Peet’s Coffee Wants to Attract New Consumers With Brand Refresh While Maintaining Quirky Heritage

Inside the design process with creatives from Character

Branding and design shop Character recently retooled Peet's Coffee's identity. Peet's Coffee
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

Over the last decade, the coffee category has undergone dramatic changes, with competition heating up as local, artisan coffee shops have appealed more to younger consumers than large-scale chains. Now, to win over those younger consumers, one of those chains, Peet’s Coffee, is refreshing its brand identity, packaging, in-store displays and introducing new products (like Peet’s Cold Brew) with help from branding and design shop Character.

“Peet’s was in the forefront of the second wave of the coffee revolution and pioneered the craft coffee segment,” said Tish Evangelista, creative director and principal at Character. “Considered the grandfather of the American gourmet coffee movement, Alfred Peet worked in his father’s coffee roastery, later apprenticed at a London-based coffee and tea company.”

Evangelista continued: “Peet’s understands that in order to stay relevant to a new generation of coffee drinkers, it is important to stay true to its brand values. We recognized that to capture the millennial market, Peet’s needed to embrace the idea of updating its offerings and experimenting with new products, such as cold brews, but not to lose touch with its roots. For us, this meant that we needed to anchor Peet’s in its deep, rich history.”

To this end Character elevate Peet’s tagline, “The original craft coffee since 1966.” 

Adweek caught up with creatives from Character—Evangelista; Claudia Di Martino, associate design director; Anton Schulz, senior designer—to learn more about the refresh, what went into the process and what other marketers can learn from Peet’s. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Adweek: Would you call this a rebrand? A refresh? 
Claudia Di Martino: Character’s work for Peet’s was more of a ‘refresh’ than a ‘rebrand.’ We managed to take the tried-and-true pieces of the iconic brand, and rather than change them completely, we decided to enhance certain elements while simplifying others. We looked at everything from the logo, to the to-go cups people leave holding the cafés each morning. The value of Character’s work can be seen as bringing clarity to the heritage of the Peet’s brand, all the while making sure it retained the same warmth and generosity people have known for decades.

What was the process like?
Di Martino: Identity was the first undertaking that sought inspiration as old as Peet’s itself. Each option we presented had a root in the existing history of Peet’s, which eventually gave way to honoring the present-day brand and the quirkiness that made it so distinct from all the other modern, austere coffee brands. Once we made refinements, we went through various iterations of the Peet’s ‘P Cup’—the brand’s shorthand mark commonly used as a sign-off—in an attempt to introduce the patterns as part of the larger brand system. Once we had the system realized for what those patterns were, how they were created and how they could continue to be created, we applied all these new components to in-store coffee packaging, to-go cups and Peet’s new cold brew coffee line.

Character’s work for Peet’s was more of a ‘refresh’ than a ‘rebrand,’ according to Character’s Claudia Di Martino.
Peet's Coffee packaging got an update from Character.

What do you think this will do for the brand?
Evangelista: The intent of the rebrand is to connect with a new generation of coffee drinkers and reflect the future, while celebrating the heritage of Peet’s Coffee. The refresh of the brand is an opportunity for Peet’s to be more impactful, memorable, current and premium.

Di Martino: Hopefully our work won’t radically change too much, but rather reaffirm and enhance how people already feel about the brand. The [brand’s] decision to remove ‘tea’ from the main brand logo meant that Peet’s was on a strictly first-name basis with its customers, engendering even more familiarity with its beloved patrons for over 50 years. We hope Peet’s will continue to be a beacon for warmth, familiarity and nostalgia amongst the world of cool, new-wave coffee.

What, exactly, does this entail? New logo? New font? 
Evangelista: The logo was retooled and streamlined to make it more contemporary. We wanted to maintain the quirky, lighthearted look of the letterforms, but introduce a cleaner approach. We also wanted to deepen the meaning of the patterns used on signage and collateral. In order to do this, we looked to textiles and traditional fabrics from coffee origin points, which informed a custom grid that we developed which build upon the system much like a digital patchwork. The brand colors, P Cup mark and supporting typography were also adapted to provide a more refined system.

Anton Schulz: At an identity level we didn’t want to take away the most recognizable parts of the brand—the unique logotype and the iconic P Cup. We refined the typography and reworked the mark without taking away the warmth and approachable persona. Once we had crafted and reworked the identity, we took on the task of modernizing the so-called ‘origin patterns.’ We felt that these patterns are really what makes Peet’s so unique and we wanted to bring them forward from the backgrounds of packaging and signage where they used to live. At the same time, we wanted to develop a system that was easy to understand and build upon for the internal design team at Peet’s to own and develop as the brand grows and expands. We created a grid system of dots into patterns inspired by the different regions around the world where Peet’s Coffee is grown and harvested. We first applied these patterns to the CPG packaging, but since the launch of the new branding we have seen it come to life in so many other applications (such as in-store signage, coffee mugs, tumblers, and digital platforms).

Another important aspect that we felt would set Peet’s apart from the competition was to celebrate the richness and warmth of the brand by bringing forward the very dark brown—almost black—color that we identify with Peet’s and put it where we see it the most.

Peet's is introducing new products such as cold brew.

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.