Chiquita Banana Brand Refresh
An Interview with the Designer, DJ Neff
What can you tell us about creating this new campaign for Chiquita?
The process relied heavily in spending as much time with the product as possible. In this case it meant my partner Mark Krajan and I eating a bunch of bananas a day. Thankfully, we like bananas.It helps to immerse ourselves in the product and research as much as we can before coming up with ideas. In this case that emphasis was on the fruit and its cultural significance. After filling up on information, we let it all spill out in different ideas, drawings, sayings, photographs, then start to figure out truths. These truths all stem from the product and work outward, pulling from research and ideas to build upon the foundation, laddering up to a big idea.
The cornerstone of the campaign relied on the little blue stickers, the biggest icon for the brand, and the biggest way to get the word out. It was obvious the character stickers were going to be a must do, but we pushed to create more, something fun for people to do, a hub for Chiquita fans to go to. Further thinking led us to giving bananas personalities and how all bananas start out good but eventually go bad (and for consumers not to let that happen). "Dont Let Another Good Banana Go Bad" was the through line of our campaign and it was incorporated into all of our work. The idea grew into a fully immersive microsite that contained viral videos, a sticker generator, and a completely unique 3D flash game called Banana Boogie Battle. This experience gave the users opportunities to create their own banana sticker personality and breakdance battle against bananas that have turned to the dark side.
What were your client's goals, and how did this project help communicate them?
The client’s goals were kind of like that dream brief you get handed that simply says: “Make bananas cool.” At first it’s like, “Whoa that’s easy,” but many times the more open the brief, the more you have to do to check yourself creatively. It can be easy to get caught up in a landslide of slick executions or fad creative wrappers. These kinds of approaches often do little for the campaign’s longevity or brand image in the future. Our client expects us to come to them with the coolest and most innovative stuff, but it was still up to us to really figure out strategically what about Chiquita bananas would always be cool. Determining what was cool fell into a few different areas: creativity, expression, and entertainment.
We created a range of ideas that we felt kept true to the Chiquita brand equities and allowed consumers to interact with the brand in new cool and exciting ways. In partnering with The Famous Group in Los Angeles, we were able to execute all of our ideas in the same facility, from shooting videos, editing, 3D modeling, and designing the website itself. We weren't creating just a campaign, we were creating a multi-faceted, interactive brand experience from the ground up. Also, knowing the client would want to track results in real time, we felt integrating with Facebook gave us a lot of advantages in exposure and instant communication between the brand and its enthusiasts.
These illustrations are really great and fun. What inspired you to create this family of characters?
Inspiration for the face idea first came from seeing what people did with the chiquita stickers after they ate the banana even before we put faces on them. So, the hope was by creating the characters, now when they eat the banana, they are even more excited and inspired to put that sticker somewhere special to keep it. The designs themselves had to be fun, so I just thought about all the fun things I like, cartoons, toys, people I know, and they sort of just came out. Honestly, we did so many stickers the hardest part was picking only 25.
How did your interactions with the client evolve? Did they give you guys creative
freedom from the get go, or was it something that took more effort to express your own vision?
Our interactions with the client were fairly typical, but fortunately the client was hungry to do something different. Surprisingly working with bananas isn’t the bowl of laughs most think it should be. Being a commodity, it’s a pretty straight business. It’s hard to sway consumers when purchases are made primarily based on price. Luckily, Chiquita had already made efforts to “cool” up the stickers in the past—nothing like we had imagined, but it helped pave the way for our ideas for sure. Once we showed them the direction, they were excited about the possibilities, but pushed us to create a campaign that would have longevity. We were given a lot of freedom to design and create it the way we imagined it, but we liked involving their input as much as we could. It’s really important to maintain an open communication channel about our goals as designers while trying to integrate the clients needs and educating them on solutions we felt could work. A lot of the time you have to not only be creative with the campaign, but also be creative with the way you talk about it, coming up with ideas sometimes on the spot to help keep your client interested and excited. All in all it was a great experience and I am thankful we had clients like we did. It showed in the work.
So, what is “brand equity”, and what makes it significant not only for Chiquita but also for other brands out there?
I like to talk about brand equity in what I do because I feel like it is the most important starting point to rebranding any business. I think brand equity is a pretty simple notion: unique value. Sometimes it’s an easy to see value, like the Chiquita stickers, or sometimes it can be harder to recognize, like an old forgotten tagline that was abandoned because of changing fads. This is where my job gets fun, in discovering unique traits a brand has to build on, even if they may be lost in the marketing shuffle over the years.
The great thing about looking hard at something the brand already owns, no matter how small, is that there is usually a cultural recognition there already. With some application of this value to an idea you have, it creates a familiar association with an unfamiliar dynamic, therefore creating intrigue in the viewer—much like pop art does. In the case of Chiquita, we felt that there was a lot of brand equity in the stickers, both with product interaction and marketing potential. Creating a campaign to really maximize its potential creatively was a smart decision and gave added value to an already established brand equity.
Sometimes brand equity is created and not found, like with a product that is new or unprecedented. In this case brand equity can exist within brands surrounding the product in the cultural landscape. Similar values with other companies, many times from different categories, can lend themselves to a new product because of a familiar association or cultural significance. Then our job as designers becomes recognizing the area that our product lives in, or wants to live in, and creating value to allow its seamless placement amongst its peers. Like if you’re going to a black tie affair you don’t wear a Hawaiian shirt, you wear a tuxedo or formal dress. So when designing a brand for your product, make sure you know what party you are going to go to because what you wear speaks wonders about who you are.
Many times as designers we are tasked to help brands build or rebuild their identities. We may initially think that a clean slate is required to achieve a better identity, and in some cases that can be true if the existing brand identity has little to no value. But in most cases, there is always something that can be built on, discovered, or championed with any brand. It really just requires spending as much time as you can with the product, immersing yourself in it. Like method designing, you just have to live it and the work will flow through you.
Any other shout outs?
Definitely, I just want thank everyone who was a part of this project, I was proud to be part of a great team. Big thanks to The Famous Group in Los Angeles for their great production work, and to Chiquita for allowing us to hopefully move them a couple notches closer to “cool”. And thank you Matt for giving me an opportunity to talk about a part of what I love to do, I really appreciate everything design:related is doing and it’s great to be a part of such an amazing project.
Above: skateboard graphics
Campaign Name: Eatachiquita
Creative Direction: DJ Neff, Mark Krajan
Art Direction: DJ Neff
Designers: Hillary Coe, Luis Gonzalez
Contributing Designers: Dyanna Csaposs, Nick Perata, Roscoe Ferguson
Developers: Neil Katz, Chris Isom, Isaac Dettman
CG Developers: Kyle Figgins, Ryan Kaplan, Steve Han, Gene Arvan
Production Company: The Famous Group