Michelle Haydu

Instacart Brand Evolution


Instacart Brand Evolution

Objective: To create a cohesive brand with a strong look, voice and tone to help build brand awareness and affinity.

Role: Designer, project manager, art director

Team: Melissa Gould (copy), Sara Evangelista (illustrations)



The first step to reining in the brand was to do an audit in order to get a feeling of how our brand looked and felt to our customers.

What I discovered was a range of assets with various inconsistencies including:
- illustration style
- typography
- stock photography usage
- Instacart's logo (before and after rebrand)

These inconsistencies were hindering Instacart from forming a solid brand identity.


Campaign exploration

After the audit, it was time for Instacart to have it's first marketing campaign. Many of our partner grocery stores include in-store marketing in their various locations to promote grocery delivery via Instacart. 

As we proceeded to create a cohesive marketing campaign, our freelance designer, Sara, and I started to explore different messaging and design approaches for the in-store assets. 


We narrowed down our explorations to 4 concepts and presented them to an internal team. The team decided that the top two concepts were Food as Hero and Convenience.



Goal of research:
- Full asset appeal — head-to-head, which is more interesting?
- What led the respondents to choose the company they selected?
- How well does [each asset] represent specific brand attributes?

Survey: Conducted via Survey Monkey (audience of U.S. based Mechanical Turk workers)

Respondents: 403

"Shelf blade" assets we showed respondents. Design on right by Sara Evangelista.

"Shelf blade" assets we showed respondents. Design on right by Sara Evangelista.

We stripped away the Instacart brand so there wouldn't be biases and replaced the company name and URL with two fictional businesses. 

Summary of insights: Most respondents favored the Convenience concept, because it helped explain what Instacart is and how it works.


First In-Store marketing Campaign

After synthesizing the user research, we began iterating on the favored concept, Convenience.

Areas to improve:
- make the hands look more human
- expand the illustration bank to include many food items
- write copy that communicates how Instacart works

Many of the grocery stores Instacart partners with asked us to customize the templates we developed, and put a range of creatives around their stores including exterior banner signs, fridge wraps, window clings, end caps, and much more.


Evolving the In-Store Marketing Campaign

Although the first campaign was successful, we decided to refine it by simplifying the color palette and stripping away the gradient from the illustrations.

In addition, the initial campaign was created before Instacart had a copywriter. With Melissa Gould onboard, the company was able to develop a distinct brand voice. We shifted the focus from the illustrations to the messaging, and used illustrations as an accent. 


We also saw the importance of including Instacart's URL or mentioning the app to act as a call-to-action, as well as use the full-color logo throughout all assets to help with brand recognition.


Making Business Impact Through Design

In 2017, Instacart ramped up marketing efforts and started to explore ads outside of the grocery stores in order to reach a broader audience and increase activations.  We started to explore both digital and out-of-home advertisements, and used data to help guide us along the way.


As a first test, we created a look alike campaign for Gmail Sponsored ads. These ads were sent to people who were getting emails and doing searches for Instacart's competitors, or had email content related to grocery delivery.

We wanted to promote our brand benefits and free delivery on the user's first order. We focused on variety of subject lines, creative concepts, and CTAs. Each concept highlighted a different value proposition including:
- speed
- personal shoppers
- variety of stores

We ran A/B tests and used the data to iterate on the ads as time went on. One of the most successful concepts was speed.


Direct Mail

In addition to online advertising, we tried some traditional marketing efforts including out-of-home and direct mail. Our mailers reached over 2.9 million households. Not only did the mailers create many first-time customers, but we also learned which markets were most receptive, which were Columbia, South Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana and Midland, Texas.


Digital Advertising

In May of 2017, Instacart started to focus on digital marketing. We developed new campaigns for Google Display Network, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and various programmatic ads. In 4 months, activations increased by 97x.


Through digital marketing, we could now target new users at different stages of the funnel and customize the messaging to prompt them to enter their zip code, add items to their cart, checkout and more.


The biggest advantage digital ads gave us that we didn't get from in-store marketing was the ability to see what resonated with potential customers by measuring engagement and activations. We are taking those learnings and applying them to other forms of marketing, as well.