Case Study: Play On Rebranding

Our goal was to combine three separate private label brands into one cohesive, purposeful brand identity that fully encompasses dog, cat and small animal product categories.

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The Problem

Shortly after I began working at Pet Supplies Plus, a massive private label rebranding project was taking form. As the private label category began to grow, a big problem emerged: how can the company create a single brand voice across multiple categories of pet care for a variety of species?

The desire to combine three existing, separate brands under one thoughtfully curated look was paramount. One of the key hurdles was to find one voice that could speak for a variety of pet parents: dogs, cats and small animals. Because of this, it was vital to come up with a brand that would make cat ladies just as satisfied as the dog's best friends and the mom and dads of all the guinea pigs of the world. 

Users & Audience

The target users of the Play On brand are customers of Pet Supplies Plus. These customers are not familiar with an existing strong private label packaging. Owners of cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs and other small animals encompass the majority of our customer base. The average Pet Supplies Plus customer is a middle-aged female with an average household income over $100,000.          

An important factor to also keep in mind is the operational implementation of the packaging in the retail stores. Although it is important for the design to capture the audience, it should also be easy for the store employees to stock and set the items as well as navigate the information in the packaging to help aide the customers through the shopping process.

Team & Role

The initial brand identity was slowly developed through multiple design agencies under the direction of the team at Pet Supplies Plus. Three different agencies helped provide a piece of the puzzle to the brand's identity. The team art directing the brand creation included myself, the art director, the manager of private label development and the manager of each category being redesigned. 

Once the brand was refined enough to begin official packaging development, I lead a core team of 3 designers, with occasional support from the art director on larger initiatives. I coordinated or contributed to the development of the brand name, identity, copywriting, production, marketing and the necessary refinement of the brand as more categories were tackled. 

Brand Identity Development

Due to a variety of reasons that slow down or pause large corporate initiatives, the brand creation was lengthy and went through the hands of many agencies before production began. The initial challenge was to have all parties agree upon a brand name that had the potential to encompass all the species categories and was also not already trademarked. At this point, the Play On name was finalized.

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Another large piece of the puzzle was the actual voice of the brand, or in this case - the pet. Willoughby also provided vital copywriting support with the first leg of the Play On relay race. The most important part was for us to make sure Play On could justify how it "plays on" for dogs, cats and small animals.

After a few other attempts, we began to work with Willoughby Design, where the ideas really started to click. Directing the design alongside the team on the various Play On logo concepts, we landed on a playful yet clean logo with a customized font.

The tagline, "All you need from CARE-to-PLAY", was our first stage of connecting Play On to the three main species categories. Products offered range from toys to litter, cages to apparel, waste management to grooming supplies, and more.

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The development of the packaging design was happening in conjunction with the final stages of the logo development. After Willoughby proposed a handful of concepts, myself and the team started gravitating towards the tail silhouette concept. It felt new and energizing and I could see the potential to expand the packaging to include the silhouette to the rest of the pet's body. 

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Packaging Production

Once the rest of the copy was finalized, Willoughby released the final concept files to us and I was responsible for spearheading the rollout of the entire line. Since the number of SKUs involved were so vast, I assigned out some of the product lines to the core design team of four, with additional support from the art director on new, large category concepts.

The categories I focused on have included dog and cat grooming supplies, dog toys, dog treats, dog tie-outs, dog waste management, cat litter, cat litter accessories and a separate and unique concept for our holiday line that has cohesive ties to still fit in within the overall Play On brand. 

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Holiday Packaging Special Branding

Another design opportunity was the development of the holiday packaging. It was one of the only opportunities where I was allowed to flex my creative muscle with minimal design restrictions. The goal of the holiday packaging was to have two design options, a traditional Christmas-style theme and a theme that would be more geared for Hanukkah-themed items.

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I started with four different design concepts that you can see above. When the designs were opened up to a broader audience, the four designs was narrowed down to two. Another color study began and the consolidation continued. The decision to go with a more traditional design was made by the powers that be, so the art deco-style was put to rest - ready to be showcased here instead.

In the end, I found a safe and cohesive concept that pleased all parties involved. The designs allowed there to be enough distinction between the two themes, but still fit together as one brand voice as well as stick with a more traditional holiday feel.


The packaging has been well received throughout the company and the retail stores. Many of the stores are just now receiving the cat litter boxes, and the feedback has been very rewarding. Not only is the packaging interactive with the silhouette wrapping around the boxes, but they also stand out wonderfully in the aisles. 

The ability to create a private label brand that successfully competes and stands out from the lot has been a very rewarding situation. I had a great time seeing the higher level of brand development, when many different hands are in the decision-making process. It was exciting to play a role in art direction with agencies and eventually get my hands on the design files for production.

With thousands of SKUs to create, I have had the opportunity to collaborate, project manage, proof, produce, photograph and create 3D models. Not only was everyone throughout Pet Supplies Plus excited about the result, I was proud of what the team and I have accomplished. With 300+ more SKUs to go, thankfully Play On will be playing on for many months to come.

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