The Power of Premium for Private Label – A Peek at UK Retailer Marks & Spencer

packaging design agency

Premium Private Label through Packaging Design
Recently whilst exploring the retail landscape in Singapore I came across the Food Store found within a Marks & Spencer. I was immediately struck by the premium aesthetic from the mini bakery through the traditional food categories and into the selection of wines on sale. Every element was carefully considered from the perspective of brand visual language. The shelf fittings were well crafted, the signage well designed, but above all the packaging design of the products stood out on-mass.

There’s perhaps no better way to assess a brand’s private label approach than by stripping away the competition and seeing the branded offer in isolation. What became clear about the Marks & Spencer approach to private label is – it’s all about premium. The selection of products, the descriptors on pack and the beautiful ranges of packaging design clearly position the product in the aspirational end of their respective categories – no cheap and cheerful, economy, prices down, down products to be seen.

But perhaps more inspiring again from a brand design perspective is that there were no ‘me too’ packaging design solutions. Each category appeared to have been considered as if it were a stand alone brand required to compete on a level playing field – to offer the customer something more, something valued if it were to be successful. This was perhaps the most impressive part of the M&S private label branding strategy – to create products that add to the lives of their customers,products that are selected and revered on their own merit, rather than because they looked the same and cost less than the category leader.

The reality is the Private Label landscape in the UK – home of Marks & Spencer – is significantly different to the grocery retail landscape in Australia, but that is no reason to not celebrate a retailer with a positive, premium mindset to building value into their brand.

Nice one Marks & Sparks.

Creative by various UK packaging design agencies (We’d love to add credits for this work and the photography if anyone can forward those details to us).

Dave Ansett, Brandamentalist
Creator of Premium Packaging Design

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1 Comment

  1. M&S have managed to pull off quite a lead in food, the products’ packaging is head and shoulders above many food-only chains (in the UK). Private labels taking care of the small-stuff (like the attention to design ‘surface’ as well as structural) can pay real dividends – see Nisa’s own brand relaunch, giving them a 50%+ boost in sales SINCE JUNE! (http://www.designweek.co.uk/news/nisa-own-brand-sales-up-50-following-redesigns/3039296.article). Nisa’s a c-store format, completely unremarkable for own-label until recently. Several others are also playing the game – mostly copy-catting M&S / Waitrose / Tesco ‘Finest’ categories and design patterns. M&S Food stores (small format, c-store locations like petrol forecourts, railway concourses, especially) are popping-up like mushrooms after a rainstorm.
    The mystery for M&S is why the same business does so badly on non-food, when that constitutes 70%+ of the stores’ offer. Perhaps the answer’s to run with the packs…

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