A Brand and Packaging Design Exercise, that failed!
A few years ago, Straydog was approached by a private-label food company, to help them create a brand and retail packaging for their new line of granola bars. At the time, the company was successful as a private-label manufacturer of bars for Wal-Mart-USA Costco and a number of other retailers in the USA and Canada. With their years of experiencing developing successful recipes in the nutritional bar category, they felt that they could be equally as successful as a branded manufacturer, so they did the right thing….initially at least! They hired a professional creative agency, Straydog, to help them develop the brand, logo and retail packaging.
But the brand never launched. So what went wrong? Two things…:
- Covid hit, and they paused all marketing initiatives for several months, but once they re-focused a few months later and more importantly,
- The key decision maker, the CEO and owner of the company, a long in the tooth fellow, chose to dominate the meetings and ignore the opinions of his much younger and capable marketing and production staff.
The key idea that we have seen before, is that a dominant CEO may lead a firm to a deviant strategy. This strategic deviance can yield a strong position for a firm in its markets, or it can drive it to big losses. To control the negative effects of strategic deviance, and balance the power of the CEO, a company needs a strong board of directors. A strong board provides a useful watchdog and a second set of valued opinions to the strategic direction of the company. This oversight by the board can help catch the deviant strategy that could lead to firm failure, before it is implemented by the CEO and the organization’s top management team. Unfortunately, this CEO didn’t involve his Board and he ignored the feedback and input from his marketing team.
The dynamics in this particular company were such that the CEO had surrounded himself with people that he could easily control, his 2 sons and a a daughter in-law. Now, these 3 people (all under 35) were all very capable, bright and progressive young people, and much more in-tune with the latest in design, branding and retail merchandising, but throughout the design project, the CEO was very reluctant to bite on any idea that wasn’t his, despite the enthusiasm and approval on severval of our concepts from the younger team members. The boss preferred to steer the design process such that his new brand and packaging would look just like many of the other boring and out-dated designs currently in the marketplace. He was afraid to take a chance. Our concepts were bold, playful and unique, all things he wasn’t.
As any good agency would do, we first went through a detailed Brand Discovery process to fully identify and understand the marketplace, the competitors, and the USP (unique selling proposition) of the clients product. From there, we were able to build a creative brief for the brand, logo and the packaging.
Logo design, identity design and branding all have different roles, that together, form a perceived image for a product, service or company.
A brand can be described as an organization, a service or product with a ‘personality’ that is shaped by the perceptions of the audience. A designer cannot “make” a brand – only the audience can do this. A designer forms the foundation of the brand. Some of the world’s best brands have very simple logos, often they are just a type face with perhaps a symbol added in. A great example of this is Apple. As a company, Apple projects a humanistic corporate culture and a strong corporate ethic, one which is characterized by volunteerism, support of good causes & involvement in the community. These values of the business are evident throughout everything they do, from their innovative and beautifully designed products and great advertising, to their customer service.
For the OnTrack brand identity, we re-freshed the logo and created a brand story that was creative, engaging and fun, which would help to separate it from it’s competitors. Our objective was to be BOLD, DIFFERENT and INNOVATIVE, and not to just deliver a safe concept that the CEO would accept. We knew that we had our work cut-out for us, but we didn’t anticipate that the CEO would crush anything that wasn’t “traditional” (read this as BORING, OUTDATED and UNINSPIRING).
The identity of OnTrack was to be made up of:
- The logo
- The packaging
- The products
- The marketing collateral
- The story
- The reputation
All of these elements would help to support the brand as a whole. The logo would be the corporate identity and brand all wrapped up into one identifiable mark. The OnTrack logo would identify the company, and derive it’s meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around – logos are there to identify, not to explain.
But the packaging and the story was the real differentiator! These two pieces would engage and build a following.
The Concept: “What A Day” – Add some OnTrack to your day and things will certainly take a turn for the better.
The Approach: A story-based, conversational take that allows us to talk about product qualities (e.g. keto-friendly, almond/coconut flour) without the clutter of many visual elements.
The Style: Minimal, modern – appeals to people who are active and health-conscious.
The Tagline: On track for a brilliant day.
Would you buy this product? It’s different, it’s fun, and the story options are endless……all adding to the brand’s appeal, intrigue and positioning.
Sadly, our brilliantly designed brand, packaging and brand story never made it to market. Instead, the client choose to design in-house and this is the result, what we would consider to be somewhat uninspiring. Does this packaging make you say “cool, I like it” or “wow, that’s something different, I think I’ll try it”?
Our team at Straydog did everything we could to convince the client to be bold, innovative and to take a chance. The CEO choose the safe route (aka: don’t take a chance).