Brand of the moment: Chobani

It’s a fairly rare occasion when a market-leading FMCG brand makes a truly bold move. Chobani has made a few over the years: that time it gave away 10% of its shares to its 2000 employees. Or in 2016, when it started an incubator for purpose-driven food startups. Its recent rebrand was also not the typical let’s-only-tweak-it-otherwise-our-investors-won’t-like-it rebrand.

In so many rebrand projects clients want to retain some of the characteristics of the old brand identity. That’s somewhat understandable: they’ve spent years building recognition of brand assets, so why throw them out the window? Change feels uncomfortable, risky. Sometimes brands would rather stick with an inferior (seemingly safe) status quo.

Kudos then to Chobani, the American greek yoghurt pioneer. Its new brand identity is a radical departure from its previously somewhat “cold” face that the brand rose to fame with. Gone are the pristine, shiny snow-white packaging and sharp-angled word mark. The new identity features softer, more natural colours.

Before and after

A smooth word mark evokes the creaminess of the product; its lowercase letters make the brand feel friendly and down-to-earth. The in-house team responsible for the rebrand went to town on illustrations, too. There are a few different illustration styles with the core range using watercolour drawings. Chobani’s Creative Officer Leland Maschmeyer explains that the fruit illustrations intend to show “imperfections in our brand so it feels more real” (see Adweek).

The new photography is full of colour and energy, sunlight and deep shadows, transporting you back to that hot summer afternoon twenty years ago. Overall, the new brand has a strong retro vibe with a good dollop of nostalgia telling stories of “once upon a time”. The “fighting for happily ever after” video encapsulates this ethos:

Fighting for happily ever after

I visited a Chobani cafe on a trip to New York and can (somewhat embarrassingly) say that it actually expanded my “yoghurt horizon”. You can add different fresh toppings to your yoghurt, such as orange, nuts, dark chocolate and mint — trust me, it’s phenomenal. More and more brands are trying to create immersive experiences, often in the format of short-lived pop-ups. There are Kitkat shops and Magnum bars. Marmite, Knorr and Hellmann’s recently hosted a pop-up cafe in London. Chobani’s commitment is longer term: it uses its cafes as a test kitchen and “inspiration centre”, showing how yoghurt can be used more broadly in cooking.

It’s great to see a challenger brand maintain its energy and distinctive point of view, even after over ten years in the game. Chobani surpassed Yoplait to become the second-largest yogurt brand in the US last year. We’re curious what’s in store for Chobani next; rumours are the brand is planning to expand into other categories.