That One Time Branding Saved the Day: RxBar

Zach Stevens

Creative Director & Founder

February 7, 2018

Humble Beginnings

I want you to picture looking down the protein/granola bar aisle. Who stands out in your mind? Clif, Nature Valley, and Power Bar, to name the top brands. Each one distinct in taste, texture, and look. Maybe not the physical bar itself, but certainly the packaging.

Clif Bar’s illustration of the mountaineer evokes a quest for nutritional achievement, Power Bar’s shimmering gold logo assures you of it’s god-like potency, and Nature Valley’s iconic green logotype reminds you of the crumbly goodness within.

When Peter Rahal and Jared Smith started RxBar in 2013, they were going up against these behemoths. Despite their fervor, they lacked solid branding to distinguish themselves in a crowded market. I have to give them credit for being so ballsy though. I mean, they put together their original logo and packaging in Powerpoint (yes, Powerpoint). But hey, it’s never too late to become what you’ve always wanted, and in 2016 they underwent a massive brand overhaul to match their unique product.

What made RxBar’s old branding/packaging ineffective?

Old RxBar Packaging
Courtesy of teenvogue.com

Lack of legibility and hierarchy

Above you can see RxBar’s old Peanut Butter wrapper, but it’s kinda hard to read. Especially the flavor since it’s the same color as the background it’s on. Apart from a lack of color contrast, there are multiple elements vying for an equal amount of attention on a 3-inch long surface. The logo, tagline, health claims, peanut image and 12g of protein in the top right corner all pack the same punch, leaving the viewer without a starting point. Viewers need to be walked through the information from most important to least important, the old packaging didn’t offer guidance.

No room for imagination or storytelling

Photography is a powerful asset for storytelling and documentation. However, it doesn’t generate any mystery around the product. Clif Bar minimally details what goes into their bars and viewers are drawn in. Good packaging leaves some of the experience told by the product itself, the climax. By showcasing a peanut front and center, the viewer may be immediately turned off. “Another peanut butter flavored bar? Great.”

The packaging isn’t as unique as the product and it’s misleading

If one was to speculate where the inspiration for this look came from, I would guess it was over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and supplements.

One would also speculate that OTC pharmaceuticals and supplements taste like crap.

Over-the-Counter Supplement Packaging
‍Courtesy of NutraScience Labs

I get it, they were trying to embody a scientific and healthy persona, but the bars actually taste good, unlike most natural supplements and OTC drugs.

Furthermore, if this packaging was placed next to other protein bars, it has a better chance of being pegged as a wannabe copycat. RxBar’s old packaging did not help position the product apart from competitors or match the quality of their bars.

What makes the new RxBar branding so awesome?

There is more cohesion between their pharma-derived name and their look

RxBar might as well be considered the Dermalogica of protein bars. Sleek, minimal, and scientific. At most, each packaged bar employs 3 colors with a specific usage ratio. Do you see the difference?

Old and New RxBar Packaging
Courtesy of Inc. Magazine

Despite being more methodical, the new logo appears friendlier than its predecessor

Based off what I’ve read from their site and interviews, the guys are RxBar seem like pretty laid back dudes who like crossfit and eating good food. Sans serif fonts are clean and modern, but they can appear cold and robotic.

Slab serifs (like their new logo), would definitely be the friendliest type classification one could select. RxBar’s new logo Gives the viewer a better understanding of the company’s values: no B.S. and honesty.

RxBar Logo 2016
‍Courtesy of RxBar

Rebranding made RxBar stand out!

Good branding differentiates. RxBar isn’t Clif Bar, Nature Valley, Power Bar, or anybody else. It is awesome that their look immediately assures viewers of that truth.

Let’s talk numbers. Did the rebrand bring any actual benefit to the RxBar?

If by benefit you mean fat stack of cash…

Yes, less than two years after upgrading their branding efforts, RxBar was acquired by Kellogg’s for $600 million. If that’s not enough, here’s a comparison in annual sales:

2014 (Old Branding) | $2 million

2017 (New Branding) | $160 million

According to CNBC

Yea, branding saved the day.

On a personal note, I actually ate RxBars in 2015 before they rebranded and didn’t see them for another year. When I did, I was astounded at how drastically their brand had evolved. Memorable, minimal, engaging, and definitely worth taking a second look at down the snack aisle.

Everything I wanted to know about the product was right on the package: 3 egg whites, 6 almonds, 4 cashews, 2 dates, no B.S. (This would be the chocolate sea salt flavor, in case you were interested, it’s freaking delicious).

The new look cuts through the overdone promises health foods advertise

In an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine, Rahal gave this statement:

The bar form tells you what it is. What we struggled with is the claims are outrageous. It's gluten free, soy free, dairy free, all natural. The list of claims are like 20. That shit doesn't matter. That's why our approach to how we work and everything is "no B.S." That just became a kind of a quirky master claim essentially.

If everyone else is spewing the same promise to a consumer, they will pick the least expensive option. Consumers are freaking sick of hearing all of these claims. They want to form a relationship and connect, not be told why your company is better.

What is the lesson to be learned?

No B.S.

RxBar’s new look isn’t flashy at all, but it’s honest.

Consumers are sick of being told how awesome your business is, they are looking for something to believe in and align with. Something that genuinely speaks to their values from the get-go.

Avoid B.S. like the plague and consistently deliver your truth.

Shout out to the McQuades for showcasing serious skill and precision when crafting this brand and to RxBar’s Founders for understanding that good design is part of being a good business.

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