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Coffee, Juice, Soda…or Reorient?

If you’ve never realized just how limited our non-alcoholic beverage choices are, it’s probably because you’ve never tried to market one of your own. There’s tea/coffee, juice, soda, and then that whole line of speed-in-a-can products among which Red Bull is king.

  • branding
  • email marketing
  • website
  • packaging

And if your offering doesn’t happen to fall into any of these five categories, how exactly do you sell it?

That was Jess Ng’s dilemma when she began making plans to unleash her Reorient line of tonics – crafted from herbs, flowers and fruits – on a thirsty, health-conscious public. They don’t really fit in the juice section. And though they provide health benefits, they aren’t really vitamin supplements, either.

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Reorienting Yourself in the Marketplace
Therein lay the challenge for Noise 13, the 10-person San Francisco branding and design firm tasked with positioning Ng’s baby. All she had was a logo and a core of Reorient devotees who she’d won over by delivering bottles of the elixir door to door. What she needed was branding, packaging, and a website that deftly explained how a simple tonic could nourish your body, boost your metabolism, and leave your skin with a warm glow. And why on earth you should be paying $55 for a set of 4 tonics for the privilege.

“Before we start on anything design wise, we work on the brand strategy,” says Noise 13’s Claire Saccoccini, project manager for the Reorient campaign. Strategists and designers peppered Ng with dozens of questions about her product, its benefits, and the people most likely to pony up the dough to drink it.

After about two months of meetings, the design team discovered that there was, in fact, a place where the Reorient tonics belonged: health spas and retreats. “So the packaging needed to be beautiful and refined enough to fit in with those other types of products on the shelves,” says Christine Lee, the senior designer on the project.

Noise 13 created a strategy, as well as print mood boards and a private Pinterest board to get the creative juices (or herbal tonics) flowing. “That was a great place for us to dump everything we were inspired by, whether it was illustration or color,” says Lee.

This step was particularly important since Noise 13 would be incorporating different types of media in their campaign. “If you don’t establish a foundation for your messaging and your imagery, then it creates a lot more work and a lot of mixed messaging to your target audience,” she explains.

The brand strategy also makes the transition to any new medium much more seamless. “If [Ng] wants to do a brochure or any other print collateral, we wanted to make sure that all of the messaging, typography and illustration is clear so she has a roadmap to do that.”

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Sophisticated Price Means Sophisticated Design
With the strategy clear, designing began in earnest. First up was the tonic packaging. Ng had already decided upon straight, reusable bottles without a narrow spout. Quite simply, Ng didn’t want people to associate her offerings with juices and other beverages. Instead, she was drawn to perfumes and cosmetic brands whose packaging relied heavily on illustration.

“She liked the feminine, delicate, precious feel of it, so from there it was a matter of giving her something that was unique to the Reorient brand and incorporating the Asian influence,” says Lee.

Chinese Suzhou embroidery had the feel that they were looking for, so they included the same types of fine parallel lines found in that technique. They also were inspired by vintage botanical textbook drawings to help them capture the delicate nature of a plant that was generic enough to be featured on all of the bottles, and not associated with any one flavor.

Again, at $55 for a set of 4 tonics, the packaging also had to reflect a certain level of sophistication that would appeal to someone who understands that beauty and health come at a price. That was achieved through very delicate illustration, minimal typography, and a heavy reliance on black and white.

Since the tonics themselves come in a range of bright colors, Noise 13 also wanted to let their natural beauty shine through. “With a clear package we needed to make sure that whatever graphics we were putting on the bottle didn’t compete with the brews,” says Lee.

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Considering that the beverages would not have a store presence, particular attention had to be paid to coming up with the perfect website. Noise 13 wanted it to be consistent with the packaging, but they didn’t want the bottles to be overwhelmed by the site’s other visual elements.

Ultimately, they created a clean, simple online showroom that features large, gorgeous photographs of the tonics, as well as their ingredients; they purposely held back on illustration. “We wanted to reserve the large illustration for the package and then use it in moderation on the website,” says Lee. That way the package creates the greater impact. From branding to packaging to Web design, the project took about six months to complete, with the site going live in August 2013.

At present, Ng sells the tonics online with hopes of eventually expanding into select spas and resorts. Now that Noise 13 has successfully helped her to position the product, she stands a much better chance of doing that. “Coffee, juice, soda…or Reorient?”

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Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

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