Sunday, March 6, 2016

Quick and dirty brand analysis. Neal's Yard Remedies.

Neal's Yard Remedies, founded in 1981, is a British beauty classic.  I'm surprised it isn't more widespread than it is outside of the UK. But then again, conscientious growth just goes with their ethical, earth-aware ethos. Still, NYR is a bit solemn - they have established their authority as a leader in the organic field, earned our trust, won awards and I think they need to have a little fun. NYR is now on Snapchat (just during the writing of this post!) and I'm curious to see how that goes. How would it work? They are clearly not playing to the Snapchat audience. I think they can move in that direction though by unleashing their inner cool, and I have ideas for how that could happen.

With the increasing interest in both personalized medicine and nutrition, as well as the ever-expanding holistic approaches to health and wellness, Neal's Yard will have a a lot of foment to tap into in the coming years. It is alternative healing - beauty and body homeopathy to the allopathic, aseptic pharmaceutical beauty brand La Roche-Posay. A Boiron to Pfizer. Both the ethics and the local nature of their products are core to the brand and to the "go local" phenomenon which remains dominant. While taking environmental and even social sustainability head-on (Argan oil is sourced from Moroccan women's work cooperatives), they speak to people looking for natural solutions to stress, sun protection, aging and chemical sensitivities. Without being too technical, NYR inform you on the maladies of modern life and how their products deal so harmonically with them. They're empowering their consumers with information and education, to take their healing into their own hands - all so good.

Their iconic blue - regal, tranquil, staid, a bit traditional, somewhat austere- is offset by a soft, modern looking serif font. The glass packaging and label is also a key symbol - a calming watery vehicle connecting us back to the earth - the colors of beach glass. Part of their color palate even includes the beige-y sand. It is an interesting contrast to the tree logo - the mirrored reflection suggests NYR works on building up, rather than depleting the earth. They embody the solid earth. That the power of what we see is fueled by what we don't - the roots underground. This extends to their products - simple yet powerful, the oomph of the earth within them. The glass packaging? Another visionary move way before the effects of BPA became part of the public discussion. Together, there is honesty, calm, authority, trust, elegance, longevity and simplicity, sustainability: moral satisfaction for the post-Aquarian eco activist, or the traveler who needs to be enveloped in the soothing, grounded, earthy goodness. It is a place where Rachel Carson would undoubtedly shop. But you can still imagine its hippie chic origins in the colorful Covent Garden store.

Rachel Carson, the marine biologist and visionary author of Silent Spring

I see a fitting comparison in Kiehl's Since 1851, even if it is a more luxury brand - it has something to suggest to NYR. With its own fun take on natural beauty medicine, it's signal is more quirky than NYR - in a good way. I don't love some of their brighter colored packaging, but as old as the company is, Kiehl's comes out more strongly on the cool factor: more badass rockabilly with its motorcycle and skeleton - Mr. Bones displayed in store.  The original location in the West Village (where I bought a product a few weeks ago)  is on the apothecary tip of beauty and wellness - where you might have found the old naturalists bringing ingredients to the ol' alchemists one-hundred-ish years back. At the same time, their products gain some legitimacy as a "treatment" through the association with the pharmacy structure, the in-store consultants donning white coats to demonstrate the scientific transformation of nature into its purified, medicinal state - a bit too pharmaceutical for NYR.

But NYR promote actual health much more than Kiehl's, and I had a truly wonderful in-store experience at Neal's Yard, Victoria Station when passing through London recently. The service was so knowledgeable, it would have been comical, crunchy madness, if I didn't feel so comforted by the fact that I felt I'd leave with what I needed. The product selection wasn't overwhelming - it felt like everything I might have wanted was there. I ended up creating my own delicious body oil blend. And then I got it home and kind of forgot what exactly was in the bottle. It wasn't written down anywhere for me. NYR probably captured this info as they charged it out but it suggested something missing in the experience. Though I have some bigger suggestions, I'll start here:

Suggestion 1: Community building. They are spot-on - clear leaders- with so many options for personalization, but NYR should offer a way for me to refer back to what I'd actually purchased. The in-store experience is a chance to really play and I had no way to follow up that process with an online engagement. They've laid the foundation but need to follow through by allowing people to solidify an individual experience rather than a generalized one - have a two-way conversation for customers excited about the great product they'd developed: Me "Mmm, an argan body oil with neroli and frankincense" do you love it as much as I do?" Neal's Yard rep: "great blend...For those of you who don't know about those gems, the benefits of that should be x, y and z" and so on. Link retail and digital more thoroughly.

