eos: An empire built on innovation and brand recognition
eos (evolution of smooth) is a highly successful and highly recognizable brand that has truly changed the beauty and personal care segment. eos co-founders Jonathan Teller and Sanjiv Mehra started the company, based in Manhattan, NY, to “improve everyday beauty rituals for women.” I talked with them to get the scoop on who the brand is, how packaging plays an important role and why eos has reached cult status amongst users. Don’t believe that one? Check out all of the social media pics, posts and celebrity selfies that feature the iconic lip balm.
eos set out to build a brand with a clear vision and a specific consumer base – women 27-29 years old who have an interest in beauty but not an obsession. The consumer is curious and “in the know” culturally. Teller and Mehra developed the brand built on intuition and observations in the marketplace, with a focus on what’s missing in market.
“We wanted to bring more delight to this consumer,” says Teller.
As Teller explains, beauty rituals, like applying lip balm, are performed multiple times per day, so the two then thought about what they could create to make this ritual better, asking how this new product could present a better and more thoughtful experience. And they did just that.
The iconic sphere lip balm
eos has very a recognizable package design, from the smooth plastic to the pastel colors, and most notably the shape. So, the million dollar question for me was, “Did you set out to make a sphere lip balm?” The answer is no, not really.
“It was not organic in that we didn’t say, the thing missing in my life is a sphere lip balm,” says Mehra.
Instead they decided on a consumer to go after and looked into the category, looking through hundreds of images and asking two questions: What is missing from her life and how can we engage with this consumer?
“If we are to be successful and engage the consumer… then we need to come up with innovation, and to do that means we have to understand what is missing in her life or with the product she is currently using,” Mehra adds.
And what was missing was the ability to clearly and quickly identify their lip balm in a large purse, or bag, (a trend within this consumer segment).
“What we saw was women had a number of lip balms, but for the most part, when they reached into their large bags… they couldn’t locate the product. They reached in and there would be many other things floating around, pens, pencils, tubes of lipstick… it was not clear to them what they were holding and touching or where their lip balm was,” says Mehra.
“Let’s make something relatively easy to find, and let’s make something the moment they touch it even though they cannot see it, they know this is their eos lip balm,” says Mehra.
That thought is what drove the need for something different and unique, but further investigating and brainstorming was needed to reveal the ah-ha moment for the co-founders.
Teller explains that in the market there were tubes, sticks and pots and each had their drawbacks. Consumers didn’t like the pots because they were then forced to touch the product, which they didn’t want to do, and the tubes and sticks would get lost in their purse.
Teller says he saw women taking a pot of lip balm and applying it directly to their lips and immediately saw this as the opportunity, and the sphere was born. The sphere shape in a women’s bag is easily felt and identifiable, without even looking at it. How’s that for brand recognition?
Creating a sensory experience
Mehra and Teller really sought out to create a product that would engage all five senses with the feel of the smooth plastic and curves to the visual appeal of the colors and shape. But also with the click of the product closing, which was deliberately engineered, to the taste and smell of the flavors themselves.
“When all are engaged (the five senses) the consumer gets a completely satisfying experience,” says Mehra.
With aesthetics, improved function and a sensory experience all ticked off the list, they looked at one more package feature to ensure a holistic experience. Ergonomics played a large role in deciding each product’s shape and overall package design. Mehra explains that they hired a sculptor to come in and make a clay mold of the sphere lip balm so that they could hold each concept mold and determine the best size and feel by asking how does it feel in my hand, how does it feel as I bring it to my lips?
It isn’t just the lip balm that got so much extra attention and thought; the whole line was designed to be easy and convenient to use, thus improving the product experience. For instance, the shaving cream package was designed in part to solve a major issue that consumers experience: rust rings in the shower from metal shave cans. eos’ shave cream package is metal-free so it won’t leave a ring, is easily grippable, but also delivers an exceptional moisturizing product.
“For us, the aspect of packaging design has to be aesthetically pleasing but also for us, in order for it to be successful, there has to be an element of an improved function to the product we’re developing so that it’s a holistic experience for the consumer,” says Teller.
