Founded in 1997, Level Ground Trading’s mission is to trade fairly and directly with small-scale producers in developing countries, and to market their products in North America, offering their customers ethical choices. The company steadily grew a local, loyal following for their range of coffees, as well as recent introductions of raw cane sugar and dried fruit. However, as the company and brand grew, Level Ground began to compete with more sophisticated brands farther afield, and were failing to connect in a meaningful way with a broader consumer audience.
Consumer focus groups confirmed that Level Ground’s positioning and mission was right: to celebrate the actual farmers and producers with whom Level Ground maintains direct, personal and business relationships. “Direct Fair Trade” was the key. However, an overly “charitable” sensibility to their imagery and design, not to mention negative consumer feedback on their packaging’s glossy, metallic foil bags, demanded a change. This, combined with their tendency to forget about the superior quality of their coffees themselves, meant a refinement of the core communication. Focus groups also gave “permission” for the logo to change. The current logo did not connect with consumers, and there was little to no recall on the logo itself, even from loyalists.
The new logomark declares boldly the superiority of “Direct Fair Trade”: two hands (and dialogue bubbles) shake, forming an “equal” sign between them. This brand identity is founded on equality, fairness and relationships, and brings a human touch right into the logomark itself.
The packaging platform takes the thought further: the producer is the real hero. Celebrated with intimate, inviting photography “in situ”, the farmers grace authentic kraft bags, with a label that declares Level Ground’s expertise and deep knowledge of the origins and taste profiles of each of their coffees. From the most prevalent 300g bags, to 2lb club-store bags, 5lb coffee store “eco-cubes”, and 6 and 12-pack shipper displays, the brand comes alive consistently but with rich variation to tell the whole story of Level Ground.
The Identity Platform completes the circle: engaging copy like “We shake the hands that pick the coffee”, “Coffee lover. Meet coffee grower”, and “Good. From crop to cup” expresses the duality of “direct fair trade” and “superior coffee”, and mixes images of the producers themselves with product shots and prominent logos to drive this new brand’s awareness and recall. Innovative posters, retail displays, banners, flags, vehicles, t-shirts, coffee cups, event booths and a mini-brochure all help Level Ground’s below-the-line marketing efforts and their ability to get the word out in the community, at events and in retail. The Standards Manual helps keep new materials on-brand and efficiently produced.