Goldtoe Socks: Rebranding an Icon
The following is a case study discussing the logo, branding, and packaging work I did for Goldtoe socks. For more details, check out my project page.
"We know we have a great product...it just doesn't look relevant." This was one of the many comments I heard inside a small conference room in Columbus, Ohio back in 2015. A small team of us had left our Charleston, SC office for an offsite to discuss refreshing the Goldtoe image. In the room were product designers, marketing experts, and salespeople. They all agreed that our look wasn't keeping up with the competition. It was my first job out of college, but nevertheless, I had been selected to be the lead graphic designer.
In order for you to truly understand the challenge of the situation, you need a bit of background information. Goldtoe is a sock brand that's been around since 1934. They're well-known in the marketplace, but were struggling to attract a younger, fresher audience. That's what brings us back to that conference room conversation. Sometimes having a quality product and an entrenched following just isn't enough. In today's overly saturated marketplace, its imperative that your brand is able to grow into new and different customer bases. Given its extensive history, Goldtoe had the potential to form a strong emotional connection with a wide variety customers but the current branding wasn't serving that purpose.
The first part of any rebranding process is research, and we did a lot of it. We went through stores and purchased our competitors products. I scoured the internet for information on what brands were drawing attention from our new, younger, target market. Others crunched numbers and conducted surveys. I even created a massive Pinterest board full of different types of sock packaging.
With all this information in hand, I sat down and got to work.
It was obvious from the beginning that our logo wasn't helping us. Take a look below at what it looked like when I started with the company:
The rounded letterforms are friendly but dated, and it took me six months of working with the brand to realize that the semicircle below the wordmark was a toe. When placed next to the wordmarks of our competitors – Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Stance, just to name a few – we looked like a discount brand. This is not the type of thing that was going to resonate with our desired customer base. So, the logo had to go.
The biggest challenge when you're dealing with such an entrenched audience is rebranding in such a way that the product still feels familiar. You don't want to lose loyal customers because they no longer recognize which products are yours! I tried a variety of different logo designs but realized that while the branding had to be a departure from what we'd previously had, it couldn't be a complete and total overhaul.
This was the realization that inspired me to create the logo below:
As you can see, it's base is very similar to the previous iteration. In fact, it's the same typeface. I just squared off the edges to make it look sharper and more modern. Then, I added the "Est. 1934" in order to really emphasize the brand's legacy. The strength of this design was that it provided a much-needed update, while still retaining the previous logo's base form. It can hang on a display next to the old packaging and still look like it's the same brand – saving the company the significant amount of money and time that goes into repackaging product that's already on display in stores.
Things started moving quickly from there. We had a logo, a streamlined color scheme, and now it was time to tackle packaging. Here's a look at where things started:
It has a lot going on, doesn't it? There's the old logo, all the "stitching" zig-zags that don't really serve a purpose, and the quality of the materials is less than ideal – check out the tear and flaking ink. If we wanted the strength of our new logo to shine through, we needed a more streamlined packaging strategy.
Here's the design I came up with:
Quite a difference, right? Keeping with what had worked so far with our logo and color palette, I started cutting back. When you're shopping for socks you don't need a ton of information on the sock itself – instead, you need to be able to see and feel the actual product. I removed everything but the logo from the front so that whatever pattern was created for the enclosed sock could shine in all its glory. I moved other information to the reverse or to a stitched tag that kept both socks pinned together and hanging straight. Knowing that our previous paper stock often tore in transport, I got with our vendors and marketing team and together we selected paper and varnishes that would make it to the shelves in pristine condition.
With all the pieces of the puzzle in place, we began the production and distribution process. Today, if you walk into any store that carries Goldtoe, you'll see my work on the shelves.