Which is Nice!

Am I missing something?

Last week there was a lot of press about Nice!, the new Walgreens private brand for grocery products. My take . . . really Nice! name, not so Nice! packaging. And here’s a story to explain why.

My first job was working for Lois/Chajet Design Group, a joint venture of George Lois the iconic advertising art director and Clive Chajet the iconic . . . well just iconic.

George was the first indoor hurricane I had ever met (an analogy that is easy to come by as we await the arrival, or not, of Irene). With his almost biblical power over ideas (he is an AIGA Medalist and in the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame) he blew around the office wreaking creative havoc, and his agencies managed to produce some of the most iconic conceptual advertising in the last 50 years. Clive was terribly good at managing the growth of design firms (he would later go on to rebuild Lippincott after the retirement of Walter Margulies) and managing the expectations of clients.

Although neither of these gents were designers in the classic sense, they both had a clear grasp for brands, and a very simple measure for a successful retail package design. Wandering around the studio they would growl “what’s the idea, yah gotta have an idea!” (Clive from Britain slurring his Rs, and George from the Bronx slurring everything).

But their point was clear  . . . its easy to make things pretty, but its much harder to make them smart.

And their definition of a smart idea was pretty simple, it had to be unique, memorable, and ownable (George would always say it had to have “balls” too, but that’s another story). The question in the office was always, “can the brand build a long-term equity with this design?” Seems simple right?

A few years later I was working for a fellow named Jack Blyth and being a Scot, his test for uniqueness was even simpler. If you could take the name off a package and still have the consumer recognize the brand, then it was a successful package architecture. Yes again simple, maybe even overly simplistic, but certainly clear.

By these measures the new Walgreens brand may be simple, but it isn’t Nice!

Looking at the image above containing Target’s up & up, Publix everyday, Walgreens’ Nice! and Walmart’s Great Value brands with their logos missing,  George and Clive would likely agree that Nice! isn’t unique, memorable, and ownable. And Jack would wince at these generic packages with their unrecognizable or nonexistent equity with the brand name is missing.

The shelves have been inundated in the last decade by brands with predominantly white packaging. And we have all weighed in on their issues. To introduce this new brand in 2005 is one thing, but to introduce it in 2011 is either naive or bereft.

Too bad, because its a really Nice! name.

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About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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4 Responses to Which is Nice!

  1. Jada says:

    Richard as always you bring up very good points. It is a same because the package is Nice.

  2. Michael says:

    Great job on this. I was at CVS when they creatived “Just the Basics”. The brand manager honestly thought they where coming up with something unique. It can be sad sometimes when retailers talk themselves into doing something, what they think is new, but in reality they just don’t want to take a risk on something truly new. They all copy each other. Sad really!

  3. Darshan says:

    ‘Nice’ article. Unique Ownable and Memorable quite sums up what is to be desired with packaging. I am a Designer and am tired of the taxed minimal reduced to only a ‘minimum’. It’s quite boring after a while and loses identity and character. Packaging should be interesting though not loud. Quite a challenge!

  4. Ted Mininni says:

    Hi Richard. Thanks for notifying me of your blog post. You raise some great points here about Walgreen’s “Nice!” packaging. However, with all due respect to Clive, George and their philosophies, I think you may have missed a few critical points here. Unlike national brand packaging, private label packaging has a unique advantage – it need only function within the confines of one retail environment. Therefore, the strategy isn’t necessarily to become “memorable” or “ownable” from a national or global perspective. It is simply to stand out effectively within Walgreen’s while transcending all categories.

    Also, the “Nice!” package design system isn’t attempting to be iconic. I agree with your assessment that it appears generic and somewhat unrecognizable with the brand identity removed. What you may view as “generic” is actually “simple modularity” which allows the system to function across categories with little or no variation. Unlike other private label brands who change the look of their packaging dramatically from category to category (often diluting the visual system in the process), Walgreen’s “Nice!” packaging will build visual equity. It’s easy to identify among national brands due to its simplicity, and its color-coded segmentation system is easy to understand. And, let’s not forget… the “Nice!” brand identity WILL appear on every single package. 🙂

    As I’ve outlined on my blog about “Nice!” http://www.designforceinc.com/walgreens-private-label-packaging-nice , these are Walgreen’s goals for this private label brand:
    •To create, market and manage one overall store brand rather than groups of products bearing a bunch of different brand names. All of them would gradually be phased out in favor of one major store brand.
    •To name the private label brand in a manner that would make the name easy to remember, easy to market and easy to be creative with.
    •To create a package design system that is clean, contemporary and simplified. One that would stand out from every other brand in every category. One that would accommodate food, beverage, paper products and household items.
    •To leverage the new private label brand putting the necessary resources behind it so that it would become a rival to major national brands over time. All at an average 30% savings over national brands.

    Given what Walgreen’s is trying to achieve in the context of their own retail environment, this packaging may prove to be quite effective.

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