Hills Bros. Case Study

Over the course of several months, The Goldstein Group used their expertise at restaging some of America’s most beloved heritage brands and worked with the team from MZB to create a new identity for Hills Bros. coffee. The case study that follows is a brief glimpse into the steps that went into creating the new Hills Bros. brand image.

To the right of the image, you will see a legend that calls out the unique Services TGG applied to each part of the project. From Visual Positioning to Research, Package Design to Brand Standards, TGG pulled out all the stops to ensure each step got the treatment it deserved.

1. A&U/Category SWOT: The first steps taken by the TGG team were to dissect MZB’s current Attitudes & Usage research data and analyze various consumer insights on the state of the Hills Bros. brand. During this process, a retail SWOT was performed on the coffee category so as to better understand the leading competitors. When viewed under the lens of the Shelf Sight Sequence™, TGG’s guiding principal, certain opportunities came to light that began to give the project shape and direction.

Services Used: Visual Positioning, Research, Messaging.

2. Historical Review: After the initial A&U/SWOT exploration, the next step was for TGG to visit the brand’s historical archives at the MZB North American headquarters in Virginia. Even for a brand that has been around almost 140 years, the TGG staff was blown away by the sheer volume of assets that had been developed and saved over the years. Materials developed by Norman Rockwell, Ansel Adams, Shirley Temple and plethora of other marketing materials, printing plates, proofs and comps lined the shelves of the MZB archives. Finding images and messages from the past that might potentially resonate with current consumers began as a very daunting task.

Services Used: Visual Positioning, Messaging, Brand Mythos, IP Protection.

3A. Positioning Development; Artisan/Craftsmanship After the Historical Review, TGG presented the brand team with several different camps, or entry points, that they could use to give Hills Bros. its unique voice. There was a wide variety of approaches to choose from, but ultimately 3 separate directions were selected. Each direction came from observations made during the first two steps of the project. The above image represents one of the three Visual Positions developed around the entry point of Artisan/Craftsmanship.

Services Used: Visual Positioning, Brand Mythos.

3B. Positioning Development; San Francisco/Origins: The second of the three entry points developed was San Francisco/Origins. For decades, the Hills Bros. brand was based in San Francisco… And many local landmarks still bear the Hills Bros. name. This ultimately became the favored concept both in consumer research as well as in the hearts and minds of the team members. The innovative nature of San Francisco truly spoke the the progressive history of the Hills Bros. brand. Just like Silicon Valley, the Hills Bros. brand has brought about many innovations in both quality and processing/manufacturing. The first vacuum pack, controlled roasting, high yield extraction and many other technologies still used to this day have been developed by Hills Bros. over the course of its rich history.

Services Used: Visual Positioning, Brand Mythos.

4. Qualitative Research: Once the entry points had been chosen and refined, the TGG and MZB teams developed a variety of materials to probe consumers with during research sessions in Chicago and Milwaukee. We learned what consumers thought of the current graphic language as well as what they thought of the new camps that had been developed. After quickly determining that the current graphics appeared outdated and difficult to shop, consumers were asked which of the three new camps meant the most to them… And how that applied to their perceptions of the brand. Existing Hills Bros. users and consumers who primarily bought another one of the major US coffee brands perceived the San Francisco/Origins and Artisan/Craftsmanship camps to be the most authentic and engaging entry points. Their feedback was then collected and analyzed to help develop the next steps of the project.

Services Used: Visual Positioning, Research, Messaging, Brand Mythos, Brandmark Design and Package Design.

5A. Copy and Mythos Development: Each of the two winning camps became a fully developed concept during this next phase of the project. Elements that tested strongly in research were used, as well as a variety of new ideas that came about from the information the teams received during these sessions. Unique messages and a distinct Brand Mythos was created for each of the two camps (San Francisco/Origins and Artisan/Craftsmanship.)

Services Used: Brand Mythos, Messaging, IP Protection.

5B. Informed Phase 1 Design Concepts: Several concepts (and too many alts to count) were developed for each camp. The top row represents Artisan/Craftsmanship, and does so by using elements that convey quality, control, attention to detail and heritage. The bottom row uses spontaneity and San Francisco centric imagery to represent the second, winning camp.

Services Used: Visual Positioning, Brandmark Design, Package Design and IP Protection.

6. Quantitative Research: Three concepts, along with the current on shelf package, were taken to this next research session. Biometrics, eye tracking software as well as multiple choice answers allowed the team to reach a wide range of consumers in several different cities. After the program was complete, a detailed report was sent along to every member of the team. Almost immediately it became clear that there was one design that presented a huge opportunity for the brand… And with a few minor revisions, the team finalized the concept that is seen on shelf today.

Services Used: Research.

7A. Line Extension of Winning Concept: With a clear direction on where the brand was moving, all the heavy lifting could begin! Extending the winning design to single serve cartons, whole bean bags and the entire line of cans was a difficult job. So many forms could have created a headache for any other firm. But not for the pros at TGG. Within a few weeks, the entire line had been addressed and the final stages of the project were drawing near.

Services Used: Brandmark Design, Package Design, IP Protection.


7B. Creation of Unique Illustrations: Developing the graphic architecture for an entire line of products wasn’t all hard work. Tapping into their wide range of skills, the TGG team created unique, San Francisco centric illustrations and had a little bit of fun in the process. These illustrations reflected the new modern, contemporary nature of the brand. A geometric style coupled with flat simple elements proved to be a winning combo that allowed the brand to tell the story of its past, present, and future.

Services Used: Guidelines.


8. Creation of Brand Guidelines: Also known as Brand Standards, the TGG team has created documents for some of their biggest brands that creatives across a variety of mediums can use to maintain consistency. Web designers, marketers, members of the sales team and brand managers each have difficult decisions to make almost daily. And having one document that they can refer back to ensures a consistent look and feel for each brand touch point. Here, several pages of this document are highlighted, but it is certainly not limited to what is shown in the above image. Brand Guidelines can be exhaustive documents because in today’s day and age, there is great need to maintain the same look in many different areas.

If you think your brand can use some of the TGG expertise, please visit our Shelf Sight Sequence page and fill out the attached form.