Applauding Great Brand Leadership: Brand Innovators 2016
We award the people influencing branding and packaging today.
Every year, BRANDPACKAGING awards several creative thinkers and doers in the packaging and branding industry with the title of Brand Innovator. These cream-of-the-crop men and women inspire and educate us all with their strategies and stories, and we delight in helping you get to know your peers on a more personal level as we honor them and their work. Please join us in congratulating 2016’s leaders for changing not only their own brands but also our market as a whole.
Patrick Kidd, director, PATRICKS UNIVERSAL EXPORTS
Before last year’s launch of the luxury haircare brand that has taken the men’s fashion industry by storm, Sydney, Australia native Patrick Kidd founded an upscale men’s salon 10 years prior, in 2005. Before that, he was an unsatisfied electrician who believed he could do something big—and that has made all the difference in the creation of his wildly successful and award-winning brand.
“I am an industry outsider: My background is in the electrical field, and more recently, corporate finance. Because of that, I am not constrained by CPG industry norms. I am a hard worker with a strong attention to detail, and I won’t settle for anything less than perfect. In the beginning, I took a big risk and remortgaged my house to start the business. It was a real make-or-break moment, and I didn’t even have enough money to pay the staff at the end of the first week. But through a lot of hard work, many sleepless nights, lots of stress and even fighting with experienced, successful people for things I knew would work but had never been done before, we have built the company up to a really successful business and even won several international awards.”
Patricks sees itself as a lifestyle brand rather than simply a haircare company, and it is positioned in the premium men’s fashion space as opposed to traditional placement in salons.
“Patricks really is the world’s first luxury men’s haircare company. The packaging has been specifically designed for travel and combines luxury and efficiency for the jet-set crowd. We are currently selling in carefully selected upscale online and brick-and-mortar stores, including Mr Porter, Neiman Marcus, KITH, Harvey Nichols, Browns, END Clothing, Joyce Beauty and Lane Crawford, Sephora Australia, and Hypebeast.”
Kidd says that performance and quality of both the ingredients and packaging are non-negotiable when it comes to the products.
“Our uncompromising styling line uses the latest scientific innovations along with bespoke colognes and the best ingredients to create a high-performance super product. Each product contains PRC, a revolutionary technology proven to reduce the effects of hair loss. In making and packaging a product, I believe every single detail has to be carefully considered and taken very seriously. It adds to the whole design and is what truly makes something special.”
When Kidd says every single detail, he isn’t exaggerating—yet his efforts paid off.
“I think I drove the packaging company crazy with how perfect I needed to get everything and really had to fight for the high level of quality I expected for flow marks, click of closure, use of real aluminum as opposed to coated plastic, inside curved corners, matte finish of plastic, ejector pin marks on the inside and shrinkage lines. I was not prepared to compromise on anything even if it took several years, countless re-works and exceeded our budget!”
In Kidd’s case, several years stretched into six as he worked toward his ideal design. He encourages brands to not give up or worry about the process: After all, your suppliers and manufacturers want you to succeed—in the end, the right solution will be created or found.
“It’s hard to summarize six years of research, design, prototype testing and manufacturing into a paragraph: Every stage has been challenging, and I have found it really hard to get exactly what I want. When trying to create something different that is both functional and beautiful, problems arise that no one could have predicted, especially doing custom tooling. I was told by many different designers and engineers that certain aspects and finishes were not possible, but I would not settle for something that I knew could be better. You have to be prepared to be the bad guy sometimes and not be afraid to ask for changes again and again until you are happy. Be prepared to have your budget and timeframe blown out: Someone wise once said to me, ‘Only you are in a rush to get these products out, so take your time.’ It’s so true, but it’s hard not to get stressed when the packaging takes four years longer than expected! We are really fortunate our investors believe in our vision and trust our decision making.”
Patricks’ award-winning packaging is sleek and intelligent, functional and beautiful.
“Our packaging takes pride of place among our proudest achievements. I was heavily influenced by the designs of Lamborghini, Apple, Audi and Aston Martin. I think all these companies have a perfect balance of form and function. One of the key design elements was the double-lock system which we designed primarily for travel—whether to the office, gym or around the world. It ensures the package will not open in transit. The size of the package also complies with carry-on and hand luggage regulations for all commercial and private airlines.
