Nerve Collective
These Chicago coffee roasters

We’ll take you from zero to a ready-for-market brand

FAST, AND WITHOUT ALL THE USUAL AGENCY BLAH BLAH BLAH

We did it for these businesses, meeting them where they were, usually with only a faint idea of what they wanted their brands to look like, feel like and sound like.

These Chicago coffee roasters

These Chicago coffee roasters

…were ahead of their time when we encountered them as a startup. Just a coffee-loving couple with tons of ability, their ambition was to become Chicago’s premier boutique coffee roasters. Both had decades of foodservice experience, so they knew that while there was money to be made in retail, the real untapped potential in the Chicago market was in wholesale.

 What they needed was a brand that could go anywhere. That is, a brand that would speak as clearly to time-pressed commuters and espresso-sipping hipsters as it would to margin-conscious restauranteurs and all-business distributors. The brand had to be cool but not alienating, stripped down but resonant.  ↓

What they needed was a brand that could go anywhere. That is, a brand that would speak as clearly to time-pressed commuters and espresso-sipping hipsters as it would to margin-conscious restauranteurs and all-business distributors. The brand had to be cool but not alienating, stripped down but resonant.

 The mark they finally settled on was the soul of simplicity: a single coffee drip. But the brand was as big as a city. They wanted to own Chicago, so we helped them own it. We covered their packages with vintage photographs. We sprinkled Sandburg poems over their web copy. We named their limited-run blends for city landmarks (and custom-illustrated the labels too).  ↓

The mark they finally settled on was the soul of simplicity: a single coffee drip. But the brand was as big as a city. They wanted to own Chicago, so we helped them own it. We covered their packages with vintage photographs. We sprinkled Sandburg poems over their web copy. We named their limited-run blends for city landmarks (and custom-illustrated the labels too).

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 Everything about the brand shouted Chicago, Chicago, Chicago. And we spread it over signage, packaging, websites, promotional pieces, sell sheets, merchandise and POP. In short, anything that would help solidify their position as Chicago’s definitive boutique coffee roaster. Their brand, in 2007, was new. But we made it feel like they'd been a market leader for years.  ↓

Everything about the brand shouted Chicago, Chicago, Chicago. And we spread it over signage, packaging, websites, promotional pieces, sell sheets, merchandise and POP. In short, anything that would help solidify their position as Chicago’s definitive boutique coffee roaster. Their brand, in 2007, was new. But we made it feel like they'd been a market leader for years.

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 Today that’s exactly what they are — at both the retail and wholesale level.

Today that’s exactly what they are — at both the retail and wholesale level.

These nationally known beverage makers

These nationally known beverage makers

...decided they needed to stage a breakout. Their main product line was beginning to saturate their market. And what do you do when you're starting to reach your market's saturation point: you look for new markets to enter. Which is how they got connected to us. 

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 The designs they needed — a can series and multi-can container concept — had to be completely unlike anything they’d done before. Which is why they chose not to use their highly capable in-house design team. The look had to be utterly new.  ↓

The designs they needed — a can series and multi-can container concept — had to be completely unlike anything they’d done before. Which is why they chose not to use their highly capable in-house design team. The look had to be utterly new.

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 To call it a crash project is something of an understatement. We only had two weeks to research, think, and design. Yet in that time we delivered six radically different concepts, plus a naming and messaging scheme. The sketches you're seeing here reflect just one of those concepts.  We can’t say much more about this project because our client is competing in an emerging segment. The competition is fierce and product hasn’t been released yet. But come January 2020 you can bet we’ll be crowing about it. We may even have a few other new product project to talk about for this customer. We’re designing those right now.

To call it a crash project is something of an understatement. We only had two weeks to research, think, and design. Yet in that time we delivered six radically different concepts, plus a naming and messaging scheme. The sketches you're seeing here reflect just one of those concepts.

We can’t say much more about this project because our client is competing in an emerging segment. The competition is fierce and product hasn’t been released yet. But come January 2020 you can bet we’ll be crowing about it. We may even have a few other new product project to talk about for this customer. We’re designing those right now.

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 Their veteran distiller told them right up front that when it comes to selling whiskey, brand is everything. If they wanted to make a splash in retail bourbon — and not end up relegated to wholesale “contract” distilling for other, better-known brands — the label had to pop and the story had to speak to people.  We love these ground-up brand creation projects, so we dove right in building a complete consumer experience for them, one they could use not only leverage to attract second-tier investors to the project, but one they could use to build excitement as the release date drew closer.  ↓

Their veteran distiller told them right up front that when it comes to selling whiskey, brand is everything. If they wanted to make a splash in retail bourbon — and not end up relegated to wholesale “contract” distilling for other, better-known brands — the label had to pop and the story had to speak to people.

We love these ground-up brand creation projects, so we dove right in building a complete consumer experience for them, one they could use not only leverage to attract second-tier investors to the project, but one they could use to build excitement as the release date drew closer.

 Of course we did quite a few bottle designs, a spec website and merch — all of it anchored by a core story that positioned the product within the grand tradition of Kentucky whiskey making. It also laid the groundwork for what will one day be an entire family of distilled products.   Again, we can’t say or show much here, because the bourbon is still in the barrel (and will be for at least another three years), but leave us your name if you want us to score you a bottle. It’s gonna be some darn good stuff.    ╳

Of course we did quite a few bottle designs, a spec website and merch — all of it anchored by a core story that positioned the product within the grand tradition of Kentucky whiskey making. It also laid the groundwork for what will one day be an entire family of distilled products.

Again, we can’t say or show much here, because the bourbon is still in the barrel (and will be for at least another three years), but leave us your name if you want us to score you a bottle. It’s gonna be some darn good stuff.