Package redesign thwarts brand identity crisis

When Kill Cliff's product line expanded to cover more of the CrossFit market, the packaging needed an update to reflect all new drinks designed for separate applications.

When Kill Cliff's product line expanded to cover more of the CrossFit market, the packaging needed an update.
When Kill Cliff's product line expanded to cover more of the CrossFit market, the packaging needed an update.

Created in 2011 by ex-Navy SEAL Todd Ehrlich with the needs of extreme fitness athletes in mind, beverage brand Kill Cliff enjoyed initial success with a post-exercise drink line. It was aptly named Recover thanks to its muscle inflammation-fighting formulation and was sold in 12-oz aluminum cans using color cues to differentiate between four flavors.

Kill Cliff eventually realized that recovery was only one piece of the exercise pie. Meanwhile, Kill Cliff had amassed quite a strong following in the CrossFit community. The company wanted to expand its line to capture extreme athletes’ unique hydration needs before and during their workouts, not just when recovering afterward. So earlier this year, Kill Cliff introduced a sports endurance beverage called Endure and an energy boost beverage called Ignite.

But in growing from a single product line to a product family, Kill Cliff faced an identity crisis that brought its packaging under scrutiny. Its containers would now need to effectively communicate that these were three separate drinks with three separate applications—for before, during, and after a workout. On the existing Recover can, the Kill Cliff name had been the primary message, with the recovery element relegated to a descriptor. Now that the Recover line would have two siblings with differing applications, these descriptors needed to be brought to the fore. Another concern was that the tall, thin metal can resembled the ubiquitous Red Bull can. However, only the Ignite line would contain energy drink properties. Finally, the new additions would benefit from the brand equity around the already strong Kill Cliff name.

The brand engaged Berlin Packaging’s Studio One Eleven to bring its concepts from ideation to commercialization. Berlin designed and presented multiple concepts, allowing Kill Cliff to drive the direction. The design team also designed the artwork files and any edits that needed to be made to make it easy for printing. This eliminated the need for a third-party design firm, and Kill Cliff was able to use Berlin’s services at no charge in exchange for the business. The result was eye-popping consistency across all lines, with each of the three drinks loudly declaring its intended application—so as not to be confused with existing energy drinks—under a more understated Kill Cliff brand identifier.

In the new lineup of drinks, the Ignite and Recover products remain in 12-oz sleek aluminum cans. While they offer portability, they are intended to be consumed in one sitting. Endure uses a hot-fill PET bottle with a tamper-evident closure capable of withstanding cold and hot temperatures. While this product can be polished off all at once, is meant to be consumed more gradually to extend the electrolyte intake during a workout session. Kill Cliff decided to move toward this bottle and closure format thinking that those consuming this beverage are likely to be actively moving around a gym, exercising outdoors, or in a workout class. They’d want a product that’s resealable but still mobile. It can be thrown in a gym bag or put in the fridge after opening to maintain its freshness, and it still fits comfortably in a car or bike/exercise machine cupholder.

The cans are direct-printed by domestic can suppliers. Berlin provided the artwork files on the manufacturer template for an easy artwork transition. For samples, Berlin provided PETG shrink sleeves.

KillCliffcontracts out all of its filling. The new Kill Cliff lineup became available in July in HyVee, GNC Live Well, HEB, and other retail stores.The cans can be bought individually at CrossFit gyms and in GNC and Whole Foods stores, and are available in 12-pack trays in larger retailers.

"We are very fortunate to have great partners like Berlin and Studio One Eleven, which worked with us to make this new design come to life,” says Joe Driscoll, CEO of Kill Cliff. “The new packaging is going to be a game changer for Kill Cliff."