“I also used the Fibonacci sequence (Golden Ratio) to design the packaging to give it beauty and to feel natural in your hand. The dimensions, 98mm by 68mm by 35mm, are even debossed into the side of the packaging. The packaging also features exactly the same angle on the top of the package as the side air intakes of the Lamborghini Aventador.”
Real aluminum has been fused into the latch and base plate to provide strength, durability and beauty. The labels are laser-etched directly onto the aluminum to eliminate the need for paper, stickers and glue. The matte finish on the outside of the container is tactile, practical and beautiful. A thin rubber inlay seamlessly integrates under the aluminum base to prevent slippage in wet areas, protect bathroom surfaces and ensure a gentle audio when putting the package down.
Kidd didn’t stop there in personalizing the packaging to fit the brand.
“I’m also a massive James Bond fan, and as a tribute I included 007 in all of the barcodes and even named the company Patricks Universal Exports (James Bond’s company when he’s undercover). I have pushed really hard to make the Patricks brand the best it can be in every area, whether design or performance. The branding is still evolving, but it is definitely an aspirational brand due to the price point and packaging.”
Next up for the brand is a new product, and the packaging is sure to be a standout design.
“We’re currently working on a shampoo bottle that has been in development for five years. It’s built around a lidless silicon valve that stays open in the shower and dispenses the right amount of product for each wash. For travel, the base spins 180 degrees, which isolates the valve. To achieve this simple user experience, hidden inside the aluminum casing is a complicated system made up of eight moving parts. This will be a world first.”
The question of what Kidd has found to be the most exciting and challenging aspects of creating a brand, products and packaging needed to be asked.
“There have been many hurdles along the way; it’s definitely not been an easy journey.
“It was really exciting finally putting our jar into production and getting out there to sell it. After being in the R&D stage for so many years, we were ready for the change. Our first sales pitch was to Mr Porter; our primary target. Everyone thought we were crazy to believe we could even get a meeting with them, let alone a contract. We managed to get a meeting with them in New York and flew over from Sydney (Aimee, my wife and business partner, was 34 weeks pregnant and had to obtain special medical clearance and insurance so she could come too). We pitched our hearts out, and the first words they said were, ‘I f*cking love it,’ and they signed us up on the spot.
“It was such an amazing, unbelievable, mind-blowing moment, and one neither of us will ever forget. As soon as we got in the elevator, we were dancing and celebrating. Then it hit us, ‘Wow, now the real work begins!’ We’ve since gone on to be one of Mr Porter’s best-selling men’s grooming products, which makes us so proud (And Aimee gave birth to a healthy baby girl back in Sydney!).
“Managing about $3M of investors’ money sometimes can be challenging, especially when problems arise that are out of my control, but at the same time it’s a pretty good feeling knowing that these sophisticated investors believe in me and the brand.”
Kidd named a few sources that he found inspiring and beneficial to his work—and managed to work in a little flattery along the way.
“BRANDPACKAGING, of course! I draw inspiration from my love of luxury cars, watches, fashion and good design. I also love films; owning and running the company is extremely time consuming and sometimes really stressful, but I find a good movie lets me escape for a few hours. I also like to detail my blacked out Audi S5. Online, I love Hypebeast, Highsnobiety and Instagram. I love to have music pumping in the office; Aimee always tells me to turn it down because she can’t concentrate, but I always say jokingly, ‘We are not in jail.’”
All good things must come to a close, but Kidd leaves us with some parting wisdom.
“If starting out on a design project I would recommend:
- Sourcing free design work for a manufacturing contract;
- Negotiating hard on minimum order quantities;
- Setting timelines with financial penalties;
- Taking into consideration wholesale sales margins;
- Forming an advisory board of the best qualified people you can find, to minimize mistakes and borrow from their networks; and
- Not taking ‘no’ for an answer.”
Deborah Aiza, founder and ceo, SWEET’TAUK LEMONADE
Sweet’tauk Lemonade makes light and refreshingly tart versions of the summertime staple. The brand, started by Deborah Aiza in 2012, has grown from farmers’ markets to Whole Foods, gained a loyal following and is on a mission to offer the greatest tasting, healthiest lemonades to the broadest range of customers. Its products are 100 percent organic, non-GMO, fresh-squeezed and cold-pressed.
