From M&M’s to Manischewitz, JKR has had a hand in overhauls that try to balance reverence for legacy with modernity.

Meet the agency behind some of CPG’s splashiest brand refreshes

A before and after of Manischewitz products following JKR's rebrand. The Kosher foods mainstay wants to appeal to more mainstream consumers. Permission granted by Manischewitz

What do kosher food brand Manischewitz and plant-based pioneer Impossible Foods share in common? Beyond filling specific grocery aisle niches, both marketers recently turned to independent creative agency Jones Knowles Ritchie (JKR) to reinvent themselves to win over wider swaths of consumers.

These refreshes are the latest in a surge coming from the consumer packaged goods category, which is navigating a tricky post-pandemic environment and under pressure to attract cohorts like Gen Z. JKR, which has offices in London, New York and Shanghai and a full-time employee count of 333 as of the end of last year, has aided in overhauls for iconic labels such as Kraft Heinz, Velveeta, Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid and Mars’ M&M’s. The design-led shop experienced double-digit growth in 2023, though it doesn’t publicly share specific revenue figures. 

JKR’s work often focuses on revamped packaging, logos and other aspects of visual identity — branding elements that are increasingly important beyond store shelves as marketers look to weave a cohesive narrative across channels, including through tactics like collaborations. 

“A rebrand alone, especially one that’s going to sit there for the next five to 10 years, will need to come with other brand behaviors,” said Hayley Burnham, group strategy director at JKR. “Rebranding needs to be thought about holistically, and if it’s not, then you’re probably not going to be successful.”

Meet the agency behind some of CPG’s splashiest brand refreshes

Hayley Burnham, group strategy director at JKR Permission granted by Jones Knowles Ritchie  

For some clients, rebranding is about more than a simple aesthetic makeover. Manischewitz, which is over 130 years old, is attempting to expand its appeal to non-Jewish consumers with more colorful packaging that features phonetic spellings of Yiddish terms, such as “Luck-shen” for egg noodles. At the same time, the shakeup timed to Passover is angling for younger Jewish shoppers who have gravitated away from the brand. Impossible Foods is embracing a more carnivorous aesthetic, with deep-red packaging emphasizing the “craveability of meat.” The shift comes as the plant-based category tries to break out of a sales slump.  

Marketing Dive spoke with JKR’s Burnham about what’s driving the rebranding craze among CPGs — and what marketers mulling a pivot should avoid. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

MARKETING DIVE: It’s interesting that a culturally specific brand like Manischewitz is trying to break out into the mainstream. How did that relationship form? 

HAYLEY BURNHAM: Manischewitz came to us with a business opportunity. They’re a brand that is beloved by many consumers who have eaten their products their whole lives, their family has done the same for generations. But the audience was very specifically people who wanted to solely eat kosher foods. The culture around that was changing. There are many people outside of that specific community who are also interested in eating Jewish food. The opportunity was never about moving away from the core audience, but bringing in a broader consumer and also future-proofing [Manischewitz] for the next 20, 30, 50 years ahead. 

They were interested in [JKR] for a few things: One was us having reverence for evolving brands in a way that feels modern, but also respectful of what has made that brand distinctive. And then I think they were interested in the fact that we are experts in packaging but also can think outside of packaging and create a whole new world for the brand. 

There’s been a wave of legacy CPGs taking a look in the mirror and wanting a new look or vibe. Have you noticed an uptick in client demand from the category? 

BURNHAM: One hundred percent. Kraft Heinz is one of our biggest clients, 2020 was the year of the rebrand for Kraft Heinz. That was partly them restructuring as a business and thinking about creating brands, not just products. We’re working with the likes of Coca-Cola, AB InBev and Diageo, a lot of these CPG brands with a mass audience. 

In some ways, it’s about modernizing and sometimes that is the brief. Almost more so, it’s about how you maximize iconicity, maximize relevance and longevity and perceptions of brand quality and brand love. The reason for that shift is often because private label is getting better than ever. Direct-to-consumer brands are shifting the expectations of what consumers think in terms of quality, in terms of health and in terms of modernity. 

With Manischewitz, it’s more colorful, it’s busier versus than some of the rebrands happening a decade ago. What are other themes you see recurring with brands wanting to reclaim icon status now? 

