Velvet Ice cream focuses on telling its story

When Velvet Ice Cream decided to re-brand, its greatest challenge was holding on to the heritage while evolving to appeal to a more youthful audience. It proved to be a delicate balance.

June 24, 2013
Velvet ice cream inbody
The new package design is fresher and gives Velvet Ice Cream a stronger presence on retail shelves. In a nod to the company’s heritage, the package depicts Ye Olde Mill, a historic grist mill attached to the factory where Velvet makes its products.

At one time or another, any successful dairy business will ask, “Is it time to change our packaging? Should we consider revising our brand?”

For our nearly 100-year-old company, that time came a year ago. But it didn’t come without plenty of soul searching and long, thoughtful discussion. We included all members of the family who work or have worked at the company. We also included all key members of our leadership and marketing teams.

As a fourth-generation ice cream maker, our greatest challenge would be to hold on to the rich heritage of Velvet Ice Cream, while evolving the brand to appeal to a more youthful audience. There’s a delicate balance between those two universes. We’re stewards of a brand that has a large following of incredibly loyal customers. Our brand is their brand. And our story is part of theirs. Many of our customers grew up with Velvet Ice Cream and have been enjoying and supporting it for generations. That’s important to keep in mind. Yet we have to grow our brand and appeal to younger families, who are the next generation of Velvet customers.

We determined that rather than reinventing Velvet, our focus should be on telling our story. What makes Velvet, Velvet? We asked ourselves how we could best share that narrative with our customers.

Part of that story is Ye Olde Mill, a historic grist mill attached to the factory where we produce our ice cream. The mill welcomes 150,000 visitors each year.

We engaged 3TC Design, Cincinnati, a brand design firm that works with some of the biggest consumer food brands. The agency spent weeks immersing itself in our brand, as well as getting to know the entire category. They needed to fully understand dairy foods and ice cream products in order to help us define where Velvet might capitalize on white space within the category. They experienced Ye Olde Mill and Velvet firsthand.

An audit included establishing the essence of our brand. We worked to identify which elements truly hold the visual equity for Velvet Ice Cream. Those visual elements include the mill and images of our product. They also include our familiar logo. We discovered that we couldn’t entirely redesign the logo, but instead would keep its core sensibility, while refreshing it.

The end result was several design possibilities that could cross multiple platforms: packaging, online, point-of-sale, ads and others. As we neared completion, we discussed which of the multiple options would ultimately become part of our rebranding. That was among the most exciting parts of the process: seeing the many different ways our brand could evolve and come to life.

Sharing the process with our family and team meant opinions would differ on how far to push the brand into a more contemporary space, rather than just updating the existing look. In the end, after many debates, meetings and inspired conversations, we landed on the right mix of heritage and new that would give Velvet stronger market presence.

These tips can help any company considering a rebranding or repackaging effort:

  • Consider multiple opinions. Assemble a diverse team of the right people to process all the differing points of view into a winning concept.
  • Carefully consider your goals. Really know why you want to change. To whom do you want to appeal? Outline your reasons for considering change.
  • Use your goals to set guardrails prior to design. They help keep everyone on track.
  • In order to truly grow, be willing to push the brand outside your comfort zone.
  • Be open to the process. Every step has a purpose, even if you don’t see it right away.

Rebranding is not an easy road, but it can be highly rewarding — both economically and spiritually  — when it all comes together.   

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