attachment to “brand-ego” and more emphasis on creating experiences that transcend a brand book. The reality is retailers, such as Jet, speak the language of younger audiences and they execute this through fresh, invigorating design. Retailers are suddenly competing in a landscape of what is or isn’t Instagrammed; what makes or doesn’t make the front page of PopSugar. This breath of fresh air is a very good thing for private brands as it’s forcing retailers to evaluate how they’re telling their story.

What role should strategy play in solving retail problems?
I’m a big believer in sketching before attempting a design. Additionally, I ask a minimum of 5,932 questions because I want to fully and completely understand the design problem that I am solving. Strategy is really no different. Retailers should expect their private brand team to be inquisitive, curious and not afraid to ask tough questions. In turn, creative teams should be expected to synthesize these answers into real and meaningful solutions.

What are the most common mistake retailers make with their brands?
It’s imperative that retailers understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to brand integration is confusing, and quite frankly, dreadfully boring. Trying to force the same brand attributes of a bag of potato chips onto a bottle of scotch does nothing for the product or the brand.

What advice do you have for retailers trying to take their brands to the next level?  
Retailers should think of their private brand guidelines as just that, guidelines and not the letter of the law. Successful private brand products should be able to tell a story specific to its audience while simultaneously living within its brand eco-system. While brand guidelines certainly have their purpose, creating stunning and compelling stories can only exist if retailers relax their “brand-ego”. I would also encourage retailers to embrace one of the most amazing attributes of private brand… it’s an incredibly nimble business that can easily be tweaked as attitudes and audiences change over time.

What will private brands look like 10 years from now? 
Much like Trader Joe’s, I think we are going to see less emphasis on what constitutes private brand or private label. From a design perspective, I think we are going to see less heavily branded package design, e.g. Trader Joe’s for the most part only utilizes a single logo as a “brand” element and they are incontrovertibly one of the most successful “private” label grocers in the country.

For more, check out Christopher’s blog, MyPrivateBrand.