Back in the 1990s, I had the great pleasure of visiting our client, WALA, in Eckwälden, Germany. This is the amazing company that makes WALA remedies and Dr. Hauschka Skin Care. They have a spectacular garden in which they grow a large number of medicinal plants they use for their remedies and for their skin care products. Meticulously cared for — with great attention to soil health, crop rotations, planting and harvesting times — this is a garden that follows biodynamic principles and practices. For me, this is a perfect example of science and nature working beautifully together.
WALA believes the consciousness of the gardener actually influences the health of the garden.
My guide was the head gardener at the time, Rolf Bucher. He showed me the beehives, as well as the diverse plants such as valerian, echinacea, chamomile and over a hundred others. What I noticed throughout the rows were occasional single flowers: a bright red rose here, a yellow peony there, a pink and purple fuschia at the head of a row of medicinal borage. Clearly these were not planted for efficient harvesting.
I asked Rolf why the odd flowers. His eyes lit up and he said, “They are there to enthuse and delight our gardeners. That is their purpose.” And it was true. Whenever I came upon one, I experienced surprise followed by pure pleasure. I felt my energy change.
There is a rational reason why WALA does this. They believe the consciousness of the gardener actually influences the health of the garden. You bring health, happiness and enthusiasm to the garden and the plants will respond in kind.
The activity in a garden is often used as a metaphor for other aspects of life: “love is like a rose blossoming in the….” This is a garden that supports two brands, WALA Medicines, remedies that are found in the same aisles as dietary supplements, and Dr. Hauschka, a skin care brand. It is a living embodiment of how a supplement/remedy company and personal care company can both share and learn from each other. Beyond the metaphors, both companies mutually benefit in so many ways: sharing scientific breakthroughs, the profits from one bolstering the research of the other, shared facilities and much more.
So what does this have to do with branding? Let’s break it down.
What’s going on in the garden
In the WALA garden there’s a lot of science going on. The science of soil management and fertilization, the science of crop rotation, the science of optimal harvest time, the science of weed and pest management, and the science of nutrient density.
There is also a lot of passion. The gardeners bring their enthusiasm to their work. Visitors are moved by the beauty. Trust me, you don’t want to leave.
Passion and science, emotion and logic, empathy and objectivity — these are the opposites at play whenever you brand a supplement or personal care company. These opposites are also evident in a medicinal garden, and what the gardeners and the scientists that process these botanicals look for is a healthy balance. So too should supplement and personal care companies.
More science for personal care and more passion for supplements
Right now most supplement companies stress the science, while most personal care companies brand for passion, for ritual, for self-nurturing. That makes perfect sense, except for this: science is the cost of entry for supplement companies, and if you don’t connect emotionally with your buyer, you’re not going to sell skin care. Right now, everyone is trying to tell the same story — science for supplements and passion for skin care and cosmetics.
So what if you threw in an unexpected metaphorical flower into your supplement branding? We’re not talking packaging or visuals, but rather connecting to emotional touchpoints that go beyond the functional and relate to more than just the intellect. How would that delight your customers? How memorable would that be?
Or what if a natural skin care company went beyond highlighting ingredients, the sourcing and their functional benefits, and instead celebrated the clinical science behind the choices?
What people remember
In a world filled with a multitude of supplement and personal care companies, it’s often only one or two facts about the brand that people remember.
- “Oh, they’re the one with their own farm.”
- “Oh, they discovered that ingredient while journeying in the Amazon.”
In the natural products marketplace, people tend to remember the sourcing stories, which is logical because they shop in this market for “natural” things. And sourcing stories need to be emotive to remind people why they are attracted to all things natural. It’s about connection and empathy.
That’s why so many herbal extract and dietary supplement companies want to bring store buyers and potential customers to their farms or facilities, so they can “experience” the brand, not just intellectually understand it. This is what they need to do with their branding as well — find a way to allow their consumers to experience it beyond the intellect.
The science needs to be there, and strong. But the science is the reassurance, not the reason why consumers choose one brand over another.
Personal care is doing it better
Personal care brands are very good at romanticizing the ingredients; there are those that focus on the fragrance and textures, which are essential, but there is little in the way of the “why” these were chosen. These companies want you to “trust” their ingredients because they are natural or organic. Choosing an ingredient because it reminds you of a feeling in its natural environment (i.e., seaweed reminding you of the enlivening feeling of being near or in the ocean) is not that same as choosing an ingredient because the research demonstrates measurable benefits.
Scientific skin care, where the cosmetic merges with the medical, has been around for decades. According to the market research company Diagonal Reports, “scientific skin care draws on “alternative” (also know as “natural”) medical traditions from around the world to develop products and treatments.”
This subcategory is growing fast in the conventional channel, and we are seeing natural skin care companies beginning to stress the science more. While this differentiates them, it’s still important that they emphasize the passion, and from what we’re seeing, those that highlight the science are striking a good balance.
Back to the garden
Since my trip to WALA, I have visited many farms, and what I look for is the consciousness of the farmers and gardeners. I look at how they approach their work. I look for their joy and their enthusiasm. The food tastes better grown by happier farmers. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking or maybe it’s true. Regardless, I believe that it tastes better, and therefore it does.
Farming and gardening are the costs of entry. How it’s expressed is what makes it different, and better. Science is the cost of entry for supplement brands. How they express their passion behind their products is what makes them different, and better. Passion and emotion are expected from skin care brands. How they weave science into their story is what differentiates them.
Image: © Dr. Hauschka Skin Care Inc