The Private Brand Revolution Revealed: Fifty2, The My Private Brand Project
Durham currently serves as vice president of retail brands at the branding and retail marketing agency Theory House. He is a consultant, strategist and retailer with close to 20 years of real-world retail and corporate experience creating, launching and building billion dollar private brands. He is the founder of the influential website My Private Brand, which seeks to drive the changing private brand landscape, focusing on the emerging art and science of private brand management.
While working at Lowe’s Home Improvement, he worked as a brand manager focused on private brand strategy and, over five years, created, managed or repositioned many of its private brands. Prior to Lowe's, he served as brand manager at Delhaize America where he developed and delivered retail brand marketing and private brand strategy and development for Food Lion, Bloom, Bottom Dollar and Harvey’s.
Durham will present a challenging look at the state of Private Brands through his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. The 52 brands featured in the book radically destroy the notion that all American private brands are ugly knock-offs of national brands and clearly paints a picture of the retail brand revolution that is creating retail-owned brands customers know and love.
We asked Christopher a few questions about his careers and inspirations.
How did you begin your career?
That goes back a few years, but I started out running the Computer Services department (Desktop Publishing in its heyday) in a Kinko’s in Charleston, SC. It was a great incubator for small business and design so I worked on lots of cool projects: the early American Apparel photocopied catalogs, Album covers for the band Jump Little Children, and more resumes and wedding programs than I care to remember.
It was a great basis for a long and winding career that then took me to Atlanta, where I free-lanced for a number of agencies, then to a daily newspaper in Greenville, SC where I managed their special sections, then to a crazy startup where I was the Art Director for a company that wrapped fleets of vehicles with advertisements for AT&T, Verizon, Yahoo and Coke. From there I went to Food Lion in Salisbury, NC where I was the creative services manager\brand manager and discovered Private Brands. This led to a position at Lowe’s Home Improvement creating and managing private brands. Eventually my eclectic mix of experiences in design, news, start-ups and retail led to the creation of my site My Private Brand and to my current role at Theory House as the Vice President of Retail Brands.
If there is one lesson you’ve learned in your entire career, what was it?
Early in my career, I worked for The Greenville News in Greenville, SC. It was the very end of an era in the newspaper business and there was still a tinge of the Mad Men mystique – cigarette breaks, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters and an occasional cigar and bourbon on a Friday afternoon. One grizzled newspaper veteran took me under his wing and shared his motto with me, “It’s all about the story and anything (design, photography, verbosity) that gets in the way of the story is unnecessary.” His ruthless editing and insight became a valuable tool in every part of my career.
Which trend is overrated?
Flat Design, although I can certainly understand the appeal of clean simple graphics and uncluttered design – it can be lifeless, emotionless and unusable. When it’s bad, it is really bad.
What is something a designer should never do?
Designers should never forget that great design is a business that at its very best simplifies and solves problems.
What would you consider inspirational?
My favorite pretentious answer is: I have always loved the work of French philosopher Jacques Derrida. His ideas about deconstructing a rationally structured space so that the elements are forced into new relationships have shaped the way I approach both strategy and design.
The more down to earth answer is: I love to discover great hand drawn typography on old signs and buildings. There is something authentic and American in the true old school work.
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Meet Christopher Durham at The Dieline Conference
Discover a new approach to branding that you can apply your own design in this challenging look inside the groundbreaking first book by Christopher Durham of My Private Brand: Fifty2, The My Private Brand Project. The 52 brands featured in the book radically destroy the notion that all American private brands are ugly knock-offs of national brands and clearly paints a picture of the retail brand revolution that is creating retail-owned brands that customers know and love.
3 Main Take-Aways:
- Key design and business lessons that emerge from the 52 brands
- The branding and design trends that are shaping the new age of private brand
- How private brands are changing what it means to be a brand