Damen Jackson (www.damenjackson.com) has won the 13th annual Makeover Challenge, sponsored by Printpack. The Chicago-based design agency edged out competitors in the blue-sky contest by re-imagining the packaging for Seattle-based Granum Inc.’s Choice Organic Teas.
Despite the miles between them, both agency and brand credit a collaborative approach to the competitor’s success. “Damen Jackson posed some very thorough in-depth questions, and they really took the time to care about what our brand is about,” India Nagy, creative director for Choice Organic Teas, Granum Inc., says. “They really tried to understand the potential challenges of working with a heritage brand, such as ourselves, and how we want to continue to be relevant to the market, reach out to new customers but serve our very strong existing loyal customer base.”
This collaborative approach earned votes from readers such as Tia Newman. Commenting from her perspective as a marketing manager, Newman notes, “Damen Jackson’s design is the cleanest and most attention grabbing. Also, Damen Jackson’s competitor [editor’s note: agency name removed] totally disregards the brand by failing to use the logo. In addition, this other competitor combined the word Organic making it seem as if it is the brand’s name.”
Holding true to the spirit of the competition, which aims to put real-world parameters around blue-sky concepts, Damen Jackson took a respectful approach to how they treated the Choice Organic Teas team when deciding on the design concept. “They presented the three options and gave us a good explanation of how they thought each design was capturing an attribute of the brand that they wanted to highlight,” Nagy recalls. “We gave them feedback about how we felt about whether that was being carried off or not.”
The three options were based on three potential brand positions, all generated by Damen Jackson’s Hypothesis Builder. These three brand positioning statements focused on the concepts of 1. the right choice, 2. simple and 3. organic heritage. The right choice go-to-market strategy is, “Choice Organic Teas supports and participates in worthy industry-related initiatives such as non-GMO, organic, environmental awareness and fair trade for tea farmers.” The organic heritage hypothesis statement is, “Choice Organic Teas has been exclusively organic since 1989. Choice Organic Teas is the original organic tea company in the U.S.A.” The simple hypothesis statement is, “Choice Organic Teas is the antithesis of trendy. No fancy names. No romantic stories of distant locales. Just a simple, delicious cup of tea. And it’s organic, of course.”
The competitor then allowed the brand to choose which direction it would submit to the contest. “Ultimately, their choice was to go simple and we agreed with it,” says Ryan O’Connor, account planning director, Damen Jackson. “Simplicity was a good way to differentiate themselves on the shelf.
“Obviously, collaboration with the client is hugely important in any project,” O’Connor adds. “For this project, the DJ team also had the benefit of great briefing materials. There was so much rich information we could use to start the project and develop as a design platform for Michelle [Michelle Lukezic, design director at Damen Jackson] and her team to do a deep dive.”
Ron Farnum, president, Damen Jackson, adds, “I’d like reiterate what Ryan said about the startup material: The brief was very thorough and insightful. And our engagement and conversations with India and the team was very, very useful in expanding those understandings. Our approach was to make this more than just a design exercise and really get to the heart of what the brand was all about and reflect that graphically as opposed to just creating a nice looking package, which is relatively easy to do.
“When you actually capture the meaning of the brand in the graphics,” Farnum says, “that’s when you have a really successful package and collaboration. India and the team really understood the customer and what the brand was really about.”
Addressing Nagy directly, Farnum continues, “India your team also did a great job expressing to us what you weren’t—noting that some of Choice Organic Teas’ competitors look pretentious, snobby or elitist, and Choice is none of those things. Choice is a really great delicious cup of tea, and it’s an easy decision for people to make if they want an organic cup of tea.”
Noting her appreciation of Damen Jackson’s understanding of the brand and why that message is especially relevant now, Nagy notes, “We might be in a [cultural] climate where being less pretentious and what is perceived as too high flaunting resonates. It’s a very modern approach and does speak to a younger audience [to bring in new brand fans].”
