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



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 inconsistent approaches to illustration, typography and use of stock photography. In addition, there were still assets using Instacart's logo before the rebrand, which was 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 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.



We conducted user research on the concepts in order to find out:
- 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 

"Shelf blade" assets we showed respondents 

We stripped away the Instacart brand so there wouldn't be biases and replaced the company name and URL with two fictional businesses. Through the research we learned there was a clear winner and why.


First In-Store marketing Campaign

After synthesizing the user research, we began iterating on the favored concept, Convenience. We took into consideration the open-ended responses from the research and made a handful of edits including making the hands look more human, and also expanded the illustration bank to include many food items. We focused on writing copy that communicated how Instacart works.

Front of a promotional flyer

Front of a promotional flyer


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 strip away the gradient from the illustrations. Since Instacart has continue to sign stores beyond grocery retailers, we also expanded our illustration bank to include pet supplies, health and beauty, and school supplies.


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, and 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.


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 tested illustrations, different styles of photography, as well as messaging. 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.


Instacart's biggest target market is moms. We started to test creatives and messaging with them in mind on a variety of platforms. By using the data we gathered through digital marketing, we were then able to apply the most successful messaging and creative to printed assets as well to increase their effectiveness.