Bubbies Ice Cream Rebrand Helps Market Leader Stay Cool
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 05/19/2022 | 4 Minute Read
For the uninitiated, mochi is a mini morsel of ice cream enveloped in a sweet rice ball, and they’ve been having a moment in the frozen novelties section since the 2010s.
Long before that, in 1985, Keith Robbins was crafting up imaginative mochi at his ice cream shop in Honolulu with an original recipe from his grandmother—and Bubbies Ice Cream was born. As a long-time market leader, the brand faced more and more competition over the years from upstart mochi moochers. They knew a change was needed and turned to Moxie Sozo to help them evolve their brand.
“They have all this storied history,” said Cara Berberet, senior designer at Moxie Sozo. "We saw an opportunity to help them stand out by dialing up their origin story and creating a sense of place. However, we didn't want to tie ourselves to Hawaii directly; more like postcards from paradise.”
Brie Schaezler, group account director at Moxie Sozo, added that Bubbies needed a lively, unified voice across their branding, packaging, website, and beyond. “You don’t have to hop on a plane to some exotic locale," said Brie. "Instead, you can open your freezer for a bite-sized morsel that can take you there.”
“The postcard motifs hint at this shareability. Mochi’s always great as something to just grab and go. This idea of sharing carried through in the campaign development to reinforce the brand’s positioning and inspire new use occasions.” said Derek Springston, chief creative officer and partner at Moxie Sozo.
The very nature of sending mail opened up opportunities for Moxie Sozo to communicate essential product information. For example, “90 calories” and “Simple Ingredients” appear as airmail markings on the packaging, and the animated tearing of stamp-like graphics shows up on the site.
Moxie Sozo leveraged the brand's current equities in many ways—for instance, redesigning the wordmark without completely discarding it and incorporating a pattern from the old pack onto the new one. The visual bullseye of the packaging also remained the same—the mochi themselves. Having the product in the middle of the box, just like the previous packaging iteration, became a recognizable indication that this was merely a makeover of the Bubbies brand, which loyal customers knew and loved. The images of the mochi pulled a lot of visual weight to appeal to current buyers while inviting new, younger folks who have never tried Bubbies before or may not even know about mochi in the first place.
“So much of what we addressed with the packaging and strategy was educating people on the product,” Cara Berberet said. “I’m familiar with mochi, but some people don't know it. So we made an effort to immerse people in the experience. That followed through on how we shot the product, too. We always wanted to show both the cut and the whole mochi. Shooting those was difficult because getting that cut was a definite challenge, and then, also, it’s ice cream. It melts.”
The Moxie Sozo team also prioritized displaying fruit in the photos to highlight the fresh, high-quality ingredients inside Bubbies' mochi, which was something that the competitors didn’t seem to be leaning into as much.
The redesign would roll out to dozens of flavors, so packaging had to emphasize the appeal of each flavor yet remain cohesive. The studio viewed it as a solvable design problem with a fun yet not overly-complex design language.
“The team built out elements that created a visual language specifically for Bubbies,” Derek said. “Once you have them in place, especially from a packaging standpoint, you can see how they extend and evolve. Cara also did an excellent job from a guidelines perspective. We had the opportunity to help Bubbies do campaign development for their launch, and it allowed them to see how we can see the packaging and their creative assets getting used elsewhere.”
Moxie Sozo admitted this project was as smooth as mochi—and not just because they got to taste plenty of delicious products during their design journey. Ultimately, Bubbies had a deep knowledge of who they were and where they wanted to take the brand, but they needed help getting there. For Moxie Sozo, this contributed to an enjoyable, productive environment with Bubbies’ in-house design team.
“This isn’t their first rebrand,” Brie said. “They understand a lot that goes into it. And they were very much a part of the process and were super collaborative. They always had a kind of line in the sand that said, ‘Here’s where we’re headed.’”
And the efforts are paying off.
“From the start of the project to the finish, we felt like Moxie really heard us. They took our vision and created a concept that is the perfect culmination of who we are as a brand and set us up for where we want to go,” said Bubbies Vice President of Marketing, Katie Cline. “We believe the refreshed packaging played a large role in our ability to expand our footprint and shelf presence within new and existing retailer partners this year.”
So the next time you are looking to travel to a frozen wonderland, hit up the local grocery store's freezer section and track down some Bubbies.