Suggestion 2: Bring it to the Men - We are well into the age where men are accustomed to taking more attentive care of themselves. NYR aren't just pampering products. They are the very basics that we all need for ongoing good maintenance. The revolution in men's face hair in the past few years has allowed them exposure to new products that can become a gateway to more careful attention. Men's grooming is actually a thing. NYR boasts a small masculine line, but I think the majority of NYR, as well as the packaging, is gender neutral which is great. Start hitting #mensgrooming #mensproducts #fathersday #menwithstyle #forthemen. There should be a Men's kit along with the other skincare kits. Plus, the basis of every masculine fragrance is here - black pepper, cedarwood, bergamot, coriander . There is so much to mine at NYR for the men. However, there is little to no signaling to the men that these are products for them too - beside the shaving cream. Masculinity is turning inside out right now - NYR should be on the cutting edge of gender developments.

While more targeted research is needed, here are two quick options for cool/interesting masculine venues:
AnOtherman (a division of AnOthermag)
The Art of Manliness

Suggestion 3: Strategic collaborations that brings NYR into tribes and territories that would share the organic and sustainable vibe with some well-selected products, or limited-release products for each extension, to ADD SOME FUN by just extending a bit. This approach may be off their radar because they just seem to be speaking to an older audience - too serious. Their low-key, life affirming path is wonderful but frankincense and neroli, ylang ylang - these are sensual - NYR has to bring out that there are MANY tribes that fit within their range - the lavender and a quiet cup of tea feels entirely too contained. Young people are increasingly conscious of the sustainability of organic products and they're also concerned about sun protection and aging. But NYR has to update not only the technology but brand-feel accordingly and young people are more likely to take notice if they see NYR enjoying the ride, and see people enjoying their NYR products.

CATCH THE WAVE. Semiotics informed directions that can extend the brand: build an aquatic element into the NYR line. It is already contained in the dark blue glass and the lighter blue labeling - the beach glass. Aquatics would represent a striking, yet intuitive, organic complement to their earth base, held so beautifully in their logo with tree and roots. Earth provides the solid base, water flows - allows different, new energy, even as they work together. In the same way, the water element makes sense from a national perspective, as a British brand, the water all around the isles. The seashore taps into all the calm and tranquility NYR aims for yet it could bring a bit of edginess, lighten the mood up a bit - "fresh" and "oceanic" "marine" and "sea". Without veering sensorially into the coconut, vanilla and pineapple when going for a youthful audience, it can always be made to cut across segments with florals and citrus, bay leaf.  The aquatic element adds in beautiful products around seaweeds, kelps and sea salts both for body and as remedies or supplements - there are currently one or two products but it could become a more integrated, intentional strategy.

Seaweed, Salty AND Earthy
There is salt: Maldon of course, which is a mainstay in my home, but I can also imagine some hand-harvested fair-trade/ethical sourcing, highlighting the UK such as the Hebridean or Cornish Sea Salt but also supporting salt harvesters in other parts of the world. As much, it easily brings NYR beauty and wellness activism to oceanic and climate change routes. Sun care could add-in "beach/sea" care and beyond that, there are already so many water associated products to incorporate, though I'd love to see NYR adopt something like a Seaweed Absolute (bladderwrack) or Oakmoss in their essential oils to align with the theme. It feels right and it keeps the elegance and the sustainability core.

H&M Collab with Swedish Surfer Collective Nordsurf
Surf Styling - this is the part I love about adding an aquatic element to NYR. The potential for brand partnerships and NYR champions in the surfing community is very cool. Surfers are environmentalists - the sport requires being in accord with nature.  They are serious about their sport and about the environment but have a reputation for being lighthearted about life - groundedness of earth, "flow" of water. Partnering with sustainable and earth-conscious brands, surfer foundations and surfers as influencers and champions unleashes the hidden cool I am seeking here. Here are a few partners, just to get started: The first one is an obvious choice: The Green Wave, based in the UK is about sustainable surfing, gear and lifestyle products. Another is TwoThirds—a striking brand, relatively new from Spain that combines surfing and environmentalism in order to follow their philosophy, "Protect what you love." The Surfrider Foundation is a decades old non-profit that has a separate European arm whose mission is to protect beaches and shorelines. They work with corporate sponsors - how much fun would it be for NYR to help start a UK chapter of Surfrider?

Have a few beach parties to launch in select UK surf locations and highlight the new strategy, environmental concerns and some new products. Aquatics allow many new possibilities for keeping to the core feel of NYR but bring new products and new segments without being too forceful or even going too far afield.

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