Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing our internal team regarding The J. M. Smucker Co. corporate identity strategy and creative process. This team is full of class, and they worked hard to get results for our long-standing client. Read on for the insider perspective on the launch of some of CBX’s most recent work.
Q. Tell me about the approach we took on the identity project.
Satoru: This started as a request for an evolutionary change of The J.M. Smucker Company identity, with significant respect for their heritage and history. But as we got into it, the leadership team at Smucker encouraged us to push it further to really acknowledge that they were so much more than a jams and jellies company.
Katherine: A big part of the process was ensuring the work truly represented the Smucker culture. As a community and a company, they take care of each other—and the company has been part of the Orrville community for years. They contribute actively to local charities and are true partners in the community. People who work there really have an amazing story to tell; that it is a great place to work. It was important that this feeling and culture come through in the corporate identity.
Cynthia: The internal audience was important, so we talked to a range of employees—new, on-the-job employees and executive leaders, as well as seasoned veterans of Smucker—from all areas of the company. With a corporate identity, we also had to take into consideration that Smucker is a global business that has other audiences and influences: retailers, institutions, and charitable organizations, just to name a few. In addition, we surveyed another crucial group, prospective employees from NYU Stern School of Business. The students answered a short questionnaire about the former logo, and the responses were pretty eye-opening. Everything from “It’s a jams & jellies company, small and limited” to “It’s a company stuck in the past, not very progressive.” It just wasn’t the impression we wanted to give them about the company.
Q. Give us your take on the “Behind the Scenes” creative development process internally at CBX.
Tim: So, my background, even before CBX, is in corporate identity design, and it has always been a passion of mine and a discipline that I love to be a part of. When you get the email that you’re going to the kickoff for The J.M. Smucker Company corporate identity redesign, that’s a pretty exciting moment!
Satoru: The strawberries were a big deal because that is the heritage and that is the origin of the Smucker brand. It started with Jerome Smucker, Mark Smucker’s, great-great grandfather. And for us, it was a challenge of how do you look at strawberries differently? So, we deconstructed the current mark, and we started to look at them in isolation to try to understand the meaning behind these elements.
Lizzie: The idea of growth hit me hard from the brief. They wanted to be something new, ensuring a distinction from the jams and jellies brand and the corporate brand. But the main thing was to maintain their bright spirit and create something that felt very, very different.
Chris: We knew that they wanted to ground themselves in the long-standing heritage of the company while also looking to the innovation and growth that have occurred over the past 15 years to drive the logo design. We started by stripping the old logo down to its simplest form—The J.M. Smucker Company typography and a single red strawberry. We modernized and simplified. The J.M. Smucker Company became THE J.M. SMUCKER CO. and the strawberry transformed into a red shape that grounds the symbol and becomes the focal point of the mark. From there we looked at what the company has become. The green shape (or the “Spark”) represents the company’s fresh and innovative thinking, while the movement and energy of the rest of the mark embodies the company’s growth, diversity of brands, creativity, and spirited culture. Overall, the vibrancy of the colors, the movement, and the transformational qualities of this new mark represent what The J.M. Smucker Co. has been, is now, and will be.
Rick: It was Lizzie Kelner who posted the original design on the wall in the design explore. It was a great lesson: if the design stays on the wall, and it makes it through all of the work-in-progress creative reviews, you know you have a winner!
Q. What were the biggest opportunities or pushes during the process?
Chris: The biggest grapple was how much do we push the design explore; how far out from current do we go? When Smucker chose a short list of design options, they represented a complete departure from where they were previously. It was really inspiring to know that we could manifest such a big change in such a large organization.
Satoru: We left no stone unturned. As with most corporate identity programs, you really have to do the due diligence of going through the exercise, and then looking at every element in fine detail. We pushed our thinking, and we pulled everything apart and looked at the color palette, patterns, fonts, icons, and even the manner in which the wordmark was treated.
Cynthia: It is such a great group of people to work with; an incredible partnership along the way: authentic, true, kind, respectful, and everything worked—it just clicked. This was a great experience because Smucker lives and breathes the values of the business, and that made it easy.
Q. What advice do you have for other designers, marketers, or agency peeps?
Tim: This is the best part of my job. And, it’s so awesome to see these things come to life. And not only come to life but also inspire feedback from our clients—their excitement is contagious. And it’s awesome to be a part of that.
Lizzie: Stay eager. It’s easy to get jaded with work, especially when half of our job can be creating stuff that goes nowhere. Remember to enjoy the making, the design process, and the thinking. That process will eventually reveal something awesome. And, as long as you love creating the work and doing what you do, something cool will happen.
Katherine: There is a lot of power in the “this is it” moment when a design is hung on the wall. At CBX, we have those moments often, and there is power in trusting your instincts. When something is universally positively received across the team and key stakeholders, it’s a pretty cool, powerful thing.
Q. What was the most memorable moment of the project?
Satoru: I think the moment that Lizzie Kelner, the designer, put that design up on the wall, everyone was kind of like, oh, wow, look at that. And it made us all smile; it made us all pause. But most importantly, we saw so much potential and so many possibilities in that mark.
Tim: So, Lizzie pinned this design up on the wall. And it was one of those things where everyone kind of just stands back, and they’re like, WOW. It was one of those moments when everyone thought: This is awesome! I think this one is a winner. We just kind of knew it. It was a really cool moment, for all of us internally and then to know that the Smucker team felt the same way! We were all high fives because it was super, super cool to think that they were on board with something that felt so different and modern.
Rick: The Smucker Identity team had many memorable moments. They collaborated, consulted, iterated, and iterated some more. The work sessions were always productive because the team’s thought, preparation, and insight were world-class. This was hard work. It is a great example of what we do at CBX, and how we do it. Thank you for the opportunity to shape your company’s brand, The J.M. Smucker Co. It was an honor.