Nuts.com sells nuts. And while it has always been in the business of selling nuts, it didn’t always do so under that name. The company was launched as the Newark Nut Company by “Poppy” Sol Braverman in 1929, and when his family took the business online in 1999, they changed the brand to NutsOnline.com–a default decision, as Nuts.com was already taken. As NutsOnline, the Bravermans did well, selling 2,000 items (including dried fruit, chocolate, and coffee and tea) and racking up $20 million in annual sales. But they still thought they could nab more customers with the more straightforward domain name, so when it recently became available, they acquired it for six figures.
That was a risky move for a company with a well-established customer base, so the Bravermans decided to offset any initial drop-off in traffic by launching a total rebrand, with the help of Pentagram’s Michael Bierut, who drew on the company’s quirky sensibility to create a new identity and funky packaging for multigenerational business. According to Pentagram, the company had “always used a friendly, personable, slightly zany tone of voice in its marketing” and prided itself on its personal, small-business approach, as evidenced on its site, where the four members of the Braverman family are depicted as cartoon nuts. For the rebrand, Bierut had the illustrator Christoph Niemann revamp the mascots and made them more prominent by placing them front and center on the bags, where they’re reversed out to show the product inside. Bierut also created a hand-drawn alphabet (converted into a typeface by Jeremy Mickel), which covers the packaging and shipping boxes in cute phrases such as “This way to your taste buds!” and “Isn’t it nut-astic?” A bright color palette completes the look.
As The New York Times noted in April, traffic to the site dipped immediately after the company pulled the switch on the rebrand in January, and Forbes and AdAge seized on the six-figure price tag as an example of overspending. But, writes, Nuts.com’s marketing chief, Anne Swift, the number of visitors rebounded by May and, by the end of July, Google organic traffic grew by 32%. What’s more, the direct traffic—the number of people who arrive at the site by typing the domain directly into the browser’s address bar—grew by 105%. “This meant that our assumption about the new domain name and brand being more memorable was correct!” Swift writes on Xconomy. “And the re-branding attracted the right kind of visitor, too, as our revenues from direct traffic increased by more than 65 percent.” All of which is to say that pouring big bucks into a new domain name and a Pentagram rebranding campaign wasn’t all that nutty after all.