Tackling private label and copy cat branding and packaging

by | Aug 1, 2018 | Branding with impact, Strategically thinking through the design process

As a brand marketer how does one tackle the highly complex and competing interests of private label and copy cat branding and packaging?

Attack of the private label and copy cat branding clones

So how do Aldi and the other major super market chains get away with piggybacking on established brands?

21 July 2018 the Sydney Morning Herald posted an article online entitled “Attack of the clones: how Aldi gets away with mimicking big brands.” In the article, author Michaela Whitbourn poses the question on so many brand marketers lips… “So how does Aldi escape legal liability while piggybacking on established brands?”

Wherein she goes on to explain using some great examples of how established brands have legally taken on the “copy cat” and had lost their case.

The article quotes a senior lecturer and expert in intellectual property law (University of Sydney), who explained that Aldi’s legal department knows “exactly what to do and how to mimic a product” all the while making sure there are sufficient points of difference in packaging and trade marks so as not to be seen as “copying”.

Consumers follow the cues

In essence what Aldi and others are really doing is taking typical cues developed over time by established brands and are now using them to help consumers to navigate the supermarket aisles.

These cues stretch beyond simply the packs logos, product claims and product descriptions. These cues communicate via their symbolic meaning and often unobtrusive design features thereby drawing automatic associations that have developed during consumers’ shopping interactions over time.

Cues like distinctive colours and shapes. A classic example would be dark blue lids to signify full cream milk and light blue lids to point to skim milk. These cues are generally unown-able.

Established brands are very often recognised as a result of their packaging design attributes consists of colours, designs, shapes, symbols, and messages.

These ‘cues have been used over time to create in the customers mind, that the package and product are one and the same.


Take for example the shape below…. Without even knowing what’s inside it we have been trained by the brand to know that it’s a …..



>>>>> Toblerone

AC Nielsen, a leading international consumer research company believe that consumer’s worldwide are trained and are likely to have roughly similar response to many FMCG products, even despite different borders and cultural differences.

Both private label and copy cat brands understand how the packaging design elements, looked for by the consumer easily communicates the “what’s inside.” It’s how they do what they do and do it so well.

The demand thing

Consumers today no longer shy away from buying private label products. A key driver of this trend is the need to stretch the dollar further. The other key driver is quality. No longer are private label brands perceived as inferior. Often the private label packaging is superior and outsell the established brands packs.

A recent research study conducted by Field Agent, 51% of Australian shoppers surveyed actually reported they prefer private label brands more than they used to.  Another interesting fact about private label is that over 1/3 of the shoppers surveyed estimated that 25% of their grocery list was made up of private label brands with a further 1/3 saying that private label made up between 26%- 50% of their total purchases.

Staying 2 steps ahead of the private label and copy cat game

So what’s to be done? How do brands compete? How do brands stay ahead of the game?

Reinvigorate your brand strategically, constantly and consistently

Todays successful brands don’t sit still and remain stagnant. With both trends and the retail market place changing so quickly shoppers are on the look out for “what’s new”.  As a brand marketer, on a budget you have to create regular “newness” with a predetermined evolutionary brand and packaging development strategy

We at Jam&Co believe that there are 2 key criteria (2 steps to keep you ahead of the game) that when embraced by Brand marketers will see them sail beyond their competitors and their copy cat rivals.

1. Underestimation: The first is a total knowing and understanding that: “One should never underestimate the task of captivating a target customer. Never underestimate all that it takes to move them emotionally and intellectually, so they see and pick your product off a shelf in a sea of competitors.”

2. The evolutionary plan: The second is sticking to a predetermined evolutionary brand and packaging development strategy which is akin to Wayne Gretzky’s quote “Some people skate to where the puck is, I skate to where its going.

Whilst no one can know exactly what the future holds for any single brand, or product on-shelf, it is an imperative that brand Marketers still understand HOW the brand’s message can ride ride the wave of change and yet still retain relevance in the market and on the retail shelf…no matter how it’s brand cues are being copied.

You’ll also need to considerer how your product pack looks and is perceived in an online environment. The predetermined evolutionary brand and packaging development strategy forecasts how the brand and pack will look 2 years and 4 years from now.

CLICK HERE to see how we help your brand stay ahead of the private label and copy cat brands