BURNHAM: We talk about “blanding” or the millennial aesthetic. When those first DTC brands came out, it was the antithesis of these in-your-face, often unhealthy brands. It felt very intentional and safe. That was nice and needed and fine until everyone started doing it, and then it felt like it was meaningless. In some ways, you could say there’s a maximalist thing happening. But I think, at least at JKR, we talk less about a blanket approach that isn’t “blanding” and more about trying to find what is distinctive about a brand. We get to the heart of what is most interesting, most unique and most relevant and then define that through what we call a brand behavior idea. Then you bring that to life across everything the brand does. That is, in part, understanding what assets are distinctive and evolving those while making the most of them.  

How have changing media consumption habits informed the work you do?  

BURNHAM: We consider a brand’s packaging as one touchpoint along an entire consumer journey. What drives preference or loyalty is consumers experiencing your brand in a cohesive way, in every way they come into contact with your brand. That doesn’t mean that all of that needs to say exactly the same thing or that there’s no room for flexibility. That would be boring. Thinking about your brand in a holistic way, there’s more evidence of that being what drives effectiveness more than just comms alone. So you’re seeing budgets come out of communications and coming more into branding, and you’re also seeing agencies collaborate more.

We did the Velveeta rebrand a few years ago and that was such a collaboration between the advertising, branding and insight agencies. It was us inspiring each other. When the brand came out into the world, what you were seeing online, in a TV ad and in packaging felt like one brand that had reintroduced itself, all in the same way. 

Another recent JKR initiative is Impossible Foods. We’ve spoken about legacy companies, but that is a disruptor that feels like it’s still trying to figure out its positioning. 

BURNHAM: The business problem presented to us and what we were trying to solve through the work was that Impossible is a mission-driven company. The founder [Patrick O. Brown] had an ambition to displace animal agriculture and play a meaningful role in creating a sustainable planet. The idea of that has been there from the beginning. They had a mission to change meat lovers into plant-based meat lovers, they had this amazing product and, performance-wise, they were doing better than the rest of the category. But they weren’t doing as well as they could. 

Peter McGuinness joined the company as CEO because he could see all of those amazing facts, but the way the brand was showing up would never tell you that. I remember reading about this being the first plant-based burger for meat lovers years ago, but everything else the brand was doing was never saying that. The work for that wasn’t just about a new identity, our work was to help them figure out what their purpose was and how to articulate it. If you tell people that you’re there to save the planet and displace the animal agriculture industry, no one’s going to be interested in buying. We did a lot of work to understand what really matters to meat lovers and the culture and how deeply tied it is to people’s identity. 

It feels like a risk as well. It’s a little bit of playing to both sides of the aisle: vegetarians and meat lovers who have, in some cases, rejected plant-based trends.

BURNHAM: We did testing with a lot of benchmarks, with purchase intent as part of that. We landed on an option that had a rigor of testing behind it with both vegetarians and flexitarians and meat eaters. We kept certain parts of their identity similar, like the logo and its positioning. In terms of seeing that on shelf, that won’t change. Things on packaging like health-focused statistics and claims, we made them really prominent. 

A lot of these companies want to modernize, but the chase to jump on what’s new doesn’t always pan out. Is there anything you recommend clients against doing?  

BURNHAM: Rebranding to modernize or to follow trends instead of rebranding to maximize your distinctiveness. If you’re starting from that and you’re not building into the process the opportunity to reflect to the world what your consumers want and what makes you special, then the chances are that you’ll end up being another bland brand. People talk about the Tropicana example all of the time. 

Especially when it comes to CPG, rebranding is telling a different message and it’s also helping people navigate the shelf. They’re two things that need to be thought about simultaneously but almost separately. When you think about the navigation, what are the parts of your packaging that people recognize? If you’re not understanding that, it’s easy to rebrand and people can’t find you.

Often, a rebrand doesn’t necessarily mean that a company is totally shifting its strategy. It might just mean that a company has a strategy that they believe in, but that strategy isn’t reflected in how the brand is showing up. When you rebrand, you’re telling consumers something new. There’s a new promise. 

Any other advice you’d share?

BURNHAM: One other piece of advice is how you think about testing. Testing, when done well, can be an amazing strength. It enables you to get clear on what consumers want. How you interpret results becomes so important. You often see brave and exciting work get lost at the moment of testing because people are expecting new designs to be more successful than is realistic. They hear one bad comment or take the learnings of testing too literally when really it’s about digging beneath that and building and refining.  

  • Manischewitz rebrands to extend appeal beyond kosher aisle

    Meet the agency behind some of CPG’s splashiest brand refreshes

    Marketing Dive

  • Impossible Foods has always claimed to bleed red, now its label will By Elizabeth Flood • March 14, 2024

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