“Five years into my own Hamptons-based catering company, I began developing a line of green and fresh juices for a local business. One day, I was asked to provide something for a summer benefit. It was hot; we were outside; and I said, ‘I’ll bring lemonade.’ On my way home, I realized I’d basically never made lemonade. But I did know my way around a Norwalk and a juicery. After a trip to the farm stand to get locally grown strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb, I made lemonade. It was cold-pressed and fresh-squeezed with less than half the sugar of typical recipes, and it was a hit. People had really never had anything like it: Even when they make lemonade fresh at home, they put in too much sugar instead of using fresh fruit, Meyer lemons and the like to add sweetness. Plus, tart lemonade is more refreshing and tastes better.
“My story is product driven: I had the product before I had the idea to start the business. It was only after a long summer of trying to keep up with demand that I started Sweet’tauk.”
Aiza is honest when asked to describe her brand and positioning, giving an interesting take to a common question and proving just how much an emotional connection matters between brands and customers.
“I can’t. I hate to get semiotic here, but attempting to add words and context exterior to the object is simply not useful for us as brand owners. It would only dilute and confuse the expression we have worked so hard to create. Anyone—especially this audience—wanting to understand our brand and position simply needs to look at our bottle or, better yet, see it in a customer’s hand, their refrigerator, or on a store shelf.
“We want to become a national household brand. We think the packaging is there. We just need to do the work with regard to growth, distribution and sales.”
There are several things Aiza will not compromise on including taste, ingredient quality and sourcing, and consistency.
“We once remixed many thousands of finished bottles of pink hibiscus lemonade because the color wasn’t quite right. Now, we know to check production against a Pantone!”
As for the packaging, she is involved in all aspects, from labels and caps to bottles and cases.
“It would shock you how much I know about threads, gram weights and substrates. Certainly, it has been a shock to me how much I had to learn. And I didn’t even mention printing. After starting with digital, our new labels are printed using flexography and rotary silk screen to get the white we want. My tip to anyone who wants quality packaging and to get what they want is to go there: I have a close—basically personal—relationship with all my suppliers. And by suppliers, I mean the owners. They have tried my lemonade, seen my business plan and work closely with me to help me achieve my goals. When I do, they are happy for me because they’re partly responsible. One of my goals is for my product to always be an example of their best work. I want to be in their lobby case or frame as a proud example of the best they can do. Inspiring and working with people to create and supply their best is rewarding for all. Select a family business if you can. All my suppliers are second-, third- and even fourth-generation shops run by families.”
Sweet’tauk Lemonade understands its packaging is a reflection of itself and products.
“We have a quality product, so our label had to express that quality. The most important thing is the quality of printing and reproduction on our label. Obviously, design and content came first. It’s the first thing a consumer sees, and in our case, we want them to see it on a crowded shelf from ten feet away.
“It was also important to design a package and label that showed our product—the lemonade. Back to our Pantones, all our lemonade colors are beautiful. They are made with all-natural, never-heated or over-processed juices, and as such they are simply as bright and fresh looking as they day they were squeezed. This is not something you ‘communicate.’ This is something you show!”
With regard to packaging in the coming future, Sweet’tauk will be exploring multi-serve bottles, consumer facing and purchasable cases, and a custom-blown bottle.
For Aiza, the most exciting and challenging aspects of running a brand go hand in hand, and she’s learned to harness all those thoughts about projects and issues that keep those in the industry up at night.
“Channeling the excitement is the challenge. Staying focused. Every brand only has one or two key elements. Staying true to those and on message in every aspect of the business and messaging is the biggest challenge. As for sleep, I used to stay up at night. Now I’m working so much that when my head finally hits the pillow I’m out.”
Her inspiration comes in the form of books, specifically “Mission in a Bottle,” “The Dip,” and “Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits.”
In closing, Aiza tells those in the industry to do your part to make it better.
“All boats rise. Look to contribute and grow a category. Also, listen. Listen to everyone! I once overheard a nine-year-old girl tell her mother that Sweet’tauk was ‘The Next Generation of Lemonade.’ We are still using that line.”
impressive people making impressive brands
Brand Innovators prove that the best brands thrive on their founders’ passion and originality. Have an idea, build on it and remember the words of Kidd and Aiza: “If it was easy, everyone would do it” and “Exprimendum diem (Squeeze the day)!”