Take the hand lotion and it’s easy to see how ergonomics plays a big role. The lotion easily fits in the hand, purse or pocket. The top clicks to close so there’s no worry of a leak and the package is aesthetically pleasing too, because as Teller explains, it’s all about the balance between function and aesthetics.
“If it’s just aesthetically pleasing and it’s difficult to use, well that’s not going to work and if it’s just ergonomically well-designed and it’s not aesthetically pleasing well that won’t work, so it has to be the balance of the two,” says Teller.
The bulk of the eos line-up was designed in-house. In some cases, the team used clay molds to figure out the perfect feel and shape of these products and worked with many suppliers, some local, to have these custom molds created.
The packaging plays a big role in who eos is
It’s evident by looking at the brand line-up who eos is; the brand is feminine, the brand is fun, and every element has been thought through. Also the design brings delightfulness and a smile, and it is meant to because consumers are starting to expect a great deal from personal care packaging from the functionality to the aesthetics. Why? Because as Teller explains, generally these are products that they see and use every day.
“These are products that consumers use every day, in many cases multiple times per day, they live with these products. Just like our consumer cares about design in many aspects of her life, we think personal care should be no different,” says Teller.
The package itself is the largest piece that the consumer engages with and according to Mehra, consumers embed a lot of positive memories of using the product associated with the packaging. Consumers will even hold onto cosmetic cases and fragrance bottles long after the product itself it finished.
“That’s what we would like the role of packaging to play in every product, that it’s not just a container… it is actually something that the consumer can reflect upon, because as she uses the product, the engagement with the packaging gives her additional level for delight. And then create a positive memory,” describes Mehra.
Since women live with these items and look at them every day, it was important for the co-founders to create a “visual and tactile delight.”
“They should look at a delightful object instead of a billboard,” says Mehra.
eos launched in 2009 and very quickly became the leading lip balm in every country around the world it launched in. Few people don’t know their flagship lip balm.
“That is driven by the power of packaging, and of course of branding, but packaging plays a real role in it and the importance of it shouldn’t be understated,” says Mehra.
“From the early days we’ve set high standards for ourselves and that was intentional because we thought the only way we really have a right to be on the shelf and the only way we’ll really compete is to set and maintain high standards because consumers are very sophisticated and we have to deliver and exceed their high expectations… it makes our jobs a little harder every day but we believe it’s the right thing to do to make the brand we want to make,” says Teller.
eos is, as the tagline suggests, an evolution. The brand is already a leader in the segment but that doesn’t mean that Mehra and Teller have any plans on being stagnant.
“We’re always working on new products, new packages and improvements to our existing products,” says Teller.
The company has a packaging group that focuses on just that as it is an important part of what they do eos is always looking at improving sustainability efforts, using biodegradable plastic, less plastics, as well as a variety of other initiatives. Currently, the products are made with a layer of recycled plastic.
So, why the tagline “evolution of smooth”? The company wanted a word to describe the post-use consumer feeling (smooth), as well as the ongoing innovation they are pursuing.
“The evolution part was important because that reflects the innovation that we constantly try to strive for and as we look at everything we are doing, we are asking ourselves, how is this an improvement? Our belief is that we have to evolve not only from where other products are in the category but then we have to constantly be looking at our own products and seeing how are they going to evolve, as well as the brand itself,” says Mehra.
Social media strategy is a big tool for the company, including an active and fun Twitter account, celebrity endorsements and plenty of consumer engagement. It’s clear that consumers wish to share and engage because they find interest and delight in eos and they value self-expression.
“Our social media stats show we have the most engaged audience of any big beauty brand out there,” says Mehra.
One look at the eos product lineup and you’ll immediate notice the brand’s reoccurring themes of beautiful colors, smooth lines and user-friendly functionality. It’s clear that the packaging plays a huge role in the brand’s success, as well as in developing brand loyalty.
“It’s much more than a shape and it’s much more than a product,” says Teller.
eos has offices in six countries, and an R&D lab in New Jersey. Like the name suggests, the company is constantly evolving and looking for new ways to bring innovation and beauty to this segment. Mehra and Teller sought out to make women’s beauty rituals, especially applying lip balm, a better experience.
“We have accomplished what we set out to do,” says Teller.
And it is quite an accomplishment.