[Call for Entries: The HOW Logo Design Awards]
Editor’s Note: The following case study is excerpted from LogoLounge 9.
When Matt Schnarr, Dan Tzotzis and Adam Deremo of Ontario, Canada, wanted to launch a new kind of product, they turned to the branding experts at Tether in Seattle to help them get it off the ground. Their product, Awake, is caffeinated chocolate—each bar contains the equivalent of a cup of coffee. “We loved the product, and everybody here wanted some,” says Stanley Hainsworth, Tether’s chief creative officer.
Tether did more than take them on as a client—they became an equity partner in exchange for the branding, packaging and promotion of Awake. What better way to ensure a product gets the best brand representation than being part owner of the product? Hainsworth and his new partners agreed that the branding should be approachable and gender neutral, unlike testosterone-fueled energy drink brands. It also needed to live in the chocolate aisle.
When the founders of Awake initially approached Tether to help with branding, they had this prototype packaging. Hainsworth looked at it and asked them where they wanted to sell this. “They said in the chocolate aisle, but their package looked like an energy drink,” he says. So the Tether team scratched this concept and started over.
Tether design director, Ryan Meline, explored three different logo directions, but he was most excited about one in particular. “I asked myself the somewhat cliché question: If Awake were an animal, what would it be? The owl was such a fitting icon. The initial sketches were intentionally loose and meant to capture some of the fun of the category. We wanted a less polished aesthetic, not typical of what you find in the candy aisle,” he notes.
“The other directions we proposed were a little more expected, promoting high-energy, but we felt the owl was the best direction,” Hainsworth notes. “We wanted to be disruptive in the marketplace, so we talked about other successful companies with iconic logos, like Nike and Apple. Then we showed them how useful this icon would be at retail, and how it would look on merchandise. We demonstrated how we could build a successful brand personality around the owl.” Nevil, as the owl was lovingly named by the Tether team, was an immediate hit with the partners.
The “Nevilution,” as it’s regarded in-house, went from sketchbook to digital refinements pretty quickly. “Part of the charm of this concept is that nothing was overthought or too refined,” says Meline. The bright color palette was chosen to contrast against the chocolatey brown wrapper and pop off the shelf. “Knowing we would be printing with a limited number of colors, we simplified the palette and created a visual link between the eyes and the logotype. These glowing eyes are arresting on the shelf, especially on the larger bags,” he explains.
“Awake Chocolate wanted to zig where other chocolate companies were zagging,
and for that reason the owl was our recommended concept.” —Ryan Melanie
Besides the typical challenges associated with launching a new brand, the team had to move at an exceptional pace because the Awake founders were invited to appear on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, the Canadian equivalent of Shark Tank, where entrepreneurs present their products to a panel of investors on television in hopes of getting someone to back it. Tether quickly designed prototype packaging, T-shirts and presentation materials for the event. Hainsworth took part in the televised presentation, which happily concluded with a bidding war between the investors—they all wanted a piece of Awake.
“The show allowed us to launch with a built-in infomercial shown to nearly two million people,” recalls partner Matt Schnarr. “It has become part of our brand backstory, and it’s certainly a main topic of conversation with Canadians familiar with our product.”
Tether designers worked up these concepts for Awake, along with promotion materials, but they had a favorite in mind. Hainsworth says, “What’s better to stand for Awake than an owl?”
Awake is, not surprisingly, the top chocolate bar on college campuses, and Nevil is more popular than ever, boasting more than ten thousand Twitter followers, and forty-six thousand “likes” on Facebook. “The response to Nevil has been owl-standing!” Schnarr says. “He is a game changer for our business and industry. Unlike traditional packaged goods companies, where consumers receive communication from corporate affairs or customer service in a very sterile environment, Nevil allows us to create a two-way dialogue in a very fun and friendly manner.”
This simple character has taken on a life of his own, inserting himself into conversations on popular culture, mixing with celebrities and fans, and proving he’s much more than a logo.
Meline did several variations of Nevil the owl. The “Nevilution” progressed quickly, through several iterations, then into color development. A simple, bright palette was chosen to contrast the brown wrapper.
The different Awake flavors dictate the color of Nevil on the packaging, although his eyes never change. In-store end caps also prominently feature Nevil.
After the product launch, Nevil took on a life of his own. He visits college campuses and has a profound Twitter following.