Voters agree. One such voter, who wished to remain anonymous, noted that the Simple concept is “modern with a touch of classic.” She described her preference for the concept as outright “love” and noted that it truly embodied the tea drinking experience with both simplicity and cleverness.
Maria Godfrey, a voter hailing from Arizona, appreciated the practicality of the design. “The packaging is easy to read,” she notes. “Without the need to stop to closely examine the packaging, a shopper can easily distinguish between flavors. The design would also make it easy for existing customers to find Choice as Damen Jackson was able to keep key design components from the original design but elevate them in a more modern, but natural look.”
Nagy reports that, although Granum participated in the contest as a blue-sky exercise, the contest has sparked further conversation about a future redesign. At the time of publication, though, the company has no concrete plans for a redesign. “All things evolve, and there is a recognition that this competition has given us some excellent insight into what an updated look would deliver for the brand,” she says. “As a brand and corporation, we would need to do more research and work in general before embarking on a redesign of our products.”
Overall though, Nagy says, Choice Organic Teas is appreciative of the competition. As a reader, designer and design advocate, she was personally excited to participate in a contest the aims to educate the entire industry of consumer-facing brands on the power of design and expose the public to the diversity of strategic and artistic vision represented by the Package Design community.
She encourages other brands to apply for next year’s competition—if they are in the right place as a business. “You have to be willing to and interested in getting feedback in how others perceive your brand,” Nagy says. “Not every brand is in the same place of wanting or needing that. For us, we were already interested in outside feedback and wanted to hear some other creative voices. For a brand that’s looking to engage and see themselves in a new light, it’s a great opportunity, and we feel privileged to have been selected.”
Nagy also has some advice for next year’s agency-competitors. “I would also say that not every agency, like not every individual, knows about everything single subject matter,” Nagy remarks. “Look to the brand for information about the buyers. Know that your client has certain insights, and they can save you time because they’ve already seen the results from a particular approach.
“You also get out of it what you put into it,” Nagy says. “Treating the brand like a real client works. During this competition, some teams worked better than other teams as far as trying to make an effort to reach out to me and really converse and understand certain things, and I think that made for stronger presentations. Don’t work independently and above it all, and then show something at the end. Good client communication and really listening to your clients’ needs is going to put you ahead.
“The Choice team felt very invigorated after our kick-off meeting with Damen Jackson,” she recalls. “They really took the time to care about our brand, so I felt that we were in good experienced hands.”
Lukezic remarks, “Everyone in the office really rallied around the project and was excited about it. Yes, we had a core team of Ryan, Ron, myself and the other designers—Adrienne Nole and Tyler Gobberdiel—but just the whole office, everybody, was interested in what we were working on and gave some great input.”
Farnum adds, “My advice to any agency interested in the Makeover Challenge is, jump into the competition with legitimate goal of doing your best work and be true to your process because that’s what we did. We approached this as we would any other project with a client that had a significant brand need in mind. Give the contest an authentic assignment in your organization. Our whole organization, our entire whole entire agency, was involved in this from finding information from visiting stores, participating in reviews and basically chiming in on what they felt was a good direction, and that approach really helped us, our commitment to this as a project, helped us end up with a really happy result.”
To participate in next year’s contest as an agency-competitor, visit www.packagedesignmag.com/moc2017/designagency
To participate in next year’s contest as a featured brand, visit www.packagedesignmag.com/moc2017/brandowner
Package Design thanks Printpack, a privately held company that believes that cooperation, honesty and integrity result in innovative solutions for brands. Printpack’s sponsorship is a major contributing factor to Package Design’s ability to conduct the contest without the need to charge contest entry fees—evidence of the corporation’s commitment to the design industry and support of design thinking. Package Design would also like to thank Caps57, which has kindly offered its color-accurate prototyping services to our contest competitors for the second year in a row. Prototypes of the concepts of all the 2016 Makeover Challenge competitors will be on display at 2017 Package Design Matters Conference, to be held at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs, FL, on January 24 to 26.