Retail-owned brands have come a long way from the black and white generic labels of the 1970’s. The transition included a lengthy period of knockoffs, where retailers introduced “me-too” private labels that closely mimicked the look of the national brands. Now, in his first book, Christopher Durham, vice president of retail brands at Theory House, takes a focused look at private brands that have cracked the code and become true national brands.
“These are the retailers who are doing it right,” says Durham. “They’ve evolved their private labels into consumer-focused brands and are devoting the resources necessary to build them with everything from advertising to packaging design. I think the biggest surprise was that even Walmart has some standout brands.” Other retailers whose brands are featured in the book include Target, Staples, Williams Sonoma, Amazon, Kroger and Lowe’s Home Improvement.
The premise of the book was to combat the erroneous perception that private brands in the United States are just a value play wrapped in bad design. With Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project, Durham sets out to prove that perception wrong. Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project is based on Durham’s yearlong blog project of the same name on his industry website, My Private Brand. The book includes expanded brand strategy and learnings from the 52 brands, as well as more than 200+ new photographs from the award winning photographer, Teri Campbell.
After reviewing more than 650 brands, Durham commissioned Campbell to create photography for the book that presents these brands, their packaging and products in a unique and compelling way that rethinks not only traditional packaging photography but also traditional private label. His hope is that this book will redefine not only the perception of private brand in America, but also its potential.
“One of the things I love about this project is that when I found the best brands, they weren’t all from big retailers with big budgets,” says Durham. “Some of the brands, like Bi-Rite, are local surprises that truly deserve the honor.”