Red Barn Coffee Roasters
A Rebrand Case Study; From 7 grocery stores to 350
I’ve had the upmost privilege of working with Red Barn over the past few years — and my what a ride it’s been! Specifically, I can’t believe how much “stuff” we’ve created. And now, it’s out there in the real wide world of food. Putting this piece together has been very rewarding for me — reminiscing on my first conversation with Red Barn and all that has happened since. Given that I’ve always found a lot of value in getting a peek behind the curtain, this write-up is primarily targeted at designers (or! potential clients). I say this as a preface and a warning. If you’re not a designer (or client!) — maybe you’ll like the pictures :) I hope you enjoy!
90% of photos taken by my dear-friend and incredibly skilled photographer Chris Shane.
Red Barn’s Growth
Before we jump into the process, I think looking the story through the lens of results could potentially make the read more interesting.
As with any project, what makes me most happy is when the client is happy. They feel like we created something truly authentic to their unique story. Something that they can be proud to own.
Behind collective happiness, performance metrics make me happy. Fortunately for all of us, this rebrand has been well worth the investment!
“The true test of branding/product design for us was its reception by Red Barn’s existing customer base and key decision makers in grocery store management. The new branding has been universally lauded by our regulars and Adam’s branding has kicked down doors for Red Barn that could not have been opened otherwise.” — Michael Flaherty, Red Barn Director of Business Development
Most notably, since the rebrand, Red Barn has increased their grocery store sales from 7 to 350 locations!
That First Phone Call
I was first officially introduced to Red Barn when Michael Flaherty, Director of Business Development, reached out in search of can label design for Red Barn’s nitrogen infused cold brew. Michael is a highly intelligent and impressive guy. Regardless of the project details, I knew that I wanted the opportunity to work with him.
Doing my pre-first phone call research and snooping around the Red Barn website — I was immediately curious if they were interested in more. I knew a face lift and a rebrand — a unified, consistent identity — would be beneficial to the 20+ year old company.
The Story of Red Barn
Red Barn Coffee Roasters was born in a real, red barn in the backyard of Mark and Lisa Verrochi in Hopkinton, MA in the winter of 1997. While living in the Pacific Northwest, Mark, a retired Navy Special Operations Officer, and Lisa, a Registered Nurse, were inspired by the booming speciality coffee and espresso scene. After returning to New England, the entrepreneurial couple saw an opportunity to start their own specialty coffee business.
With 5 company-owned cafes, six licensed cafes, and a few dozen wholesale customers, Red Barn built up an exceptional presence in the New England coffee scene.
Existing Brand Assets at Project Launch
Rebranding; An Opportunity
Not only did I see a rebrand as an opportunity for Red Barn to reach new markets and sell more coffee, but I also saw it as somewhat of a necessity for me. In order to do my due diligence and design a new product, I needed to be confident that this project was setting Red Barn up for future branding success and not perpetuating brand disjointedness. The team at Red Barn was well aware that their brand identity was scattered and no real rules were set in place. They had a varying number of “primary logos” that held no hierarchy. The circle logo held just as much weight as the rectangle logo as did the logo were “Red Barn” arched upwards and the logo where “Red Barn” arched downwards.
I’m not making this up, you guys! See, a direct quote from Michael below.
“I cannot speak highly enough about our experience working with Adam…We definitely did not make it easy on him along the way, opting to start with a new product design before jumping into a full rebrand. Adam handled this backward approach seamlessly, with minimal required changes to the product design after the rebranding.” — Michael Flaherty
Born in the Barn
After the 18 wheeler dumped the bags of beans in the driveway, Mark would shuttle the big burlap bags over the lawn and into the barn — repeating the process even in the winter, first, shoveling a 100yd path.
“Make Red Barn ‘Cool’ ”
So, Michael, Mark, Lisa and I had a wonderful first conversation and I was eager to get started on the can — with the promise that if this project went well, there would be more work in store.
Our primary goal was to “make Red Barn cool.” We were working towards garnering a new audience, while simultaneously not offending the massive following that Red Barn has proliferated over the years. It was essential that we capture the essence of the owner’s: hardworking, perseverant, loving and genuine. We also needed to convey the history of the brand. And, of course, creating something new and fresh.
The Nitro Can
To remind you, at this point in our story, the can was the only project. The rebrand, of messaging, color, logos, assets, website, etc., were not yet on the table.
