Folk Art and Fairy Dust: How Chobani Hopes to Grow Its Brand

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Credit: Chobani

Chobani is eager to modernize the U.S. yogurt category with a plan inspired by 19th-century folk artists.

The country's leading yogurt brand is undertaking a redesign intended to make it stand out in a space that has become a bit boring, according to its two main creative minds. It's also expanding its wellness mission and looking to expand into new categories.

Peter McGuinness, Chobani's chief marketing and commercial officer, says the yogurt aisle is a "sea of sameness" that includes similar-looking packaging and often more than a dozen types of strawberry or blueberry yogurt. So, starting Tuesday, he and Chief Creative Officer Leland Maschmeyer are introducing a new wordmark and packaging, plus updated marketing that will ramp up in early 2018.

Inspiration for the repackaging came from 19th-century American folk art, particularly quilt work from the Mid-Atlantic region, said Maschmeyer, who says "We always tried to make all the packaging feel like someone who lived in the land of happily ever after made it."

Chobani is doing away with photography like the farm-to-table rustic wooden imagery it and others have used for years and will instead use oil, watercolor and other artwork. "Things are going to feel more enchanting, they're going to feel more heightened, they're going to feel truly like they're kind of sprinkled in fairy dust," says Maschmeyer.

The U.S. yogurt industry isn't exactly the place of fairy tales. It's a tough category where some shoppers stick with a brand they trust; others shop around based on sale prices; and plenty of people ignore the category altogether. The U.S. per capita yogurt consumption trails that of Europe.

Credit: Chobani

McGuinness says Chobani plans to spend 30 percent more on marketing in 2018, including a 50 percent increase in the first half of the year.

"You're going to see us do category campaigns around the nutrient density of yogurt, not about price, not about bowel movements, not about sweepstakes," McGuinness said of the next six to eight months, nodding to how he perceives rivals' campaigns.

Chobani will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its national rollout with a major push in February while looking ahead to its next decade. New ads include two 15-second spots, one focused on Chobani Flip and one focused on the fruit on the bottom line of Greek yogurt, which will run online and in social.

The new look, meant to pop more than the current uppercase black lettering, will hit Chobani's New York City cafe in January. It was largely the work of the in-house creative team, with help from Berton Hasebe and Commercial Type on the typeface design and from Stink on the website's new look.

Chobani, which as a private company doesn't release full results, says it is seeing revenue grow at a double-digit percentage rate this year and that last year sales surpassed $1.5 billion. According to an estimate by Euromonitor International, Chobani's sales should exceed $1.84 billion this year. While competitor Groupe Danone says it has gained market share in the U.S., General Mills has long been struggling despite some early success with its new glass-jarred Oui by Yoplait line. Chobani is the leading brand with a 21 percent share of the U.S. yogurt market followed by Groupe Danone's Dannon with 18.9 percent, General Mills' Yoplait with 13.9 percent, Danone's Activia with 5.8 percent and Fage with 5.6 percent, according to Euromonitor.

Chobani used to say it was a "total yogurt company." It now wants to be seen as "a food-focused wellness company" that uses food as "a force of good." The new look and mission begin to tee up how the brand could grow beyond its current category, said McGuinness, adding, 'this is definitely some foreshadowing." He declined further details.

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