Harper House — 2019 MOC Strategy & Concept

BXP Makeover Challenge team from left to right and back to front. Back row: Mary Shields (lead animator), Timothy Thomas (studio manager / senior art director), Lee McKinzey (marketing director), Jason Van Orden (creative director), Jennifer Barns (graphic designer), and Caroline Buenger (office manager/client relations). In chairs: Brandin Davis (vice president and COO) and Ted Troy (digital producer/project manager)

Harper House | harperhouse.com


“Harper House’s redesign of my logo is gorgeous,” John Wright, founder of Bee Wild exclaims. “The team’s work takes the Bee Wild logo to something akin to a spiritual level.

“Their entire approach, while being receptive to the business realities of moving to a premium package design, resonates with me,” he adds. “Their packaging competence enables them to come up with a concept that’s actually very doable. They understand that it isn’t necessary or even a good thing to change every single thing because I do have a customer base that is used to my current identity and package design.”

“With John, we started with a conversation about where he is now and where he would like to be,” Harper House’s creative director Jason Van Orden recalls. This might seem like a common approach, but Wright contends that sometimes design conversations can be so focused on the future of the brand that there’s a real risk for a brand of losing its current customer base in the transition.

“If you think of the risk factor for bringing products upmarket like trying to cross a canyon, if you make a huge change all at once then it can be like trying to jump over the Grand Canyon and make it to the other side alive,” Wright explains. “What Harper House’s design does is reduce the risk factor by raising a bridge over the canyon versus asking the brand to jump.”

The agency also pulled on Wright’s creative brief to understand Bee Wild’s current market. Van Orden adds, “The creative brief definitely helped in that process, along with getting John’s input on a more personal level. We took that information to kick-start our research, brainstorming and ideation, and ultimately the development of Bee Wild’s brand character.”

Caroline Buenger, who works in client relations for Harper House, remarks, “Jason gets very immersed into his projects and always seems to go the extra mile with a smile. For example, the time that worked best for everyone else for a presentation was a day that Jason was in Chicago on vacation. He still called in to do the presentation because he feels so connected to this project.”

The dedication paid off, Wright remarks, as the resulting concept is recognizable as Bee Wild for its current customers but also draws in new shoppers. Wright explains, “The design is softer, which does lose some of the boldness of the Bee Wild brand—but only by a little bit— and Harper House’s concept brings something so very important with its pull. The design is so much more inviting.”

The design, which Wright describes as flowing, is by no means timid. The graphic design incorporates strong patterns with bold shapes and bright colors.

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It is also practical. The agency consciously decided to keep the primary packaging structures after learning that Wright enjoys a volume discount on purchases of the tasting jars and lids. Bee Wild’s customer base also continuously praises the brand’s 12-oz squeeze tottle because it offers clean dispensing and a consistently good brand experience.

“We also had several discussions with John about how the three-ounce jar is the perfect size for him to sell the varietal honey,” Harper House’s vice president and COO Brandin Davis says. “Some of these varietal honeys are truly limited editions.” Davis learned from Wright that beekeepers can keep all the right conditions but still have a specialty honey harvest fail because of natural conditions that result in the bees producing less honey than expected or something as simple as rain preventing harvesting at the optimal time. “We kept with the spirit of the contest as far as delivering a real-world solution,” Davis adds.

Van Orden explains, “We looked at working within the business restraints versus just making some crazy packaging that was unaffordable or wouldn’t work with real-world production. We wanted to keep the jars and lids consistent across all the varietals so he could keep his volume discount, but use labeling to make the primary packages distinctive. It’s not enough for us to meet a client’s brand expectations. We strive to be their real-world experts and deliver package designs that work in real-world production environments and budgets.”

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Harper House’s commitment, Davis remarks, is more than just a pledge. The agency has made time, personnel and equipment investments to ensure that its concepts deliver real business solutions—even for the Makeover Challenge, which is a blue-sky contest. “We not only designed the box that contains the jars to a real-world scale,” Davis says. “We created a dieline for that because whether the concept ever evolved past blue-sky, we wanted to make sure that nothing was left up in the air. We have 3D modeling in house. So our 3D artist created the box based on the concept’s dieline—ensuring that it is manufacturable.”

For the subscription box, the Harper House team focused on a compelling visual design and helping Bee Wild build its direct-to-consumer business. “We didn’t focus so much on the actual physical parameters of the subscription box,” Davis explains. “It’s more of a standard flip-top box with the slotted tabs. We did explore creating a die-cut insert to secure the products inside, which would offer an alternative to using loose shredded paper or something like that. We emphasized that this die-cut insert wasn’t necessary, and the brand could use filler instead because filler can be a more flexible option that would fit all types of different objects.”

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“Using the seasonal subscription box, John could make the honeys more relevant to the consumer’s life at the moment versus just delivering the shopper’s honey shipment,” Van Orden says. “For example, we talked to John about how he could have a Summer Pack that includes a recipe for something like barbecue sauce and all of the ingredients, including Bee Wild’s honey, to make the honey-infused barbecue sauce. A Winter Box could include tea and a diffuser.

“Our agency approaches every project as a big team, so there is a lot of brainstorming and thinking about the world of honey happening in our group,” Van Orden adds. “It’s important to respect where the client is now but work with them as a group on envisioning the future.”

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You can cast your vote now for Harper House’s concept at www.bxpmagazine.com/moc-2019. The agency with the most votes wins the challenge and will be featured in the next issue.