“Adam’s process starts with an exploration of the company history, people, culture and physical locations. He gained complete trust from ownership during this phase due to his exhaustive methods, attention to detail, and commitment to staying true to who/what Red Barn aspires to be. He proved to be as exhaustive in his design exploration as well; We knew that if Adam was presenting 4 options, he had actually designed 100 options. This dedication to his craft reveals itself in every detail of his designs.” — Michael Flaherty
The result of our first can design was quite true to what we have today, barring the “logo” at top was the result of a very stripped down and simplified version of the logo at the time.
Now Let’s Rebrand
We did it! The can was very well-received (phew!) and opened the door for a full rebrand of the company. The Red Barn team is the best ever and graciously provided me with plenty of testimonial material. I’m not sure why I’m even writing — I should just use all of their words.
“Adam entered our company at a time when there was a growing disconnect between our existing branding/messaging and the innovative products and projects that were quickly approaching. Red Barn needed to update its branding for the first time in 20 years (since the company was founded) and ownership, understandably, had reservations and apprehension about the rebranding process.
Adam masterfully navigated this delicate situation and delivered logo/product design that truly honors Red Barn’s history and tradition, while setting Red Barn up for future success.” — Mark Verrochi, Red Barn co-founder
Branding Step 1: Story and Voice
For the rebrand, we first narrowed down the story, the voice and the positioning. The strategy that set us up to make the pretty things. Well, the pretty things that are painstakingly thought out to the last and smallest of details.
Red Barn Brand Pillars
I worked through many iterations with the team to nail down the final wording of the company’s essence and brand pillars. Below are excerpts from The Official Red Barn Coffee Roaster’s Brand Bible.
Each pillar is accompanied and solidified with a quote from a New England poet/author.
Brand Pillar 1: Exploration
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Pioneers from the beginning, Red Barn has always taken the road less traveled. This core value strongly embodies the attitude of perseverance. Facing many roadblocks and obstacles in the early years, Mark and Lisa have continued to create and open new doors after others have been closed.
The consumer not only wants to personally connect to the creators of the coffee, but they also wish to “explore” the coffee world in new and exciting ways. The consumer knows that they can rely on Red Barn to be at the forefront of the coffee industry. Lastly, here we pay homage to the original Red Barn tagline— Experience the World in a Cup.
Brand Pillar 2: Expertise
“In character, in manner, in style, in all things — the supreme excellence is simplicity.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Red Barn fully masters the art of roasting coffee. The craft is unparalleled. With a focus on simplicity, Red Barn is synonymous with excellence.
As with the Longfellow quote, Mark and Lisa are not about frills. This goes back to the company’s origin as an espresso cart. Originally with no flavors. No other forms. “Espresso is the best. We’re doing espresso.”
People who want expert quality will seek out Red Barn.
Brand Pillar 3: Education
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth” — Henry David Thoreau
Very interested in study, craft and mastery, Red Barn constantly strives to learn. And improve. Mark and Lisa did not attempt to start a business on the East Coast to make a buck. They weren’t interested in franchising a Dunkin’ Donuts — one of the only coffee options at the time. They saw mastery in the West Coast espresso brewing.
They wanted to learn and they wanted to share.
Red Barn has a knack to teach. To share. To give. Education continues to be a big component of the brand — educating staff, educating loyal fans and educating new customers.
Red Barn will continue to attract those eager to learn.
Branding Step 2: First Round of Logos
Once we had the strategy, I explored a plethora of visual ideas for logos and marks.
The final logo in its simplest black and white format below. The barn from the original logo was painted by Lisa’s mother. Paying homage, we felt it was appropriate if I drew the barn — from a straight on perspective. Choosing to include the left “wing” of the barn (absent in the original logo) signifies the company’s literal growth into a new chapter. The typography draws inspiration from the original logo as well as coffee stamps on burlap bags and boxes.
Branding Step 3: Bag Packaging
Next up, came new bean bag packaging. Not a bean bag that you sit on in a hip cool-guy office, but a package for the coffee beans.
Of course, the process included many iterations. Like with the cans, I find it helpful for me and the client to see mockups during this phase. We want to get a true sense of what will be our final product.
The Final Bag
We created a modular system — providing an economical advantage to Red Barn. One bag designed along with stickers for every flavor — denoting taste profiles and specific coffee characteristics.
Branding Step 4: New Website
After the bag packaging, we added new Nitro flavors and updated the website.
Old Site on Left, New Site on Right
I’m happy to say, I’m continuing to work with Red Barn! We recently created packaging for two new Nitro flavors. And have some wonderful new projects in the works.