Ten years ago or so, Greek yogurt only commanded about 1% of the yogurt market, but Chobani changed all that.
Today, Greek yogurt accounts for about half of the entire yogurt space at the supermarket, and much of that is due to Chobani’s bringing Greek yogurt to the attention of the shopping masses. It’s thicker, creamier, and has more protein than ordinary yogurt, and once people got a taste of it, the category took off.
Naturally, this meant that more yogurt makers entered the Greek yogurt space, and today you’ll find store brands and traditional yogurt brands with their own Greek yogurt sub-brands. And you may have noticed that a lot of the yogurt packages look remarkably similar.
Crowded Category, Crowded Shelves
Greek yogurt is a far more crowded category than it was a decade ago, and Chobani, which once basically owned the category in American supermarkets, eventually found that it didn’t stand out as much from the competitors. The classic white plastic yogurt cup with a foil lid was everywhere, with fonts, colors, and packaging designs all exhibiting the same basic components: clean, sharp lettering, and photos of fruit, coffee beans or other ingredients reaching out from the individual containers. So Chobani decided it was a good time to rebrand and stand out from the competition once more.
A Rebrand that Zigs When Competitors Zag
Rather than making their packaging brighter, crisper-looking, or more futuristic, they decided to go in the other direction. The new design featured a friendlier-looking serif font, a more off-white than stark white background, and naïf-inspired, watercolor paintings of fruits rather than studio photographic portraits of them. The whole new aesthetic was softer, kinder, and more approachable.
The company also expanded its identity from “yogurt maker” to a “food-focused wellness company,” with a tagline to match: “Fighting for happily ever after.” The new advertising promotes more than just flavor and nutrition and offers consumer tips for things like substituting Greek yogurt for other cooking ingredients like sour cream.
A Bump in the Road
Everything went swimmingly until early January of this year when some consumers noticed a musty smell to the exterior of the new yogurt cups. Naturally, many of them took to social media, and suddenly Chobani was forced to react. By all accounts, they reacted as they should have, acknowledging people’s concerns, figuring out the cause (a thicker-than-necessary coating on some batches of packaging). The company quickly addressed the issue, even offering personal responses, as well as goodies like free yogurt coupons and branded Chobani hats.
Rather than trying to push the problem under the rug, the company was transparent in its engagement with affected consumers and was able to move on from the matter quickly. Could the issue have been avoided? Who can say? But the brand was able to take the situation and learn from it, perhaps providing a lesson in rebranding to others as well.
Rebranding Necessary Even for Category Leaders
The fact is, even category leaders like Chobani sometimes need to rebrand. They may do it proactively, not waiting until they lose category leadership, and they may choose to go in an unexpected direction, as Chobani did with its softer, more folksy approach to packaging. Perhaps the main lesson to be learned from the Chobani rebrand is that it must be a focused effort, with goals and a strong follow-up, in order to maximize success.
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