We stumbled upon the 99% Invisible Podcast and were pleasantly surprised by the references made to our founder Don Watt as an influencer in the evolution of grocery. Many years have passed since our groundbreaking work with Canadian supermarket giant Loblaws Inc., and we are humbled by the impact we have had and proud of the work we continue to do in shaping the evolution of grocery.
Looking back in history, in the 1970s Don Watt helped to reinvent the struggling retailer Loblaws with the conception and complete design of the No Name brand, which begged retailers to take note of how to look at generic brands as a strategic asset of the business rather than a tactical response as just an in-fill, lower cost/quality alternative to the dominant national brand. Ironically the strategy to go brandless became one of the most successful and recognized branding campaigns of its time for being disruptive and challenging existing paradigms. This “anti-brand” approach flew in the face of conventional wisdom but worked to do what brands are designed to do – differentiate from the competition and connect with consumers. It was a courageous move to put the brand on the side of the consumer – make sure the quality and value are there and forget about the “frills.” This led to Watt’s two-decade relationship with the now remarkable chain, setting the bar for grocery retailers in North America and turning Loblaws into a powerhouse. Then in 1986, Loblaws sought to create a store brand that was affordable but also felt luxurious. The Watt team created the highly-revered President’s Choice brand for Loblaws as part of a larger rebranding of the banner, ensuring the grocery retailer’s future success with one of the most recognized brands in the world. Working with Dave Nichol and Galen Weston, Watt continued to develop a tool-kit of brand assets and retailing principles that helped Loblaws transform into an industry innovator. Evidently, Watt’s design principles established over 30 years ago remain an important influence in Loblaws’ branding and go-to-market strategy.
Today, one in four products sold in American supermarkets are store brand. President’s Choice and No Name continue to thrive in the marketplace as powerful private brands – destination drivers that are prized by the retailer and valued by consumers. At Watt, we continue to uphold the same principles as those that got us the attention and accolades in the past – be bold, different and daring. Disruption is all about thinking differently and staying as close to the customer as possible. It’s important to listen to them, understand them, anticipate their desires, and respond to their needs. We’re proud of our legacy and continue to influence the grocery channels across North, Central and South America and the Caribbean today with the same passion and vision as our founder.
Have a listen below – and enjoy!