Case Study

Agile support for a market leader. Making it real and keeping it real for the office products megabrand.

/ Staples: Intro

Staples

The Staples brand is a marketing juggernaut. And for 10+ years Sprout has been a steady and consistent design resource for this Boston-based market leader — a staple as it were. Our work for Staples teams over the years has run the gamut, from the tactical and expedient to the expansive and projective. This roll-up captures a sampling of our work for Staples and its house brand portfolio.

/ Staples: The Challenge

Business Challenge

The Staples brand is a retail marketing machine. They defined the “big box” shopping experience well before Amazon arrived to reset retail rules around selection, convenience, and price. And they were among category leaders who ably complemented their bricks and mortar equities with ecommerce competencies.

But for a category-dominant retailer like Staples there is always a monster at the door. In every segment where they play Staples faces ongoing product, channel, and price competition. There’s a reason their brand values — Accountability, Pragmatism, Customer Focus, Collaboration, and Simplicity — are so straightforward. Winning means improving on that value proposition year after year after year.

Key Insight(s): Staples found a kindred spirit in Sprout. Their values resonate with the Sprout ethos where hustle and quality and pragmatism are also part of the equation. We have built a relationship with Staples around these shared ideals that now spans ten years, diverse house brands, and dozens of projects across every segment in their portfolio.

With over 150+ consultancies and vendors supporting the Staples design and branding team, there are many swim lanes and premier talent in all of them. There are also versatile, agile, and responsive resources in the mix, including Sprout, who Staples relies on for multidisciplinary, multi-category, multi-lane support. As an ID-led marketing studio, with deep competencies in packaging structures and graphics, along with visualization expertise from ideation to shelf edge, Sprout has a skill set that package goods marketers require. As design consultants, we crave problem solving for Staples at any scale — from authoring new-to-the-word products to reviving underperforming in-line changes.

3D CAD Render by Sprout Studios of Staples Desk Accessories spaced out on a red surface
/ Staples: The Approach

Creative Opportunities

Our working relationship has evolved around three types of Staples engagements. “Hurry-up Offense” – where the fierce urgency of now requires expedited solutions to pressing concerns. “Wrangling” – where a range of products has become messy, unwieldy or confusing and must be tamed. And New Product Development – where an unmet need or category opportunity warrants to a thoughtful, on-brand product development push.

We have pursued work in each of these segments across all the Staples private label brands, including, Staples® (house), Tru Red® (office supplies), Perk® (disposable tableware), Coastwide® (janitorial supplies), NXT® (consumer electronics), and Union & Scale® (office furniture).

White Staples logo on top of a 3D CAD Render by Sprout Studios of an office setting
White Tru Red logo on top of a 3D CAD Render of pens, markers, and highlighters by Sprout Studios
White Perk logo on top of a 3D CAD Render of cups by Sprout Studios
Coastwide Professional logo on top of a 3D CAD Render of Paper Towel Machine by Sprout Studios
NXT Technologies logo on top of a 3D CAD Render of electronic by Sprout Studios
Union & Scale logo on top of a 3D CAD Render of a chair by Sprout Studios

Style at Staples

The challenge here is to balance the voice of Staples house brands with those of its licensed brand partners to so that the in-store and online experience is compelling and cohesive. We threaded this visual design needle for offers from Martha Stewart, Condren, Dwell, Cupcakes & Cashmere, and others. Against a backdrop of Staples goodness we showcased these seasonal and specialty offers in ways that put the entire category in a new light.

3D CAD Render a Style by Staples Store with people by Sprout Studios
3D CAD Render a Style by Staples Store with a person by Sprout Studios
Style by Staples Website Mockup
Style by Staples Deck

NXT

Our NPD work for this consumer electronics portfolio embraced the design criteria that grounds all Staples brand experiences — remove obstacle, offer clever capabilities, and epitomize value. From surge protectors, to powerbanks, to in-car chargers, to wireless headphones and speakers, to cables and thumbdrives — we have developed products that fit the need, packaging that celebrates the products, experiences that on-board new owners, and graphics that built equity for the NXT brand.

Staples NXT Products Grid CGI Render by Sprout Studios
NXT Product Family Black Staples NXT Products on black Table CGI Render by Sprout Studios
Staples NXT Packaging Product Render Sprout Studios
Staples NXT Packaging Product Render by Sprout Studios
Guy Sketches a product concept

Staples Viz

Omnichannel retailers like Staples rely on the lock-step visual presentation of their products and packaging from web presence to shelf edge. When you multiply that requirement by tens of thousands of SKUs, you need a precise ground game. Sprout supports the uniform rendering of Staples assets throughout the go-to-market process with rendering protocols and time-saving techniques that have become a Staples competitive advantage.

Staples Sprout Studios Swiss Army knife of Design Product industrial ID Packaging Strategy Branding Rendering CGI Sprout studios, Boston, industrial design, product design, rendering, CAD,
Staples Sprout Studios Swiss Army knife of Design Product industrial ID Packaging Strategy Branding Rendering CGI Sprout studios, Boston, industrial design, product design, rendering, CAD,
Staples Sprout Studios Swiss Army knife of Design Product industrial ID Packaging Strategy Branding Rendering CGI Sprout studios, Boston, industrial design, product design, rendering, CAD,
Staples Sprout Studios Swiss Army knife of Design Product industrial ID Packaging Strategy Branding Rendering CGI Sprout studios, Boston, industrial design, product design, rendering, CAD,
Staples Sprout Studios Swiss Army knife of Design Product industrial ID Packaging Strategy Branding Rendering CGI Sprout studios, Boston, industrial design, product design, rendering, CAD,

Staples Education

As part of work for Staples upstream and downstream in the product and packaging development process, we have helped refine best practices for on-brand conventions and production quality control. Our relationship has expanded to include workshops where we cross-train teams around print production practices which ensure that packaging designs flow smoothly from intent to execution.

Microsoft Teams on a Desktop Computer
Spread from a Print Production Book Mockup on a grey surface
Guy cutting paper with ruler
/ Staples: The Outcome

Return on Relationship (ROR)

By sticking the landing on project after project for Staples over years, we have developed a business rapport with their team that returns dividends beyond individual engagements. They trust us to help them no matter the scale of the project or the degree of urgency. And we both have taken the opportunity to embed team members on site at the others’ office when collocation can expedite work or manage complexity.

While we regularly support design- and brand-led projects, we also: network with design and production resources that can advance both our businesses; help set and manage quality control expectations to guide other creative services vendors or new hires; provide a form of institutional memory for processes and learning that maintain continuity amid reassignments or turnover; onboard new designers and cross-functional teams around print production best practices; and offer a safe, economical sandbox for Staples teams to prototype and pressure test new product ideas.

Staples Sprout Studios Swiss Army knife of Design Product industrial ID Packaging Strategy Branding Rendering CGI Sprout studios, Boston, industrial design, product design, rendering, CAD,
/ Staples: Testimonial

“We worked with Sprout for many years on all types of projects, we tried rendering for packaging with Sprout during our Fast Track program where we rushed 200 new and innovative products to market. The timelines were so tight. Not only did we get the work done on time, we set the imagery standards, and delivered work well beyond exceptions. There are a lot of nuances to executing this work and we never would have taken this on without their dedication and cost-conscious approach.”

Daniel Reilly

Director, Product Brand Management, Design & Packaging