Brand Redesign Elevates Perception, Delivers Results

By Jennifer Acevedo

Toys are serious business. The landscape consists of a dizzying array of brands—all fighting for a piece of an estimated $20 billion market.
Top Shelf Holdings, distributor of Heritage Playsets and several other toy lines, recently set its sights on securing distribution with retailers Nordstrom and Macy’s. The brand had experienced success with smaller hobby and specialty shops but, in order to attract high-end clientele, some changes were clearly in order.
As Top Shelf interacted with its buyers, it became evident that the Heritage brand was suffering from perception issues. The product was well made, but the overall impression was not of a caliber higher-end retailers would consider. Buyers felt the packaging, which was designed overseas, created connotations of “cheap import” rather than a classic wooden toy.
The firm selected Alpharetta, GA-based XO Create! to develop a packaging system and brand mark that provided a more accurate perception of the brand’s values. With a well understood branding objective and packaging that represented that promise, the team felt sure the brand would gain entry into the desired channels.
The process
First order of business was to evaluate the existing packaging: it was clear distributors expected the product to command a lower price point, based on packaging that didn’t communicate its quality. Consumers, it seemed, agreed and also complained of difficult-to-read contents, accessories and age recommendations. Overall, the current design failed to deliver a clear brand promise and didn’t stack up well against other premium products in the category.
XO Create! tackled the brand mark first, balancing the need for a timeless logo that could remain relevant for years to come with a desire to communicate the brand’s heritage. Information hierarchy was the second core issue—all items on the existing packaging had the same weight and treatment, which can translate into slow reads at the shelf level. A well-structured visual hierarchy was recommended to assist the consumer in determining not only what they were buying, but from whom and why. Also on the list: higher quality product photography and better quality printing on the setup boxes.
The solution
Redesigned packaging features retro design elements and a straightforward information hierarchy intended to carry the brand beyond its prior perceptions. The new packaging breaks category standards with its clean, simplistic design and unique color palette (no primary colors here). Age specifications are clearly visible in sans serif, reversed type on a black background. And, as recommended, updated product photography makes the bright, cheerful toys the heroes and effectively conveys the products’ premium quality.
The new and improved Heritage Playsets debuted at this year’s British and New York Toy Fairs. Excited about the new brand concept, Top Shelf pushed the visual elements through to the display at both shows, further reinforcing the brand’s assets.
Top Shelf reports that the brand and its visual assets are performing well. Bottom line sales have more than doubled in the first quarter, and new clients and retailers—including—have taken notice. The firm also reports renewed interest from the European market, with wholesale inquiries and purchase orders by privately owned toy shops doubling in the first quarter.
The author, Jennifer Acevedo, is the Editor-in-Chief of BRANDPACKAGING magazine. Contact Jennifer at

Where to go for more information...
•Brand identity and package design.
•At XO Create!, contact Laura Donnelly at 678.319.4242 or visit