“New look, Same Great taste.” – A Portable Feast – Medium

Someone needs to be fired for imagining that this statement ever deserves to be used, or written, or printed.

As a team, we were diving deep into what it means to shift a brand, to make something far deeper happen in a company beyond just a logo-change. We were taking about the ideas that people connect with, not the gimmicks. But the conversation was spawned in the context of visual design. What we are after, you see, is the exact opposite of the aforementioned phrase. People have become dulled into thinking that a visual change is just a marketer’s cheap trick to pump sales and keep his job. And most times it is. So people have become wary. Our goal, is to use a “New look” as a wakeup call. To tell people loudly and honestly that we are changing on the inside, and that is reflected on the outside. In today’s world, the ideas have to be far more substantial to give a design any kind of authority.

The topic re-emerged when I ran across a commodity that had finally decided to stand out, for real.

Oatmeal.

In all seriousness, one of the most impactful brand experiences I have had this year has been with Quaker oatmeal. I do not like oatmeal, it has always been a poor excuse for a breakfast to me after living off it for 1 year as a child. Unless it’s covered in honey and cinnamon, the lack of protein content and flavor are just too hard to overcome. But I’m re-thinking.

Whoever got ahold of their brand has some serious heart, and that’s the direction they have taken the company. I was struck by an ad that accidentally played for me prior to a youtube meandering. The commercial was clean, clear, sophisticated. They talked to me like an adult, not a 7th grader (a supposed marketing ‘best-practice’). There was science, how our bodies derive essential nutrients from food, and then why Quaker oats cares about preserving one little grain’s simplicity to meet that biological need. There was no “lifestyle” or “weight-loss” super-power promised. No “cure for cancer”. Rather, it was a straightforward, intelligent explanation that ended with a brand that has cared about preserving my body’s health for 140 years.

Drift over to their website and they have stripped out the yammering about the features and benefits of oatmeal in the traditional shouting, long-list format. They opted instead to empower their packaging with strong statements from the quaker himself. “Giver of energy”, “Helper of hearts” and “Digestion Do-gooder”. I’m more apt to believe because what got me here was a thoughtful, scientific explanation. I’m informed enough to know, now, that my metabolism agrees with these statements. And the oats are quick to cook. Why?

“The circumstances of life should
never be a barrier to good nutrition.”
-Henry Parsons Cromwell, Founder

The guy who started this whole thing has a belief about nutrition, and why oats should be a quick and essential part of our diet. It’s not a hard sell. It’s heart driven, simplified design, and proactive service on the part of the brand.

Great mornings inspire great days bustling with new possibilities, unknown adventures, and amazing friends. Prepare for all that lies ahead by filling your bowls, bellies, and hearts with the love of nourishing breakfast.

Yes! I want to live a full life! I want to be nourished! I want to start the day right! It’s not about just buying this package or that package, it’s about connecting with something honestly, and making a good decision. Isn’t that it? In a world of too many daily choices, I want to feel like 1 or 2 of them are good. This one, clearly, is good. Because it seems like there is a human being on the other side of that package that gets it. Also, I want to get one of those cool west-elm containers to prep it for my morning routine. *That’s a little gratuitous on the “lifestyle” sell, but heck, a little won’t hurt!

Now, is quaker oats any different? Not sure, I haven’t been hit with any commitment to improved farming practices, or a reduction in pesticides or non-gmo oats. But they have laid a foundation to build up these things. See, they didn’t waste their energy trying to convince us that we needed new packaging and nothing else substantially different. They didn’t waste design on vapor. Instead they got clear, authentic and truthful. They have a vision about their role in our life, and they would like to stay true to that. They don’t want to sell me anything, they want to serve my body. And they care, for 140 years they have cared. They cut out all the stamped-on promises that have riddled their busy packaging for years and got focused on what Quaker oats means, just as much as what it does.

“New look, same great taste!” It has to be the biggest waste of time and money I commonly see in our world. Instead we should be reading, “We changed our focus, we’re done competing for dollars, we’re focusing on being who we are and using that to serve you well as a customer. We care about you. Interested in starting a relationship with us?”

Quaker. I hate oats. But I see that you care about me. I’ll reconsider. Thanks for the recipe!

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