Atomic Dog is a leading producer of hard cider in the North East. With ownership recently changing hands, the brand was looking to make a big push for national exposure and distribution. With consumers drinking less, but drinking up, Atomic Dog was in a unique position to tell an ingredient story and take market share from a stagnating hard seltzer category to increase their footprint across the country. With category leaders like Angry Orchard or Strongbow unable to capture the attention of the better for you consumer, Atomic Dog set out to capture consumer and distributor attention in a big way.
Shopper Marketing and Sampling
Marketing & Branding Strategy
Social Media Management
Atomic Dog Hard Cider
(formerly Jack's Hard Cider)
B2C / B2B
Atomic Dog was previously known as “Jack’s Hard Cider.” The Jack’s brand had been in operation for over 15 years with no real growth. Minor expansion into other states had occurred but internal sales structure and retail support were non-existent. The brand was on the decline, losing shelf placements and velocity when ownership changed hands in 2019. Adding to the challenges, in 2022, Jack’s Hard Cider was in a legal battle with Brown-Forman over its name, posing a threat to the existence of brand overall. In reality, the hard cider market overall hadn’t seen growth in over a decade. But during the pandemic, as RTD’s rose and consumers were looking for “clean ingredient” options, hard cider began to see an uptick in popularity. Unfortunately for Jack’s, the category swing didn’t help the brand because of their inability tap into growing trend given the lack of marketing and internal sales structure.
The brand needed an overhaul from top to bottom. In order to avoid the lawsuit with Brown-Forman, the name needed to change. And to maintain its distribution footprint across the Northeast, the name needed to be familiar for distributors, and eye-catching on shelf for consumers. Atomic Dog was the business entity that purchased Jack’s in 2019 so distributors and retailers were familiar with seeing the name on their invoicing. This fact, plus the novelty of the name for consumer recall, made the transition of Jack’s to Atomic Dog easier and provided a platform to engage consumers differently than the leaders in the hard cider industry. A full rebrand touched every aspect of the hard cider business–from cidery to tasting room, from cans and packaging to all other consumer-facing communication touch points. A full rebrand touched every aspect of the hard cider business, from the tasting room, to packaging, to all other consumer facing touch points.
CONSUMER GOODS INDUSTRY
The hard cider industry was just beginning to see a turn-around after the pandemic impact as consumers began looking for healthy-for-you options other than hard seltzer. But since the return to growth was still in its infancy, we researched consumer trends in other industries that were seeing success by telling a story of transparency, locally-made, and premium price point.
The hard cider segment has a handful of large players that dominate the national space, but hard cider is historically a regional drink. Brands like Angry Orchard, Strongbow, Woodchuck, and Crispin have maintained a national presence through the ebbs and flows of the category. Regionally, the Northeast has a high density of cider makers and drinkers. Our focus was to understand the messaging and positioning of these competitors and define the gaps between the category where growth was occurring. This provided us with an understanding of how the category was positioned as well as where it fell short with consumer needs and wants.
We began with addressing the lawsuit that surrounded the brand. A messaging strategy was implemented to inform and guide distributor and retailer partners on the change and address any questions that came up during the transition. From there, a new brand structure was created to shape the direction of Atomic Dog and address the category shortcomings. Key messages and consumption occasions were developed to give the sales and marketing team insight into why hard cider was now more relevant than ever, positioning them against a stagnant hard seltzer category. Our research informed every step of this process, validating brand positioning and messaging needs.
As the name and brand messaging was finalized, we began work on the packaging refresh. We wanted to find a balance of expected craft beer visuals and something that pushed the boundaries and grabbed consumer attention. A system was created to separate the brand from the pack and accentuate the personality of the team behind Atomic Dog while supporting the brand messaging.
The brand name change and packaging overhaul was driven by a very tight timeline to comply with resolution of the Brown Forman lawsuit. We investigated several directions that were presented to Atomic Dog, but ultimately landed on one that tied the dog, the fruit, and the eccentricity of the Atomic Dog cider house crew.
By creating a monochromatic brand palette, and color forward product palette we’ve achieved both separation and harmony. Allowing each extension to live boldly on their own, and complimenting one another when used in conjunction.
utilizing the brand icon as a living character allows for an expanded marketing language and experience.
We refreshed the Jack’s Hard Cider website to educate consumers on the new brand launch and the transition that was going to take place. From there we built a new Atomic Dog Hard Cider site that enabled consumers to find product or purchase online with ease.
Strategic use of craft beer influences gives Atomic Dog the ability to capture market share and become a growth leader.
FOR CONTINUED GROWTH
We developed a tagline that tied the brand name to the product attributes. “Lightyears Ahead” was Atomic Dog’s way of referring to their product superiority while being slightly tongue in cheek. It allowed Atomic Dog to address product attributes as well as build on the lore of a character created to lead the brand forward.
A suite of retail assets was created to support the new brand rollout. Retail pieces were created to promote key sales messages and drive conversion. Traditional printed tools and displays reinforce key attribute messaging, combining a flavor-forward product with better-for-you attributes. Digital assets were to capture attention and prompt emotion.
To aid in the brand name transformation, we refreshed the Jack’s Hard Cider website to “expect an atomic change” and educate consumers on the new brand launch and the product transition. From there we drove consumers to a new Atomic Dog Hard Cider site that enabled consumers to find product or purchase online with ease.
Given our expertise in the alcoholic beverage three-tier system, we knew we needed to strongly the team through the sales process. Sell sheets, brand presentations, and other sales materials were created to open up new points of distribution and while supporting current customers in an ongoing sales effort to get the brand included in shelf sets in existing and new markets across the country.
In addition to the national expansion of the Atomic Dog packaged goods, there was a need to brand and refresh their tap house and restaurant. As a Gettysburg, PA establishment, we wanted to create a “town center” where locals would meet and create community. “The Core Kitchen and Happenings” was branded as a regional meeting and events destination that supported the overarching Atomic Dog brand.Creating a separate but supporting brand to represent the tap house and restaurant created hierarchy within the business structure. Allowing each business to fulfill its mission and have its own unique messaging and marketing strategy – while still creating a brand structure allowing each entity to support one another along the way.
Creating a separate brand to represent the tap house and restaurant created hierarchy within the business structure. Allowing each business to fulfill their missions and have their own unique messaging and marketing strategy. While still leaving room for them to support one another along the way.
Through transparency and education atomic dog is able to fill the void that has led to the decline of the hard cider market share.
Shifting the Category
To support the local community, as well as attract the tourists who come to Gettysburg, PA, we designed and developed a website for The Core. The physical tasting house and restaurant was developed to support the hard ciders with a way for locals and tourists to experience the Atomic Dog brand firsthand, pair the ciders with restaurant menu, and experience local entertainment.
As a result of the significant brand changes including the name, packaging design, pack size, pricing, and more, the brand has expanded into new states like Florida, Texas, and California. This work took years of decline and has shifted the brand to show growth in its first year, with projections for brand growth of 15-20% in 2024.The brand continues to move forward with new chain authorizations for 2024, with growth continuing through the holiday season, a traditionally slow time for hard cider.While the initial results are still very much in their infancy, the signs of where the brand is going continue to be promising.The brand continues to move forward with new chain authorizations for 2024, with growth continuing through the holiday season, a traditionally slow tmie for hard cider. While the initial results are still very much in their infancy, the signs of where the brand is going continue to be promising.
Credits: The Team
Account Director: Brent Marmo
Strategy Director: Miles Marmo
Creative: Petra Lee
Creative: Braden Schlegel
Animation: Noah Lawrence-Holder