No-Nonsense Rebrand

Going Back to Basics

There is nothing sadder than a pioneering brand losing its relevance, especially if the offering is still effective and the market can still benefit from what the brand has to offer. In other words, there is no real reason for loss of relevance except that the consumer and trade no longer are able to relate.

The tough question being asked was, “Is Iron-Tek a brand that can ever be relevant again?”

Country Life’s general manager, Wendy Lucas, and director of marketing, Elizabeth Poon, have made it their mission to ensure that the Country Life portfolio of dietary supplement and protein brands is not just relevant but also essential. And they have done so without sentiment. Wendy came to the company in 2011, and one of her first hires was Elizabeth. They began their work with the flagship brand Country Life, then Biochem, the best-selling whey protein in the natural channel.

Their approach is always scientific: They look at the data, research the market for opportunity, determine positioning and then test solutions. When they relaunch a brand onto store shelves, they look for a high degree of certainty in how it will be received not just by the retailers but, more importantly, by consumers as well.

They also have a team of outside professionals whom they count on for specific elements of their process. Pure Branding is their market research consultancy, and they use a New York City boutique design firm for their packaging.

The Phone Call

It was an early spring day when Pure Branding’s marketing and research director, Peter Littell, received a call from Elizabeth. She had an idea about the protein consumer that she wanted to explore. We had worked closely together on the Biochem relaunch and could speak in shorthand about the protein market, its segments and behaviors.

But this was a conversation that quickly became an exploration of other aspects of American culture. It was a freewheeling conversation with an underlying reason, and it wasn’t for Biochem. It was for Iron-Tek, a protein brand that was once a leader in the protein category but had all but disappeared.

The tough question being asked was “Is Iron-Tek a brand that can ever be relevant again?” And if it could, how would it compete in the crowded protein category, which was growing by leaps and bounds in both sales and ever-increasing new brand entrants?

“Elizabeth had this idea that by breaking from conventional wisdom about the protein category, we open up the process,” says Peter. “So we set out to learn more about discovering a unique segment of protein users who were not being targeted specifically by other brands.”

Secondary Investigation and Workshop

We explored several trends through a combination of secondary research and online investigation of product categories that were complementary to the protein and fitness categories. One trend that emerged was a “back to the basics” or “retro” trend, where solid, no-nonsense products were celebrated over more technologically advanced or multifaceted products. We investigated the thematic and visual attributes of this trend and then looked at the data to determine the key demographics.

Data in hand, we conducted a one-day Brand Opportunity & Brand Strategy workshop. Key players from Country Life (executive, marketing, R&D and sales, and the account lead from their design agency) participated in the on-site workshop at Country Life’s headquarters in Hauppauge, New York. Together, we explored the opportunities for the Iron-Tek brand through the lens of the 5 Forces™: Organization, Offering, Trade, Category and Participant.

“This was a full day of constructive exercises and collective ideation,” says Elizabeth. “What struck me was how open yet controlled the process was, how everyone participated with equal energy and creativity. It was hard work but fun at the same time, and it clarified and unified our direction going forward.”

From the workshop, we developed the new brand center for Iron-Tek, and following the on-site, refined four differing positioning statements to be tested with consumers. The workshop also provided definition to the product development team about formulation opportunities.

Quantitative Confidence

Informed by the Brand Strategy from the workshop, the design firm developed two powerful brand identity and packaging options to test. Both concepts embraced key aspects of the new positioning but with different aesthetics and communication weighting.

The next step was to test these visual options along with positioning statements. Working with Country Life, we developed a quantitative survey that included our proprietary methodology for testing new packaging.


“What we hope for when we test new packaging is a clear-cut winner. Having worked with Pure Branding on several successful packaging design research studies, they understood how to structure the survey design to get clear answers in relation to segmentation, key attributes and positioning.”

Jessica LeMay
Country Life’s Group Creative Director

The data showed a clear winner. It hit on all the attributes that the target segment most admired, with strong purchase intent. “What we hope for when we test new packaging is a clear-cut winner,” says Jessica LeMay, Country Life’s group creative director. “Having worked with Pure Branding on several successful packaging design research studies, they understood how to structure the survey design to get clear answers in relation to segmentation, key attributes and positioning.”


“We never intended Iron-Tek to be anything but focused on a targeted shopper,” remarks Elizabeth. “We did not want it to cannibalize Biochem sales, and we needed to make sure that it had a unique place on the crowded protein planogram. By breaking from conventional wisdom, we were able to create a differentiated brand that spoke directly to our key participants.”

The results to date have been very strong for Country Life. Iron-Tek is now back on the shelves of natural food and natural vitamin stores across the country. There was never any guarantee of this, and there were many naysayers in retail who doubted the brand could ever be resuscitated. Yet new stores are being added each week and more shelf space being allocated, despite overall footprints shrinking. The company is private about sales figures, but the continued adoption and expansion can only point to success. A new website for the brand was developed (, which celebrates the rebrand values of hard work, teamwork, integrity and simplicity — the same values we used for this no-nonsense project.