Hickory Farms Shows How Sausage is Made

The idea: For every thing there is a season, and for Hickory Farms that season is November and December, when the brand does about 80 percent of its business. Gone are the days when the brand had a store in every mall and much like those retail locations Hickory Farms needed to put its antiquated brand imagery out to pasture. The brand has modernized with an e-commerce Web site, smaller free-standing mall kiosks and pop-up shops around key holiday selling seasons, to supplement its mail-order gift-food business. It needed to do the same for its overall look while hanging on to its rich heritage.

What is it?
This was to be no simple package design project. This new face of Hickory Farms included the creation of contemporary-looking kiosks, mouth-watering catalog photography and product packaging with linen textures. “They knew they wanted to reinvent,” said Harry Woods, CCO of Woods Witt Dealy & Sons, the full-service ad/design/marketing shop based in New York that spearheaded the initiative. “We held focus groups with core customers to try to find out what was worth saving.” The universal theme that ran through those interviews? Everyone had tactile memories of the Hickory Farms brand. Many remembered being five or six years old and putting those gift boxes of cheeses together, or walking into a mall store to procure that meat-on-a-stick sample. The brand is a smell, a flavor and a social facilitator.

How it was created:
Woods’ team started with the logo, which had several suitable elements, such as Bembo, the typeface. The next step was defining the color palette, which would be decidedly more earthy. “Once we established the guidelines, we expanded it to all the consumer touchpoints,” Woods said. The firm redesigned the Hickory Farms’ style guide, and through this tool, designed a new Web site and catalog with a modern, uncluttered look—that was still classic (think Restoration Hardware.) For the packaging, Toledo, Ohio-based design firm Tailford Mitchell was brought in, while WWD&S served as creative director for the project. “We wanted linen textures and other aspects that would give it more of a feel, a tactile look,” Woods said. “We wanted to get rid of the plastic and bring in natural materials. Now, almost everything is made from sustainable forest practices or recycled materials.”

Farm, function:
The designers liked the idea of the farm. “We wanted to see the hand of the artist in it,” Woods said. “But we wanted a rougher illustration. You can see where we ended up—with something more simple and classic.”

Jimmy Dean and DeLuca:
Gone are the wagon wheels and fruitcakes—in are minimalist marketplaces. In addition to repackaging, there was also the task of renaming 250 to 300 Hickory Farms products. It might sounds like fun, but who wants to be the one who bumbles the equity of the beloved “beef stick?” While the testing brought trepidation, “In every test, people loved it when we changed the name to summer sausage,” Woods said. “It sounds like its going to taste more organic and more modern and premium.”

Barn in the USA:
An “Est. 1951” dateline was added to the new logo design (below). “It was another way to embrace the history of the brand and to remind people that it’s a part of their lives,” Woods said.