Harken Chardonnay | Brand Refresh & Campaign Development

Category: Case Studies

June 03, 2024 / Miles Marmo

Harken Chardonnay | Brand Refresh & Campaign Development

O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, one of the fastest-growing wineries in California with a reputation of being top premium wine and spirits producers in the industry, was looking to build on the existing brand expression of their flagship Chardonnay, Harken. While the brand has been around nearly a decade, messaging and positioning has largely relied on intrinsic value (process and flavor). The Harken brand team looked to Agency Squid to create a brand communication strategy and creative execution to help unlock emotional connectivity with consumers.

  • Role




    Consumer Segmentation

    Creative Direction

    Creative Production

  • Deliverables

    Marketing & Brand Strategy


    Art Direction


    Shopper Marketing

    Digital Media

  • Client

    O'Neill Vintners & Distillers

    Harken Chardonnay


The Challenge

Chardonnay is the largest varietal in America, with super-premium Chardonnay ($11-$15 SRP) accounting for $670MM in annual retail sales alone. The category comprises mostly traditional brands that lead their marketing with wine-centric communications, often expressed as vineyard shots, facts about the winemaker and winemaking process, and tasting notes. Harken Chardonnay launched in 2014 and steadily gained market share but still only captured 0.8% of super-premium retail Chardonnay sales. The brand strategy, packaging, and product had been established and needed to be capitalized on. Up until this point, Harken has not communicated anything to consumers or stakeholders other than product intrinsics. The client knew they had not yet unlocked emotional connectivity with consumers.

The Solution

The Harken Chardonnay Brand needed to differentiate itself in a crowded but traditional marketplace. And, almost more importantly, it needed to emotionally connect with consumers. We began the process with concentrated competitive research and evaluation. Next, we defined consumer truths, key tensions, and, finally, insights that drove our strategy – always with the awareness that there was a tricycle on the label!



  • Audience

    Competitors The pandemic has shifted at-home consumption to be part of a daily routine rather than an inspirational or special occasion expanding engagement possibilities. Research shows that consumers across generations are intimidated by the thought of purchasing wine. 70% of consumers say they don’t have enough information to make an informed purchase decision around wine and are skeptical because the industry lacks transparency regarding ingredients, additives, and sourcing.

  • Audience Survey

    * 47% say rules/complexity * 35% say descriptions are confusing/ambiguous * 21% worried they won’t like what they order/unfamiliar with the flavor profile



The campaign is focused on the individualistic person who does things their way and in doing so lives unique and enriched lives. We enjoy these people because they encourage everyone to do the same. They have a special ingredient – something that sets them apart from the rest. A trait that puts them at the center of fulfilling experiences. They remain true: No shape-shifting or fad chasing to do it. They complement a moment: The life of the party one second. World’s greatest listener the next. They’re people magnets and memory producers: adding texture when it’s dull. Flavor when it’s bland. Making memories and telling them as stories. Good character on display—doing all it can to tease the most out of life. Because good character finds a way.



  • Messaging

    We knew we needed to be emotionally connective with consumers while supporting the messaging with simple, direct, transparent brand attributes. Across the board in the category, innovation was lacking, education was limited and brands were talking to themselves, not the consumer. The result: the consumer was turned off. Our objective was to demystify chardonnay drinking and get rid of the perceived complexity to empower consumers with the confidence to purchase wine. Our first goal was to create an emotional connection between the consumer and our product. Make them care about Harken and how it supports their lives. Have them create and share stories, tapping into fun memories without being nostalgic. To elevate social moments when wine and companionship are shared – punctuating that wine is not the moment, the moment is the moment. The bottom line is just be better than the other chardonnays.

  • Consumer & Retail Support

    First, we couldn’t ignore the fact that the label had a tricycle on it. It is front and center and holds a special place in the founder’s heart. So, we choose to embrace boldness and create an illustration style that is confident, playful, and narrative to tell the stories of our consumers. How they see themselves, see friends, or the characters that live among them. Each illustration expands on the style of the trike to champion those who embrace their individuality and celebrate that diversity with playfulness. The typography style supports the personality of the illustrations by being hand-drawn, imperfect, and approachable. It bridges the Harken brand personality with the illustrations. The copy celebrates personal stories of wine-drinking occasions while anchoring the brand’s character. Once the bold graphics attract a viewer’s attention, the body copy simply and transparently presents the brand attributes.

Our first goal was to create an emotional connection between the consumer and our product…wine is not the moment, the moment is the moment.


The Harken Chardonnay brand has been around as long as O'Neill itself. It was the first brand created under the O'Neill name, and had seen it's fair share of tactics. We brought the refresh to life during O'Neill's annual national sales conference, but did so in a way that would surprise the internal team. From guided signage, to custom illustrations of each individual, the brand went from concept to tangible execution in order to generate excitement for the 2024 year.


EATER & 2024

The brand relaunched in 2024 by taking over the Eater during the month of May for Chardonnay month. Brand assets continue to make their way into market, from retail to social, and more.